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Is Making Friends Harder for Gifted Kids?This is an interesting question. A popular image of a gifted kid is an image of a nerd obsessed with his or her pet passions, an outsider for a popular crowd, sometimes a victim of bullying. From my observation, it’s partially true, and sometimes smart kids, especially younger ones, are somewhat responsible for their isolation. My 7 year old daughter, for example, has zero interest in being “popular” and has this tendency not to notice the world around her when she is thinking about something. However, she is able to reach out and join the group if she chooses to do so. In other words, she is not an outcast, but a drifter, only joining activities and games that interest her.
In addition to being choosy about which activities to join, she is also choosy about her partners. A magical “click” happens only with certain type of kids – mostly with those who are a little dreamy and goofy at the same time. Not surprisingly, her best friends are also intelligent, articulate, and willing to engage in negotiations when deciding on what to do together. She strongly prefers 1:1 time with either of her three best friends rather than playing in a group (not easy when one of them has a twin sister that Smarty doesn’t care for). When she picks a friend she likes, she does make some effort to make their friendship work. As an example, one of her friends was not up for playing just with Smarty, so she developed a schedule where she “graciously” offered this girl two days a week to play with other kids on the condition that the rest of the time they play together. Apparently, Smarty was an engaging companion, since eventually the other girl entered “an exclusive friendship” relationship with Smarty, at least in school.
Do Our Children Need Our Help?
A simple answer is – it depends. An introverted child under 5 might need some gentle encouragement, and a depressed adolescent without friends certainly needs help. Children can learn a lot of “friendship theory” from terrific books about friendship pulled into a roundup by The Measured Mom and from watching how we interact with our adult friends. But I also happen to believe that kids between ages 5 and 10 should be able to “practice” and negotiate the turbulent seas of their first friendships without adults constantly hovering over them, picking their friends and supervising their playdates. Our daughter decides whether she wants to have a playdate and with whom, our role is simply to see where this playdate might fit into our schedule and arrange logistics for it.
When Should You Be Worried?
Do I wish Smarty were more outgoing or worry about her reluctance to be “part of the team” in group situations? Not really, but Smart Parenting for Smart Kids is a great resource to go to if you are worried about your child’s struggles in making friends. There is a chapter in this book devoted to establishing meaningful connections with others. Authors Eileen Kennedy Moore and Mark S. Lowenthal explain that while many intelligent children are very outgoing with adults, they are still introverted by nature and might need a lot of time alone. They are saying that your child is OK if:
- He or she can interact happily with other kids under some circumstances, when he or she wants to do so.
- He or she has at least one relationship in which he or she likes and is liked by another child.
- He or she has someone to sit and chat with at lunch.
Your TurnAre your children social butterflies or introverts? Do you let them be or work to draw them out?
More on Gifted Children From This Blog
- The Games Our Children Play
- Book Series About Gifted Children
- Supporting Advanced Learners at Home (my guest home at Teach Mama)
- Selecting Books For Advanced Readers (guest post at Pragmatic Mom)
- Game Recommendations for Brainy Kids
Check out Hoagies Gifted Friendships blog hop and follow Hoagies Gifted on Facebook.