Tagged Blog Hop

7 Tips to Help You Help Your Kids Build Healthy Friendships

7 Tips to Help Your Kids Build Healthy Friendships

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I consider myself very lucky. I had two best friends growing up, both of whom are still in my life. I no longer live in the town where I grew up, which seems to be more the norm these days than in the past. Neither of these friends live in our hometown either – we all scattered for college, got married and are now raising kids and pursuing our careers. I’m grateful that technology has allowed me to maintain connections with both of these bright, thoughtful, supportive women.

7 Tips to Help You Help Your Kids Build Healthy Friendships

As a parent, I want to help my kids build these kind of healthy friendships. Despite what my husband says, building healthy friendships doesn’t always come naturally to everyone.

Our kids sometimes need support and coaching, because let’s face it – friendships can be hard. You are opening yourself up to someone else, becoming vulnerable in a way you haven’t with anyone other than family before and it is quite likely that your best friends will hurt your feelings sometimes. Managing through the ups and downs of early friendships sets the stage for building healthy friendships throughout your child’s life.

All kids are different and need their own guidance and support – especially kids who are outliers due to various asynchronicities, cognitive ability or emotional regulation. As parents there are some specific skills we can encourage as our kids journey into healthy, life-long friendships.

Build Negotiation Skills

At the heart of all healthy friendships is the give-and-take that is rooted in a deep and genuine concern for the other person. That give-and-take rarely comes naturally to kids (at least it hasn’t to my kids).  As adults we have likely learned complex negotiation strategies – either through formal education and training or just through years of experience. Breaking those strategies down for kids can be daunting, so I suggest starting with the idea of teaching our kids to focus on a shared interest or outcome.

I’m going to pick on my own kids for a moment. They both really enjoying playing together – they like spending time together – but they don’t share a ton of common interests. Given their druthers, Davis would play basketball and Patrick would play Minecraft. This used to result in lots of fights and hurt feelings. We have worked hard to teach them to focus on a mutual goal – spending time together. When that is the goal, then they can both step back a bit and make a compromise – maybe it is a game of Around the World first and then a cool down with a collaborative session of Minecraft or a competitive game of Plants v Zombies. Whatever the plan, when the focus is on the goal of spending time together (and not what they are doing), the squabbles abate and they enjoy themselves immeasurably more.

Foster Empathy

Healthy friendships require that both friends are able to put their own emotions aside and respond appropriately to the other person’s emotional needs; healthy friendships require both people to practice empathy.

Empathy isn’t simple. In fact, it requires some fairly sophisticated skills like distinguishing your feelings from someone else’s, understanding another person’s perspective and regulating your own emotional response. Some kids are naturally better at these skills and other kids need lots of practice.

In our house, we focus on:

  • Naming our own feelings
  • Identifying other people’s feelings
  • Role-playing facial cues and body language that frequently accompanies specific feelings
  • Exploring how people can have different perspectives
  • Developing an internal moral compass

Teach How to Say, “I’m Sorry” (and Mean It!)

Learning how to apologize is really an art form. Many parents want to rush the process by insisting that their kids say, “I’m sorry” for transgressions. However, if your kids aren’t cognitively and emotionally ready to apologize, then the obligatory apology doesn’t do any good. It becomes a hollow way to brush past hurt feelings. The simple recitation of, “I’m sorry” doesn’t teach our kids what an apology means.

True apologies require that our kids have 1) the cognitive ability to understand that they did something wrong, 2) the emotional skills to empathize with another person, and 3) the moral compass to want to make things better. This isn’t the apology of a toddler – it is the sophisticated and meaningful apology of someone capable of and interested in developing healthy friendships.

So next time your kid makes a misstep and really should apologize to someone, stop focusing on the outcome (the apology) and focus on the process.

Role Play Through Tricky Situations

Almost all friendships hit a rocky patch every now and then. What defines healthy friendships is the ability to manage through the hurt feelings and get back on track. This takes negotiation skills, empathy, and the ability to say, “I’m sorry.” Even with all these skills, sometimes it helps to practice in a non-threatening environment – that’s where role-playing comes in handy.

