Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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For Gifted Kids And Their Teachers — Strategies For Success

Photo courtesy of Ashim D’Silva, Unsplash

Maybe you are an enthusiastic, hungry learner. You have so many questions and so many answers; your drive to analyze and create is massive and never ending. Your intense curiosity annoys your fellow students and rattles your teachers.

Was this your experience in first grade? Is this your story even now that you’re in grad school? If so, it can be deeply painful and frustrating. You may blame yourself for your too muchness and your seemingly inadequate communication and social skills. You may have been labelled a know-it-all but you wonder how that’s possible when you feel like a want-to-know-it-all and a slacker.

Maybe you’re a teacher who is working valiantly to serve the wildly different abilities of your students. You love your kids but are overwhelmed by their academic and emotional needs. How do you manage their range of abilities, their fears and doubts, and the demands of their parents and your administrators? And what about those kiddos who always finish work early and are asking questions that you can’t answer? Who are passionate about learning but don’t hand in their homework? Who are sensitive to the suffering multitudes but don’t appear to care when correcting your spelling?

What are some ways rainforest-minded learners can navigate the education system? How might teachers meet the needs of the gifted student?

Yep. These are HUGE questions. The following are some tiny answers. (But a place to start.)

For students (and parents):

Look for allies: Ask your favorite teacher to start a philosophy club. Look for mentors during your after school activities and entice them with your sense of humor. Find the other rainforest-y kids and talk to them. Go to office hours with the professor who loves your inquisitive nature.

Don’t believe that something’s wrong with you when teachers misunderstand your effervescence, your high standards, your disappointments or your need to correct others’ errors. Ask to meet with your more sensitive instructors over lunch and explain what you know about yourself and rainforest minds. (Show them my blog!) Ask them to advocate for you. Negotiate a flexible plan to get relevant work completed or to design alternative assignments.

Find inspiration from your research online. Contact fascinating people like Maria Popova from Brain Pickings or Krista Tippett from On Being.

For teachers:

Recognize the importance of your work and the powerful influence you have on children.

Find ways to nourish yourself. Attend conferences like this one. Join NAGC and access their resources.

Use some of the ideas suggested in this blog post such as: “It won’t take much to get your gifted students to adore you. Listen to them. Let them know that you appreciate how hungry they are to learn, then find ways to feed them…”

Read Parker Palmer‘s book, The Courage to Teach. Let his positive vision guide you.

Access curriculum guides published by Prufrock Press and Free Spirit.

Don’t miss the important documentary on gifted children and education titled The G Word that will be out in 2019.

Find inspiring words to tape to your refrigerator such as: “The connections made by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts — the place where intellect, emotion, spirit, and will converge in the human self — supported by the community that emerges among us when we choose to live authentic lives.” Parker J. Palmer

For students, parents and teachers:

“In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.”   Wangari Maathai              

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To my bloggEEs:  Tell us about your experiences in school as a student or a teacher. How might you shed your fear and share hope with your self, your family, your school, your community or your world? Thank you to the reader who inspired this post.


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Gifted: The Movie — A Review of Sorts

photo used with permission from Fox Searchlight

I confess. I love sweet sentimental movies with happy endings. Call me crazy. Or old. But, hey. In today’s world? We all need some happy endings.

Not only that. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’m all about giftedness. I write about it. Talk about it. Think about it. Dream about it. Sing about it. (OK. I don’t sing about it.) Giftedness grabbed me when I was a young lass of 25 and didn’t let go.

Don’t ask why. I don’t know. After all, I didn’t raise a gifted child. Didn’t grow up in a gifted family. And, truth be told, I’m barely gifted myself, as far as I can tell. But, as many of you know, I started teaching gifted kids back in my young lass days. Now I’m a counselor/consultant for gifted adults slowly gaining notoriety for my oh-so-witty blog, my fresh-off-the-press book, and my capacity to nurture the intense, questioning, emotional, sensitive, perfectionistic, brilliant humans who are my clients.

But, wait. Back to the topic at hand.

