In the upcoming issue of the OAGC Review the central focus is going to be Gifted and Mental Health. I am a firm believer that we need to be aware of the mental health of our children. They have more avenues of stressors than what my generation had at their age, such stressor is cyber-bullying.
The Mental health and children has been a huge topic of discussion in my area of Northern Ohio after experiencing a half dozen successful suicides over the past two years. Over the past two years our community has experienced a half a dozen successful adolescent suicides. Our community has put adolescent mental health in the forefront of conversations in schools, churches, and in public forums.
At the school level, it is imperative to understand how important it is for teachers and parents to work together to know and form solid relationships with children. Teachers and parents should have an open, transparent and honest relationship when it comes to behavior change in their child. That open relationship allows both the parent and teacher to discuss issues about behavior, attitudes, grades, and social issues with their children.
When it comes to gifted children, they have experiences that only they can experience. They already see their peers and teachers differently. Some gifted children experience over-excitabilities, perfectionism, and a strong sense of not allowing themselves to fail. These stressors can contribute to a wide variety of emotions and can cause stress in the life of gifted children. These attributes, along with social and emotional development, can cause behavior change.
The life of a gifted child can be a roller coaster. In the early years of elementary school everyone wants to be their friend. As they grow up and move to middle and high school their ring of friends gets smaller and people begin to see them differently. They may experience bullying from others in name calling, alienation, and cyber-bullying. We know gifted children generally communicate with adults easier than with their same age peers that are in their classes. At times it may seem evident that their intellectual development doesn’t match their social and emotional development. This can cause a gifted child to feel like they have no friends or they just can’t fit in.
With these vulnerabilities, teachers and parents need to be diligent in looking for any changes in behavior such as:
- Withdrawing from friends and/or social activities;
- Losing interest in hobbies;
- Giving away prized possessions;
- Preoccupation with death and dying;
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs; and
- Losing interest in personal appearance.
The changes in behavior will be seen at home and at school. When teachers or parents start to notice these changes they need to get help to the student. But they also need to communicate with each other. We don’t want another statistic of an attempted or successful suicide.
Frazier, A. D., & Cross, T. L. (2011). Chapter 51 Debunking the Myths of Suicide in Gifted Children. Parenting Gifted Children (pp. 517-524). Waco, Texas: Prufrock Press.
Delisle, J. R. (1986). Death with Honors: Suicide Among Gifted Adolescents. Journal of Counseling and Development, 64(May), 1986. 558-560.