When your kids hit a rough patch with their friends, there will be hurt feelings on both sides. Helping your child break-down what has happened, how (s)he is feeling and how to make amends will make the actual friendship mending process go much more smoothly.

Our kids don’t always have the right words or the emotional regulation to do this naturally, so let them practice with you. Be the coach. Provide encouragement, a safe place to process, help deciphering the situation and gentle guidance.

Encourage Hobbies (Find a Tribe)

Making friends comes naturally to some kids, but not all kids. Kids who are outliers for whatever reason (IQ, the alphabet soup of diagnoses, innate nerdiness, etc…), sometimes struggle to find their tribe. The best way to find a friend is to do things that interest you and do it with other people!

Take inventory of your kid’s favorite activities and then seek out groups who enjoy those things. Martial arts, sports teams, chess clubs, naturalist groups, church groups, etc…It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it is important to your child.

When you find these groups, help your child understand that the friends may not share ALL the same interests as them and help him/her focus on their commonalities. It is unlikely that any one friend will meet all of your kid’s needs – encourage your child to appreciate the difference between friends and how they complement each other.

Make Your Home Welcoming

Yes. You want your house to be the “It House” – the house where all the kids come, where they feel welcomed and know they will have fun and be safe. It may be an inconvenience at times. It may go against your introverted nature. It may be noisy and raucous at times. You still want to do it.

When your kids friends come to your house, they will have lots of fun, but they will also have squabbles. If they are at your house, you can help model the steps of maintaining healthy friendships. You can teach kids to negotiate, model empathy and make amends.

This is hard work and takes a BIG commitment from you (and your spouse), but teaching your kids these skills is worth more than any formal education they will ever get. A PhD in microbiology won’t get you very far if you don’t know how to get along with other people.

Model Healthy Friendships

More than anything else you can do, you can model healthy friendships. Show your kids what it means to have a best friend – how you support each other and have fun together, how you work through disagreements, what it means to make room for another person in your life.

We travel with our best friends frequently (like 3 or 4 times a year). These are family affairs – two couples, each with two kids. The kids are also best friends, which makes it great for everyone. Part of why we can travel together is that we know each other so well and make allowances for each other’s quirks and needs – we accommodate each other.

I guarantee that if we are together for more than 3 days, the kids will hurt each other’s feelings. Every time it happens, we huddle with our own kids and help them process and then teach them how to make it better. It’s a hands on learning process in a very safe environment. I couldn’t ask for more.


Resources:

Can Children Learn to Negotiate?

Teaching Empathy: Evidence Based Tips for Fostering Empathy in Children

Coaching Children in Handling Everyday Conflict

How to Help Kids Make Friends: 10 Evidence Based Tips


Hoagies Blog Hop - Gifted RelationshipsThis post was written as part of a blog hop hosted by Hoagies Gifted Education Page.

Check out other people’s thoughts on Gifted Relationships.

In Defense of Perfectionism

In Defense of Perfectionism

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In Defense of PerfectionismYes, you read the title right. I’m defending perfectionism. To be clear – I don’t expect perfection from my kids, myself, my husband or anyone. After all, that is a crazy standard to achieve – being 100% correct, accurate, right, 100% of the time? Nope.

Not even close. Probably not even possible.

So why would I defend perfectionism, because clearly it is indefensible? Perfection in all things is a goal that is absolutely unattainable.

The truth is, I can’t defend perfectionism, but I can defend and advocate for the kid who is labeled as a perfectionist. You know that kid:

  • the one who is frustrated by a 95 test grade
  • the one who will work on an essay until well after a normal bedtime, just to get it right
  • the one who can’t stop working on a puzzle, until it is complete
  • the one who won’t take direction/correction about schoolwork
  • the one who frequently corrects your word choice, in honor of a more fitting word
  • the one who takes jokes so literally, that the meaning is lost.