The film, Gifted. It was more than sentimental. More than a happy ending. It brought up important issues that those of us in the field grapple with every day. Issues that real gifted folks face. Go, Hollywood! Some of my lovely blogging colleagues (and moms of gifted children) have written reviews that, I have to say, have more substance than what I’ve read in the mainstream media. Here are a few: Pamela, HeatherCaitlin and Jen.

The film doesn’t dive deep but it opens the door. To these questions: Can a gifted child be a “normal” kid? Might it be appropriate not to shoot for normal but, rather, for authentic? What are the best ways to balance a child’s intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical lives when the child is wired gifted? How do we help them find friends?What are the options for education? How can educators support these youngsters? What pressures to achieve do gifted children experience? When does the pressure become so great that the person considers suicide? How do we support the emotional needs of the gifted, including their intense sensitivity and empathy? What kind of support do parents need to raise these kids? What types of giftedness exist in addition to math prodigies?

And I’m just getting started. You will likely come up with even more questions. And for answers? Well, the bloggers I mention above. Me, of course. More bloggers and resources here and here. If you’re a conference goer, check this out. (I’ll be there presenting!) And you’ll want to know about a documentary in the making titled The G Word from the filmmaker Marc Smolowitz. It’s in process right now and I’m confident that it’ll be both inspirational and informative.

So, my dears, go see the film. Take your kids. (There’s just a little profanity and a little sex.)  Then talk to your kiddos, your educators, your psychotherapists, your relatives and your one-eyed-cats about what being gifted (or, as I call it, having a rainforest mind) might mean.

Go get yourself some sweet sentiment and a happy ending.

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To my bloggEEs: Let us know if you see the film and what you think. And thank you, as always, for your you-ness.


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Your Precocious Kid Was So Adorable. Now, At 15? Not So Adorable.

photo courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash, CC

Your daughter, Jenny, is editor of the school newspaper. She’s a math whiz, a voracious reader, and a star athlete. At 15, she looks destined for a great life.

Why, then, is she freaking out over what looks like nothing? Why is she still having meltdowns? Why is she screeching at you about your fundamentally inadequate parenting?

She was so darned cute when she was three.

But now, school is a struggle. She questions her teachers’ authority and refuses to turn in assignments that aren’t up to her standards. She criticizes the values of her so-called friends. Even though she has great empathy for the suffering multitudes, there’s no empathy for you. None. Nada. Zilch.

Welcome to adolescence. Welcome to GiftedKid 2.0.

I’m exaggerating. A little. In fact, she really does have empathy for you. Believe it or not, she feels guilty for her outbursts and hides a pressing need to please you. She worries that she’s a disappointment and that she’ll never live up to your expectations. (or her own) Her burning need for intellectual stimulation and her loneliness at not being deeply seen, also trigger her emotional reactivity.

Not to mention, um, hormones.

And, of course, your teen may not be like this at all. Gifted kids come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. But if you relate to the above, you’re not alone.

What can you do? Besides escape to a deserted island until she’s 21?

• Remind yourself that overexcitabilities (OEs) are part of the rainforest-minded  package. Gifted kids are naturally more intense emotionally as well as intellectually.

• Notice if you have your own set of OEs and learn how to nourish yourself, soothe your soul and get your own intellectual needs met.

• Try your best not to take the criticism personally. This is not easy. Breathe. Learn to meditate. Get exercise. Try therapy if your childhood pain is being triggered.

• Listen and reflect her feelings during the emotional turmoil. Problem solve later. No advice. No criticism. Listening is key. It’s a simple idea but not easy to do.

• Read Eileen Kennedy-Moore’s book Smart Parenting for Smart Kids and, ahem, my book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth. 

And, when all else fails, take comfort in the words of Andrew Solomon:

“Like parents of children who are severely challenged, parents of exceptionally talented children are custodians of children beyond their comprehension.”

