Here’s the scenario: a parent contacts me for help with raising their gifted child. They describe the child’s intensity, passion for their own interests, sensory quirks, asynchrony, and learning differences. They may hope I can help their child with emotional regulation, or with finding an educational fit. We talk about resources, I point them at books, articles and organizations, and we begin to find ways to make life a little smoother.
At some point in this process, the conversation inevitably comes around to the parent’s childhood. Maybe it’s in the form of a comment such as “I know exactly what the teacher is talking about — I was that way too at that age”. Sometimes it’s more direct, as in “I just read that article you gave me to help understand my child, but it felt like it was talking about me!”. Or the especially poignant “Why couldn’t I have had some of these options growing up? I would have been so much happier.” At this point, the conversation turns to the idea that maybe the child isn’t the only gifted one in the family, that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. Many parents are taken aback, especially those whose giftedness was not apparent as they were growing up, due to things like learning differences, or an environment that wasn’t supportive of their social, emotional or intellectual needs. They might sputter, and say “But I flunked out of high school!” or “I can’t be gifted, I don’t draw ….. at least that’s what my second grade teacher told me.”
One of the most interesting parts of the journey as the parent of a gifted or 2e child is being able to apply to ourselves the things we discover in the process of helping our children. This generation of parents may be a pivotal one in the history of gifted development, because the world is a vastly different place in which to grow up gifted. We may still have a long way to go, but the resources and understanding about giftedness and 2e which are available to our children simply didn’t exist when most of us were young. If members of the parents’ generation were lucky, we had maybe a magnet school or other special program, but many of us did not even have that, and many more wouldn’t have qualified anyway because of being twice-exceptional. It’s not uncommon for a parent to carry lingering (or even currently ongoing) anger, shame, resentment, embarrassment or a negative self-view because of unaddressed issues related to growing up gifted or 2e with no support. Indeed, many of my adult clients who came through the door asking for help with their child have ended up staying on for themselves.