It’s easy to call these kids perfectionists. They are seeking a high standard. A goal that well surpasses the average. They like to get things right. Right doesn’t always mean perfect. Sometimes right is more closely aligned with a desire for precision than for perfection.

Perfectionism vs Precision

What’s the difference?

Perfectionism

Sets extremely high goals.

May have difficulty prioritizing tasks.

Very sensitive to criticism.

Frequently self-critical when goals are missed

May experience unproductive anxiety about reaching goals.

May experience physical discomfort if expectations are not met.

Precision

Highly values being correct.

Makes decisions quickly.

Open to reevaluating with more information.

Parses information quickly.

Details matter – sometimes to the extreme.

Large vocabulary; may frequently use secondary definitions.

At this point, you may think that I am parsing words. That’s probably because I am. It is easy to lump both categories of kids into the same bucket – the high achievement bucket. But the crucial difference between kids who are perfectionists and the kids who are precise is in their emotional attachment to the outcome. Perfectionists feel a sense of profound loss (and sometimes worthlessness) when they don’t live up to their enormous standards. Precise kids are likely to get annoyed when someone else doesn’t understand or appreciate their exacting language, but they are unlikely to feel unworthy or defeated.

So why does all this matter?

It matters, because if we see perfectionism and precision as bad or inherently defective thought processes, then we’ll work hard to help our children rid themselves of these traits. Perfectionism gets a bad rap. But let’s face it; there are lots of professions out there, where we expect precision, if not perfection.

If your child is naturally precise, learn to embrace and encourage it, while balancing against the fear of failure and unreasonable expectations.

If we parent all the precision and perfectionism out of kids when they are young, then we are precluding them from joining countless professions that require it: law, science, engineering, programming, and more. I’m not interested in limiting my child’s horizons before he even has a chance to explore them – I’m betting you aren’t interested in this, either.

I’m a huge proponent of parenting to my kids strengths. Sometimes that means embracing the precision, even if it goes well beyond my own need for accuracy. Embracing doesn’t mean that there is no teaching/parenting/coaching left to be done. Rather it means I must respect the way my kids are wired, how their brains process information. Once I can respect the precision and only after I see it’s value, then I can help my kids understand how to use it effectively – when it matters and helps versus when it interferes and hinders.

Helping our kids ignite their passions, find balance in their lives, and navigate social norms will always be part of the work of parenthood. This doesn’t change if our kids seek perfection or precision. We must respect these natural tendencies, while helping them guard against the negative self-apprasial that can accompany perfectionism.


GHF Graphic Perfectionism

 

This post was written as part of a blog hop hosted by The Gifted Homeschoolers Forum.

Check out other folk’s take on Perfectionism and Other Gifted/2E Quirks.

 


 

5 Tips to Conquer Homework with a 2E Kid

5 Tips to Conquer Homework with a 2E Kid

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Project Hell. This weekend our family sunk into the abyss otherwise known as 5th grade final projects, a.k.a. Project Hell.

The projects are just the kind of homework I’d want for my kids – they are open ended and allow for creativity. Patrick is currently producing a book on the flora and fauna of the Amazon and developing a board game about stopping deforestation. Davis has been conducting an experiment on the effects of video games on heart rate and also working on a presentation about tribal life in the Amazon.

Like I said, these are cool projects. Cool does not mean easy, however. Managing projects like these requires advanced planning, time management & organizational skills, verbal/written sequencing skills, good research skills, decent computer skills (like Word, Excel and PowerPoint), and more. These are exactly the executive functioning skills that lag in kids with ADHD.

5 Tips to Conquer Homework with a 2E KidSo for my 2E kid, the one with gifted verbal abilities, ADHD and generalized anxiety – this weekend has been project hell.

Fortunately, we’ve made it through with minimal arguments, stress and meltdowns. All kids are different, but between helping my own 2E child and working with many, many 2E kids at the tutoring company I own, here are the tips that I’ve gleaned for taming the homework beast for 2E kids.

Identify your 2E child’s passions

We all prefer to do things that we like, things we find interesting and rewarding. It is no different for our kids. In fact, for 2E kids, you’ve probably found that there is a HUGE difference in attention and perseverance when the topic is one of their passions.