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To my bloggEEs: For those of you who are parents, let us know how you experience your precocious adolescents. If you’re a gifted teen, does this sound like you? Or if you were a gifted teen, does this sound familiar? In a future post, I’ll focus on teen boys. But the suggestions apply if you have boys, as well. Thank you all, as always, for being here. Note: Just to clarify. I’m not saying that it’s not OK to question authority, to have high standards or to examine your friends’ values. Heavens, no. OK? Just clarifying.


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If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Feel Like A Failure?

photo courtesy of Vanessa Bumbeers, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Vanessa Bumbeers, Unsplash, CC

Was this you? You were told repeatedly that you were so smart; that you had a high IQ. You were the top student. Your parents and teachers praised you often for your abilities and achievements. School was easy so you could get high grades without studying. You won awards. Teachers said that you were gifted. Your parents said that you’d do great things when you reached adulthood; That you could do anything you wanted. Expectations were high. 

And so was the pressure. But you didn’t realize it at the time. Until you got to college. Suddenly, you were surrounded by smart kids. You were no longer the star. Not only that. Some of your classes were hard; studying was required. Studying? What’s that? You got your first “C.” You loved psychology and philosophy but you’d never faced a workload like this. No one else seemed to be having trouble. You started procrastinating, as usual, but last minute finishes didn’t work anymore. It was confusing and overwhelming. Your identity was crumbling; you became anxious and depressed.

In your mind, it became clear that you’d been faking your smarts all of these years. You weren’t gifted. Never had been. You’d gotten by on your charm. Now charm wasn’t enough. You were a failure. Every little mistake, every question you couldn’t answer. Failure.

Is this you? Or someone you know?

Let me give you a hug and an explanation.

Kids who are gifted are often told, repeatedly, how smart they are, by well-meaning adults. High grades and other achievements may be praised excessively. This can lead children to believe that they’re loved because they’re “so smart.” Their identity becomes dependent, then, on their capacity to continue to show their advanced abilities and on the praise and attention they receive.

This can lead to unhealthy perfectionism: fear of failure, avoidance of activities that don’t guarantee success, impostor syndrome and procrastination. It can lead to anxiety and depression. Being smart becomes a static thing. You either are or your aren’t. And because you’re used to learning many things quickly, you think that’s the way all learning should be. If you don’t get it fast, well, it just proves that you’re not gifted. Not gifted? Not lovable.

What can you do?

Understand that your worth as a human isn’t due to your accomplishments. Your worth is about who you are, not what you do. It will take time to really believe this.

Make a list of your values. What do you appreciate about others? Compassion? Generosity? Sense of humor? Can you admire these values in yourself?

Imagine your life as a work in progress or as a form of artistic expression. Focus on the journey or the process instead of the product or the outcome.

If you’re in school, design a plan for studying and completing assignments. Break projects down into smaller steps. Look for resources online about dealing with procrastination, perfectionism, expectations, and fear of failure.

Learn about Dweck’s more recent work on mindsets. Even if giftedness is the way your brain is wired, that doesn’t mean it’s an all or nothing phenomenon. You can still have strengths and weaknesses. You can make mistakes and still be a lovely human. You can have high standards and not be perfect.

Make a list of your thoughts and beliefs about your “failures.” Are they rational? Replace your irrational beliefs with what’s actually true. If you’re really struggling, try this book. The book includes ways to self-soothe and calm your anxiety.

Read biographies of eminent people and make note of their struggles, mistakes and failures. Elon Musk and Steve Jobs failed multiple times.

If you’re a parent, avoid praise. It’s often meaningless. Instead, encourage your children by giving specific feedback and asking questions. “I noticed how kind you were to that boy.” “I’m enjoying the details about the characters in your story.” “How was it for you when your team worked so well together?”

If you’re a parent, encourage your child to engage in activities where they need to struggle. They will learn how to deal with mistakes, failures and set backs and will form a stronger sense of self.

And finally, hold on to your dreams!  Even if you feel discouraged and anxious some of the time, or a lot of the time, there is love in you. There is beauty in you. You can do this.

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To my bloggEEs: Thank you to the reader who inspired this post. Share your thoughts, feelings, questions and dreams here, please. We all benefit from your experiences!


