I recently read an article about biting nails and picking skin being a form of perfectionism. Of course, perfectionism is a form of anxiety. So, this got me thinking of DS. He is a nail biter, definitely has perfectionism traits and can worry quite a bit. What the article didn’t mention was that those behaviors and perfectionism also are very common in gifted children and gifted adults.
Why does such perfectionism or this form of anxiety seem to go along with the highly gifted? Well, from all the reading I’ve done it stems from their asynchronous development or them having different levels of abilities all at the same time. Their brains are wired differently. In the case of our son: chronological age is only 8 years old, language is of an adult, reading ability of high school to college, math skills of a late middle school to early high school, written expression of late elementary but grammar skills of middle school, handwriting of an elementary student, social skills all over the board pending with whom, emotional regulation of a 6 to 8 year old, and physical coordination of a 6 year old. Now imagine trying to balance all of that.
I know we are not alone with having a child with this kind of asynchrony. However, what many people who do not have a child like this do not understand is this asynchrony leads to lots of frustration for him. He hates to physically write because he can’t keep up with the thoughts he can say or type. Thus, thank you for google docs, notepad, and all kinds of great apps for writing notes. It is easier to let him type away. He types way more than he would actually physically write.
Dealing with his perfectionism is a bit trickier. He had a great music teacher when he was younger who used to say “practice makes permanent because no one and nothing is perfect.” I loved that saying better than what I was told “practice makes perfect.” In reality, no matter how hard someone practices it is never going to be perfect. Even the greatest composers took many tries. In addition, the greatest inventors took many tries. I’ve heard it described as the “Edisonian” approach. However, even with all of this he will get upset during piano practice or when he makes a spelling error, if he forgets a math fact, or if he can’t do what he thinks he should be able to do. It is hard to get his brain to see it differently. He has a strong perfectionist drive. Sadly, I know I have that same quirk too.
So what do you do about it? That is the million dollar question. I know for a fact we don’t have all the answers and we still deal with it. I’m not even going into the sleep and anxiety part, as I previously blogged on gifted and sleep issues–they still exist. I do know that we plan on him learning yoga and more meditation strategies for relaxation and we continue to work on mindfulness. There really is no easy answer or one canned solution. We do a lot of “detective thinking,” breathing and counting exercises, and preparing for what we know are stress inducing events (certain doctor or dentist visits, any medical procedure, and any special competition). We also know some days are better than others. We have way more good days than bad moments. We also know that it is best to prepare him when we can and teach coping strategies to minimize the frustration and prevent a meltdown. And, from parents who have been here before us, it does get better but it never totally goes away.
Thankfully there are lots of resource out there (way more than listed):
- Davidson Institute has some tips http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10750.aspx
- Anxiety Free Child has information http://anxietyfreechild.com/gifted-children/
- An article from Gifted Child Today http://www.madeiracityschools.org/userfiles/85/Classes/4054/2030001.pdf
- Seng had a webinar from Dr. Peters http://sengifted.org/new-senginar-march-18-2014 last year, but their website is filled with resources and they do hold webinars or senginars on all kinds of relevant topics.
- Here is another SENG webinar http://www.sengifted.org/wp-content/webinars/webinar_file_uploads/kane04262011/kane04262011.pdf
- A New Mexico school district has a handy brochure created by Olga Wilson http://lcps.k12.nm.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Teaching-Students-who-are-Gifted-with-Anxiety-Disorders.pdf
There are also some great books for kids out there (again, way more than what is listed):
- Make Your Worrier a Warrior by Daniel Peters
- From Worrier to Warrior by Daniel Peters
- What to Do When you Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner
- The Survival Guide for Gifted Kids by Judith Galbraith
- Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by Julia Cook
- What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck by Dawn Huebner
- What to Do When Your Temper Flares by Dawn Huebner
- What to Do When You Dread Your Bed by Dawn Huebner
- Be the Boss of Your Stress by Timothy Culbert
- David and the Worry Beast by Anne Marie Guanci
- Nobody’s Perfect by Ellen Burns
- Don’t Feed the Worry Bug by Andi Green
- Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda by Lauren Alderfer
- The Adding Assets Series by Pamela Espeland and Elizabeth Verdick
- What to Do When Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough by Thomas Greensporn
I just remind myself, I am not alone on this adventure. We do the best we can and we hope for the best too.
Check out more blogs on this issue here