Davis is a huge sports statistics and history fan – as in fanatic. He can hold his own with the most avid fans and his color commentary during sports games is chocked full of relevant facts and related stories.

He develops his own pre-season rankings for college and pro football, college and pro basketball and pro baseball. He has hosted his own sports TV show, writing the scripts and serving as the on-air talent.

Why is this important? It shows me that he has the organizational and research skills to complete his work. It shows me that he can sustain attention and sequence his ideas. It shows me a path forward when the project isn’t as thrilling as sports.

Pinpoint issues making homework difficult

So if you’ve seen your 2E kid’s considerable skills at work on a project of passion, but you don’t see those same skills displayed when doing homework, how do you make the connection? It helps to understand the obstacles. Here are four common stumbling blocks for 2E kids:

Physical Organizational Difficulties

Does your child know what has been assigned, when it is due and what is expected of them? If not, there is no way they can successfully complete their homework. There are lots of options here – use a day planner designed for school kids (like these or these). Skip the pen and paper (especially if handwriting and fine motor skills are a source of trouble). Use an iPod or smart phone to snap a picture of the assignment. Use the phone’s calendar program or a homework-planning app like The Homework App or My Homework.

If keeping up with assignments (turning them in on time and having materials to study for exams) causes trouble, then develop a new paper management system. I prefer ones that use a single binder, with pocketed divider tabs for each subject. Homework to complete can go in the back pocket of the divider tab and homework to turn in can go in the front pocket of the divider tab. Check out the SOAR Study Skills system.

Mental Organizational Issues

Sometimes the organizational issues are not about the physical things, but more about appropriately grouping like content together to develop a coherent story or plan. Davis has a phenomenal memory, as evidenced by his stellar sports knowledge. Ask him a question about something he has learned in school and he can talk about it in detail. Ask him to put pen to paper and his mind goes blank. He’s having recall organizational issues.

He needs help developing memory cues and chunking material into appropriate groupings to aid his recall when fine motor skills are involved.

Attention Issues

Addressing attention issues is easier in the abstract. Minimize distractions and maximize focus. Easy right? Not so much in common practice. There are lots of tricks to try and hopefully one or two work for your child.

5 Tips to Conquer HomeworkTeach positive self-talk. One of the most insidious enemies of attention is negative self-talk. 2E kids have lots of practice at telling themselves just how bad they are at school stuff. That running, negative commentary about how they can’t do their homework or they never get it right or they can’t show how much they really know is incredibly distracting. Teach your kids how to encourage themselves. Model appropriate praise. Help you kids practice combatting the negative thoughts that occupy their minds.

Set the stage for success. Make sure your child has an organized workspace. Gather everything they’ll need in one place: a good writing surface, pens and pencils, and a calculator or computer. Get rid of the phone – turn it off and/or remove it from the work area. Make use of the Do Not Disturb setting. If working on the computer, close extra browser windows – especially those with notifications that can be distracting, like Instagram, Twitter and FaceBook. Finally, use music to your advantage. Grab the headphones and create a playlist of soothing music. Over time, using the same music will help put your child in the right mood for studying.

Use a timer. Work for 30 minutes and then take a 15-minute break. Over time, the length of the working session can expand up to an hour.

Content Mastery

If your child really doesn’t understand what he is learning in class, get him help – and fast! Don’t let a momentary difficulty with math result in your child feeling beaten down and her ultimately thinking she is bad at math.

There are lots of resources for help with content mastery. Talk with your child’s teacher. Take advantage of before or after school support from the teacher. Hire a tutor. Check out Hippocampus or Khan Academy. Have your child form a study group with his friends. Choose the modality that best fits your child’s temperament and strengths. 2E kids may need to use multiple learning modalities to really get the topic.

Motivation Troubles

Does your child not understand assignments or expectations? Is your child simply wiped out after school? Does your son really just need some downtime before getting started? Is your daughter distracted by other activities that are more exciting?