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Your Gifted Child And School — Ten Suggestions For Parents

photo courtesy Pixabay, CC

photo courtesy Pixabay, CC

Eight-year-old Bobby wanted to be Richard Feynman for Halloween.

Could he be gifted? Hm?

There were many other signs: Enormous enthusiasm for learning, especially history, science, and language; emotional intensity, difficulty maintaining friendships with children his age, trouble with motivation in school, writing insightful poetry and detailed stories, stacks of books he longed to read, advanced verbal ability, over-thinking tests so that he misunderstood simple problems and scored poorly on exams, great interest in mathematics but not arithmetic, high sensitivity and empathy, frustration with the slowness of handwriting, distressed by the repetition in school, extremely active and curious mind, quirky sense of humor.

I’ve known many gifted children with similar characteristics. Like Bobby, they’re often misunderstood. Their sensitivity and big emotions are mistaken for immaturity. Mediocre test scores are interpreted as average ability or laziness. Loneliness is seen as lack of empathy. Intense curiosity looks like arrogance.

School personnel didn’t recognize Bobby’s rainforest mind. Is this scenario familiar?

If so, here’s what you can do:

— Explain to your child what it means to have a rainforest mind.

— Ask your child to create an imaginary container for his emotions to use when it’s not safe to express them in public. (Bobby used a coconut reinforced with diamonds that was “as big as a truck.”) One resource for helping with anxiety, depression and intensities is Charlotte Reznick‘s work.

— Find a specialist in gifted education who can test your child if the school needs proof of giftedness so that your child’s anxiety and creativity will be taken into consideration as her test results are interpreted.

— Request persistently and repeatedly that your child be matched with the more sensitive, creative and flexible teachers who, ideally, have training in gifted education. Did I mention, be persistent? Convince administrators that this is an easy solution, because it is. Understand the pressures that educators are under and provide support where you can. Bring bribes caffeinated beverages to overworked teachers. Let difficult administrators know that you have superpowers and you’re not afraid to use them. Remind yourself that when you speak out for your child, other gifted kids will benefit.

— Teach your child social skills, if needed, through role playing. Rainforest-y kids can be bossy and impatient because they don’t realize that other children don’t think as fast or don’t have the same interests. (Explain this to them.) Invite children over for play dates and provide guidance, if needed.

— Share this post with educators. It offers simple teaching techniques that work in the classroom along with inexpensive practical resources for teachers.

— Problem solve as a family. Brainstorm ideas. Your children will come up with creative solutions to assorted problems and they’ll appreciate your trust in them. Remember that healthy limits and consistency are important, especially if your child is testing boundaries. Take time to nourish yourself.

— If you have a rainforest mind and had difficulty in school, find ways to process your feelings through journaling, coaching or counseling. This post might help.

— Read about what other parents are doing and, if needed, look into homeschooling. Join a parenting support group in your town or on Facebook. Attend a SENG or NAGC conference.

— Work to change the system. Join innovative educators like Jade Rivera, the educators at NuMinds and organizations like 4pt0.org.

All of our children, in fact, the entire planet, will benefit if our gifted kids are provided with a stimulating, compassionate and meaningful schooling experience.

I’m sure Richard Feynman would agree.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your schooling experiences or about how your kids are doing in school. What frustrations did you have? Was there a teacher who made a difference for you? How? Thank you for sharing. My blog is so much richer because of your comments. See you in 2017! Let me know if there are topics you’d like me to cover in future posts.


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Most Popular Posts of 2016 — Plus A Special Podcast Interview

Thank you, dear bloggEEs, for another year of rainforest-minded escapades. Here are the two most popular posts of 2016. Plus a bonus! A 35 minute podcast interview that will give you some insight into my background, my neuroses, my control issues and my journey to blogworld and published authorville. Sending you all much love, appreciation, hope and strength for the coming year. 

