Snowball Biathlon1

Put *Your* Oxygen Mask on First: Parenting Gifted Children

IMG_4945 Three families, six adults, eight young boys, three dogs: one cabin in the woods. I knew it was going to be a whole lot of joyful chaos once we arrived, but in the car on the way up to the mountains, all I could think about was traffic, icy roads, and the many, MANY important items that I’d forgotten to pack.

“How are we supposed to have Make Your Own Grilled Panini night when I’ve FORGOTTEN THE PANINI PRESS?” I grumbled.

“Mom, chill. You always tell me that when there’s nothing you can do about something, you might as well stop worrying and move on,” my middle son responded sagely.

It was one of those rare moments when you realize maybe your kids DO listen and perhaps you ARE doing something right. So of course I laughed, thanked him for being a wise little Yoda, and stopped grumbling about all of the missing items. (At that point I was blissfully ignorant about the fact that my husband hadn’t packed middle child’s ski jacket. #youhadonejob)

Nevertheless, I was left with the feeling I often have: how can I change things so I feel less stressed? Less rushed? When I’m feeling stressed, it tends to trickle down and the next thing I know, the kids are bickering, the dog is barking, and no amount of Calgon is going to help.

Something did help, though. I read an article, Tips for Parents: Attaining Health and Well-being Through Balance, written by renowned psychologist Patty Gatto-Walden. Yes, the same Patty Gatto-Walden who will be at Mackintosh Academy on March 17th at 6:30 pm as a part of Mack’s Parent Education series.

You can find the whole article here, but here are some high points:

  • “Recognize that you, as an adult in your family, not only model behavior, you also create a “set point” climate in your family atmosphere. Hence, take care of yourself first!”
  • “Attaining balance within one self means recognizing, valuing and living out of your intellectual, emotional, physical, spiritual (which includes ethics and morals) and social self.”
  • Kids need stable rituals, boundaries, limits. “Family structure provides stability and security, and is advantageous when coupled with an abundance of core foundations—unconditional acceptance and love.”
  • “One of the most difficult things we need to learn in life is how to let go and move on. This never-ending process of letting go is much easier to accomplish when we are balanced, and thereby living out of all five domains” (individual, emotional, physical, spiritual, social selves).
  • Let your kids be kids and don’t dump all of your problems on them. If they pick up on the fact that you have something going on, make a general statement without fully unloading. “You can respond with a general line without dumping the nuts and bolts out on the table. Let them be young. Let them not deal with all you have on your plate.” Find another adult to be your confidante.
  • Recognize and honor the differing personality types in your family. If the extroverts tend to keep things lively, make sure to give the introverts time and space to rejuvenate.
  • “Some differences in gifted people can take the form of overexcitabilities or intensities. It is vital that you thoroughly understand and accept your overexcitabilities and your children’s overexcitabilities.”
  • Get outside. Spend at least 30 minutes each day enjoying the natural world.
  • Make time for one-on-one time with each of your children. “Each relationship deepened and I could offer such love without stress or pressures. It was wonderful and I recommend it.”

Reading Patty Gatto-Walden’s article reaffirmed a lot of the things we’re “doing right” in our family, and it gave us some solid things to try differently.

Most of all, parenting gifted children can be hard, and it is easy to lose sight of the importance of taking care of yourself while caring for your children. But, as Gatto-Walden says: “Integrating this truth is life changing. When the five domains (individual, emotional, physical, spiritual, social selves) work together—each one with the other—they provide a perfect “GPS” system within us.”