Capitalize on your 2E child’s strengths

You know your child. What makes them tick, why they feel pride and how they shine. You know what they look forward to each day and how they feel and express love. Use this information.

Look at your 2E child’s academic strengths. What kind of learner are they? Visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc…? Does your son excel at problem solving and logical thinking? Does your daughter love making connections between abstract concepts? Does your son have a phenomenal memory?

Understanding what your child’s relative strengths and weaknesses makes it easier to develop a path forward.

Develop & implement a joint plan

Make a Plan

Develop a plan with your child. Use your child’s strengths to mitigate the weaknesses you’ve identified together. Set a schedule and stick to it. Include milestones.  Overtime, these milestones can be less discreet.

Include Consequences and Rewards

Make them meaningful, but scaled appropriately for the task. An extra 30 minutes of media for completely homework that doesn’t include any grumping and grousing during the evening. Maybe it’s a longer term reward – a trip to the movies or a special dinner if your child manages a longer term project with minimal parental prodding.

Build in Choices

Letting your child exercise some control over the schedule will reduce the grumpiness that can accompany homework.

Revisit Your Agreement

Be willing to adjust your agreement if it isn’t working. Especially in the early stages of trying this approach, you’ll want to be flexible to see what works and what doesn’t.

Let your child fail

I’m serious – let your child fail. (Sometimes.) Stop rescuing them from their own missteps.

The consequences of screwing up these 5th grade projects are magnitudes smaller than having my boys whiff it on their college capstone project. Early failures when the stakes are relatively low create opportunities for self-reflection, change and triumph.  The discomfort and worry that accompanies failure are helpful in developing coping skills and frustration tolerance. 

I’m not suggesting that you set your kids adrift without any parental guidance, but the biggest gift we can give our kids is the chance to learn for themselves and that includes learning from their own mistakes.


2e Hoagies GraphicThis post was written as part of a blog hop hosted by Hoagies Gifted Education.

Check out other folk’s take on 2E Kids and Adults.


Maggie’s other writings on giftedness:

Anxiety and Giftedness: What is the Reality?

Right Fit Shoes: Why Gifted Identification Matters

Building Community

Gifted. Do You Watch What You Say?

Other resources from Maggie:

Get Help! Stop Struggling with Homework Headaches

Get Better Grades: 10 Tips for Test Prep

Strengths Based Parenting. How to Build on the Positive.

Resources:

Characteristics of 2E Students

National Association of School Psychologists

SOAR Study Skills

22 Science Backed Study Tips to Ace a Test

20 Study Hacks to Improve Your Memory

Music for Studying: 10 Tips to Pick the Best Study Music

 

Anxiety & Giftedness

Anxiety and Giftedness. What is the reality?

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Anxiety & Giftedness

Gifted. Intelligent. Brilliant. Genius. = Anxiety. Spiraling fear. Uncontrolled distress. Panic.

Popular culture likes to portray the most intellectually gifted among us as also suffering from mental health disorders. The image of the mad scientist quickly comes to mind when thinking Mad Scientist Rankingsabout extremely intelligent people. Throw in the availability bias that comes from over-saturated news stories about intellectually brilliant criminals like Ted Kaczynski, and it’s easy to overestimate the relationship between mental illness and high IQ.

Honestly, I get fairly annoyed with these characterizations.

Being brilliant does not mean you are also mentally ill, nor does it mean you are socially maladapted. In fact, many researchers have found a protective effect of increased IQ related to psychological well-being. (Check out The Relationship Between Giftedness and Psychological Well-Being, by the folks at SENG.)

Anxiety & Giftedness – Our Reality

I couldn’t tell you how common or uncommon our family experience is. I know the statistics put us far into the minority, but I suspect that pieces of our story resonate with other families.

Our kids are delightful, quirky, caring, eccentric, and funny young boys. Patrick is profoundly gifted and Davis is a classic 2E* kid – he is verbally gifted, but his anxiety frequently gets in the way of demonstrating his talents consistently in an academic setting.

