Figuring it out
While I was trying to figure out how to best raise Adam, my oldest child who was a three year old autistic preschooler, Aaron came along. I could tell early on that he was also special and unique, but in a different way than Adam. We loved (and love) both of them with all our hearts, but I knew I had to toss aside parenting books and learn how to do-by-doing – and fast! Quickly we learned that our blessings looked a bit different than those of others, but I was up for challenge, or so I thought!
I needed additional help. Part of my parenting journey included going back to college. I got a special education and elementary education degree. Then I continued to graduate school and got a counseling degree. Next, I got my gifted hours. Yes, I can thank both my boys for my wonderfully thorough education that I believe helped me become a better parent. Notice that I said, “better,” not “perfect.”
My husband was a tremendous help along the way. He was the wrangler of the boys in the evenings while I went to college and graduate school. We also worked together to make decisions. We never let our children play one parent against the other.
I’m not telling you that you need to go back and get a different degree, but I am willing to share with you what I learned along the way on my journey as a parent. Both my boys survived my “learning to do by doing” approach.
Adam is a wonderful adult man with autism who lives at home with us. While he is not academically gifted, he is the greatest gift to our household. Aaron is a gifted adult working as a professional actor and graphic artist. He is engaged to a gifted and talented lady named Emma, who is also a working professional actor and baker.
We are so happy to share our personal experiences with you to help make your child’s journey as fruitful as possible!
Across the years
If you are parenting a firstborn gifted preschooler, you’re bombarded by a nonstop array of questions. First, it is important to identify that your “little bit” is truly gifted. Children progress at different rates, but you are likely noticing some milestones developing earlier than others. That is called asynchronous development.
As an infant, your child may have rolled over early, sat alone, stood alone, walked alone, moved up and down stairs, ran, and jumped with both feet. Were you prepared? I know I wasn’t! You were hoping for more time to baby-proof your home. You were thinking you would like to start out with a gentle breeze, but instead you got a swirling tornado.
When he or she wasn’t rapidly exploring every nook and cranny of their surroundings, they may have been reaching, testing, and tasting in order to further understand the world. Their crayons or markers might have found the walls to be a new and exciting canvas. You were planning to repaint that wall in the living room anyway, right? Aaron would constantly pop crickets into his mouth and crunch away as he was crawling. Now he’s now a vegetarian – perhaps there’s some correlation?
Like your child, your development as a parent might feel asynchronous, too! Just remember, you’re going to make mistakes, but those are perfect opportunities for you to grow.
Look who's talking
While other children were playing with sounds, was your child was playing with words and sentences? Once their verbal skills begin, so too does the nonstop barrage of questions! These are questions for which you might not have answers, but early on you can start showing them where to find the answers, or at least, explore further possibilities. As your young child’s language develops, he or she may acquire advanced knowledge about many subjects, or potentially just subjects of personal interest. This may spur your child into creativity—to invent, make, or do. Your child may dumpster dive through the trash or garage, being irritated that you thought it was trash when it was really treasure for creating.
Your preschooler may be reluctant to stop tasks of interest, demanding independence. You may need to teach transition skills to ease frustration. Socially, your child may love interacting with others of all ages or prefer to pursue passions alone; gifted children can be both introverts or extroverts, just like any other child. This leaves you as a parent with a major task – you must find a daycare or preschool that can nourish your child’s talents and uniqueness.
As a parent of a gifted preschooler, I had to search not only for a preschool that was heavy academics but one that did not require an afternoon nap—no easy task. Your child needs a preschool that allows for flexible groups where your child can find intellectual peers, appropriate cognitive challenges, and time to explore and pursue areas of interest.
When you find a school, you may need to help your child know when it is appropriate to be a leader and when to allow others to lead. This will help curtail bossiness with other children, but it is also important to reinforce the significance of never being bossy with teachers. These may seem to be obvious matters to use a socialized adults, but your child may need to practice when to talk and how to effectively listen to another’s point-of-view. Begin this process by teaching your child to be respectful at home by not allowing your child to argue with you. That behavior will transfer into school and cause difficulties between your child and his or her teachers and administrators.
Gifted Pre-K activities
Here are some activities your child might especially enjoy as a gifted preschooler:
- Pattern blocks
- Fairy tales and legends
- Muggins math game
- Writing and illustrating
- Cooking with adult supervision
- Creating his or her own games and activities
Embrace The Journey
Life is a continuous journey. As soon as you get the preschool years figured out, kindergarten will arrive, and then what? Life marches forward! To quote Hamlet: “The readiness is all.”