You’re Not Crazy. You’re Gifted

photo courtesy of pixabay CC

photo courtesy of pixabay CC

Your Kids Are Gifted. Should You Tell Them?

photo courtesy of London Scout, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of London Scout, Unsplash, CC

Podcast Interview

Recent photo of yours truly

Recent photo of yours truly

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To my bloggEEs: Let me know what topics you’d like to see here in 2017. What are your questions? Worries? Hopes and dreams? And remember. It’s not too late to buy copies of my book for your favorite geeks, nerds, bookworms, and brainiacs and for the people who love and/or misunderstand them. (Face it, darlings, I’m gonna nag you until you do it!)


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Fifteen Quick Reminders To Help You Make It Through The ‘Holidaze’

photo courtesy of Jim Lukach, Flickr, CC

photo courtesy of Jim Lukach, Flickr, CC

(This post was first published on intergifted, a great site for gifted adults.)

1  You’re not too sensitive if you’re easily overwhelmed by the holiday muzak, the florescent lights, the crowds, the frenetic meaningless pace, the likely psychopathic Santa and the smell of stale popcorn at the shopping mall.

2  You’re not a failure as a human being if your siblings went to Stanford and are all doctors and have two and a half kids and you’re still wondering what to do when you grow up because you took a detour into drug treatment and psychotherapy because your soft heart and gentle spirit needed to heal.

3  You’re not lacking in empathy if you’re frustrated and irritated, well, OK, enraged by society’s focus on the status of having more and more stuff, the bigger the better, while they’re oblivious to the impact of said stuff.

4  You’re not socially inept or paranoid if you have to abruptly leave a gathering of people who seem happy and charming and delightful but who make your stomach ache because unbeknownst to your conscious mind, they’re really miserable.

5  You’re not an arrogant know-it-all if you choose to wrap the kids’ gifts in newspaper, or if you give your precocious nieces homemade light switch plates instead of Barbie dolls, or if you choose funding a homeless family over yet another plastic giraffe for your adorable nephew.

6  You’re not a bad daughter/son if you have mixed feelings about attending the family event and if you make a plan to leave early when your alcoholic relative starts to berate you about your political or religious beliefs or about why you didn’t go to Harvard when you had so much potential.

7  You are not being inauthentic if you consciously avoid certain topics with family members who you know will react with anger or misunderstanding to your attempt to explain, say, your logical reasons for changing your college major for the fifth time.

8  You’re not too persnickety if you start your own holiday rituals and don’t allow your toddler to watch reality TV, use your iPad, or learn how to operate a cell phone.

9  You’re not a failure as a parent if your holiday meal is a flop, if your kids throw their biggest tantrums ever just when the grandparents arrive, if you still haven’t gotten your hair cut or trained your dog not to beg for food.

10  You’re not an oddball if you question the traditions, religion or the obsession with television that organizes your extended family members. Well, maybe you are an oddball in that regard but there are times when oddballs are needed. This might be one of those times.

11  You’re not rude and obsessive if you are still avoiding eating the jello marshmallow carrot salad that your Aunt Gracie always makes.

12  You’re not too dramatic if you cry when your relatives tease you, well, OK, bully you, because you’re following yet another career path, you’ve stopped straightening your hair and you’re still single.

13  You’re not too intense if you can’t totally enjoy the holiday because people around the globe are suffering, the ice caps are melting and you’re distracted by your need to find and manifest your purpose on the planet.

14  You’re not too idealistic if you believe that it’s still possible for a transformation to occur where the peoples of the world embrace compassion over fear.

15  You’re not alone if you dread the stresses of the holiday season and look forward to the end of said season. And, you’re not wrong if you understand the following to be true: You are successfully sensitive, effervescently empathetic, indescribably intense, awesomely authentic, prudently persnickety, illustriously idealistic, and resplendently rainforest-minded. (And, hey, when you get a chance, could you send me the recipe for Aunt Gracie’s jello marshmallow carrot salad?)

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us what the holiday season is like for you. If you have coping strategies for the challenging times, let us know what they are. And, if you have totally joyous experiences during the holiday season, we love you, too! Oh, and the 16th reminder, my book would make a great gift for your teens, your friends, your parents, your therapist, your sensitive Uncle Phil, and your sweet self.