At our house, anxiety really takes on two forms: transient existential crisis and maladaptive worry.

The Transient Existential Crisis

Perhaps you can relate. It’s late at night. The kids are in bed and you are just about to fall asleep. The footsteps on the staircase signal that a kid is awake and the knock on the door confirms that he needs your help.

Patrick ponders heavy questions when he’s alone in his bedroom. Sometimes the questions are too heavy to process on his own and we get that late night knock on the door.

The questions have varied over the years:

BrothersAge 4: If we had lived in the 1950s, Davis and I wouldn’t have been allowed to play on the same playground. Why couldn’t black and white kids play together?

Age 6: If God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are really the same thing, why do we talk about them as being different?

Age 8: What made Hilter kill so many Jewish people?

Age 10: How do we know that we are real? Couldn’t we be the figment of someone’s imagination? Maybe, we are a computer program – one designed to make us think we have free will?

In our family, these are the expressions of anxiety born out of an intellect that outmatches emotional maturity. These heavy questions cause short-term angst and worry. The transient crisis is directly related to my sweet Patrick’s very powerful mind. It is not a sign of a larger pathology or a mental health issue that needs treating.

Patrick’s existential crises need a compassionate listener and a thoughtful coach. He needs a sounding board and gentle guidance, so he can answer his own questions. So when comes knocking on our door late at night with his worry, we let him climb into our bed and get some much needed cuddling; then we quietly process the heavy issues he ponders.

Maladaptive Worry

Those of you who suffer from a true anxiety disorder (or love someone with anxiety) will understand how very different Davis’ experience of anxiety is from Patrick’s.

Crippling fear that paralyzes the body and stops all rational thought. Sheer panic that grips not just his mind, but also his entire body. It is an over-estimation of and unrealistic ability to categorize and assess potential threats in his environment.

Worry that is so encompassing, that when a classmate turns in a test before him, Davis would rather turn in an incomplete exam than listen to the negative self-talk telling him how dumb he is – even though he knows he understands the material.

Davis’ maladaptive worry also requires a compassionate listener and thoughtful coach. He needs someone who can help him get beyond the self-doubt and who can teach him to make realistic assessments of the world. He needs someone to teach him to calm his thoughts and body when panic overwhelms him.

Davis’ worry is in no way the result of his intellect. It is a clinical condition that requires therapy, medication and ongoing coaching. His intelligence and anxiety disorder do play off of each other, however.

Fortunately, his advanced verbal abilities and exceptional insight into interpersonal dynamics have been a huge boon for the psychotherapeutic interventions we use – increasing their effectiveness. The verbal abilities are almost like a protective effect, making the strategies easier to use and more effective. Unfortunately, the anxiety gets in the way of demonstrating his impressive verbal skills in an academic setting – especially when the clock is ticking on an exam or he compares himself to peers on some unrealistic set of criteria.

Recognize the Difference. Get Help.

The interplay between anxiety and intelligence can make it difficult to separate normal worries from unfounded fears. It is important to recognize when healthy anxiety has slipped into a maladaptive thought process that interferes with life. Worry that interferes with functioning – academic, social or family – probably warrants professional help. If you think someone you love has a kind of worry that inhibits, instead of protects, get some help. (When Worry is Too Much – Childhood Anxiety Disorders)

*2E is shorthand for Twice Exceptional. These are kids who have evidence of intellectual giftedness in one or more area, but also have a disability. The disability typically interferes with the ability to demonstrate the breadth of the giftedness.


Hoagies Blog Hop - Anxiety

This post was written as part of a blog hop hosted by Hoagies Gifted Education.

Check out other folk’s take on the relationship between giftedness and anxiety.

 


Resources:

When Worry is Too Much – Childhood Anxiety Disorders

Is Your Anxious Child Gifted?

The Relationship between Anxiety and Giftedness

The Relationship Between Giftedness and Psychological Well-Being

Existential Depression in Gifted Individuals

The Insanity of Genius: Criminal Culpability and Right-Tail Psychometrics

Photo Credits: Diane CantrellGeekologie