I am so excited to welcome Christine Fonseca today to My Two Blessings. Christine's book Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope with Explosive Feelings was released on October 1st. Her Epic Blog tour runs through October 15th and will end with a multiple blogger review, including mine, on the 15th along with a special giveaway. I am particularly happy to get a chance to review Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students since we are always looking for ways to deal with, teach and help James how to handle his intense emotions. Loving what I've read so far, so be sure to check back on the 15th for my review.
Helping Gifted Kids deal with Stress and Anxiety.
First off, I’d like to thank Robin for hosting this stop on my blog tour. Be sure to check out the great contest at the end of the post for a chance to win a signed copy of EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS. Now, on to the post –
Robin asked that I write a post relating to gifted kids and anxiety. Ah yes, stress and anxiety – common plagues in our all-too-busy world. All of us are well aware of stress and anxiety. It is something we deal with daily. But with the natural emotional intensity of our gifted kids, stress and anxiety often take on a whole new meaning.
Let’s start by defining both stress and anxiety. This is a bit trickier than it sounds, as there are a wide variety of working definitions for both. My favorite one for stress comes from the Time Thought website:
"(Stress is) a physical, mental, or emotional response to events that bodily or mental tension."
I like this definition because it does NOT say a negative event that causes tension - because, really, stress can be equally caused by negative and positive life events. Anxiety is the natural reaction to a stressful event, and includes physical, mental, and emotional responses.
Okay, now that we are using the same vocabulary, let’s talk about kids. All kids feel stress and anxiety to some degree. Maybe when there is a test, or when the teacher calls on them in class, or when they have gotten into a conflict with a friend. Common feelings may include heart palpitations, sweaty palms, labored breathing or fear.
For the gifted child, these feelings are significantly more intense. Butterflies in the stomach become man-eating birds, a tense digestive system becomes an ulcer, a racing heart feels more like a heart attack. Even the highs are bigger. All of this relates to the naturally occurring emotional intensity that is typical among gifted kids.
Not surprisingly, gifted kids tend to struggle with anxiety more then their non-gifted peers, often struggling to bounce back after setbacks. Sometimes this anxiety can be so intense, the child will get sick before a big test, or refuse to go to school altogether.
Fortunately, there are ways to help.
First - we, as parents, need to check our own expectations of our children. Behavior in children is one of their primary forms of communication. As such, we need to pay attention to their responses to stress and try to figure out what they are communicating to us. And this means being willing to examine our own expectations and whether or not they are appropriate.
Now, don't get me wrong - I am not suggesting we drop our expectations for our children when they are stressed. Gosh knows, I have very high expectations for my kids. But we do need to be willing to look at them and make SURE they are appropriate.
Ok, after that, what can we teach our children to help them better manage their stress response?
Here are some of basic strategies that can make a huge positive impact on your child:
1. Listen - teaching your child about their stress requires a good foundation of communication with your children. Set aside time to stop the busyness in your own life and check in with them. Encourage them to tell you what the problem is. If they lack the emotional vocabulary to do this (something not uncommon with gifted kids), teach them the right words.
2. Perspective - children often have an all-or-nothing approach to life...things are ALL BAD or ALL GOOD. Very little in between with them. This is the time to help them learn that nothing is really ALL BAD. And that slight change in perspective can help...more than you could possibly realize!
3. Mental rehearsal - If the stress is related to performance issues, try practicing (role-playing or mental rehearsal) the event or situation. Help your child mentally go through each step. Pay close attention to when they appear stressed and bring their awareness to it.
4. Problem solving skills - teach your child how to problem solve. With gifted kids, open-ended solutions are impossibly hard to wrap their brains around. So help them make things more concrete for them.
Notice how I NEVER say fix things FOR your child. This does not serve them. If you do for them, the message you subtly give is that they are incapable of solving their own problems. Instead, focus on guiding your child - emotionally coaching them towards their own self-monitoring, self-reflection, and relaxation techniques. You will give them an amazing gift in doing so.
A few more things to keep in mind:
If your child does not know their specific stress response (most kids don’t), help them learn to recognize it. Things like being overly tired, breaking into a rash, changes in appetite, being irritable or sad, having difficulty concentrating, and experiencing racing thoughts are all common indicators of feeling overwhelmed.
Teach your children that although they will never be able to control everything around them, they will ALWAYS be able to learn to control their reaction to them.
Teach children to prepare themselves for the world by doing the following: Get plenty of rest (most preteens and teens require 9 to 11 hours of sleep nightly), avoid all forms of caffeine, create a bedtime routine that helps clear the mind of stress prior to going to bed, eat healthy foods that include well-balanced meals (not eating on the run), exercise often, and share your feelings (through a journal, a conversation, even crying)
Teaching these things will go a long way to helping your child learn the basic lifestyle skills necessary to deal with stress in any form. It will help YOU as well!
For more information about emotional intensity and gifted kids, check out my newly released book, EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS.
Thanks Robin, for letting me stop by your blog during my tour. This has been great!
Thank you so much, Christine. Now is your chance to win a copy of Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students. All you have to do is leave a comment with your name and email address. The giveaway will be open through October 15th until 11:59 p.m. and is open internationally. And check out the rest of the tour for more chance to win as well.
To find out more about Christine and her book, check out the following links.