What Parents Should Know About Gifted Teens

By Ashley Miller
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The adolescent years are notoriously difficult for almost everyone. For a gifted teen, these years can be even more challenging. Many gifted teens are perfectionists and more sensitive and self-aware than their peers, so they might experience more ups and downs if they aren't supported or feel that they aren't living up to their full potential. Being an involved, understanding and educated parent is crucial for helping your gifted teen navigate the rough waters of adolescence.

Self-Esteem

Developing a strong sense of self is one of the critical tasks of adolescence, yet most teens struggle in the area of self-esteem. In gifted teens, a lack of self-esteem and reduced feelings of self-worth are extremely common, says psychotherapist Elizabeth Donovan in an article for "Psychology Today." They might feel a greater sense of pressure to achieve or feel the need to be flawless in everything they do. They might therefore respond more strongly to failure than their peers. Parents can help their gifted teens develop a healthy sense of self-esteem by staying involved, praising accomplishments, avoiding criticism of failure, and demonstrating an accepting, supportive attitude.

Talent Development

Gifted teens are usually advanced in one or more areas, such as music, science, writing or art. One of the most important tasks for the parent of a gifted teen is to support the development of their unique talents and interests, according to the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Connecticut. Gifted teens who successfully develop their talents feel an increased sense of self-assurance, responsibility, independence and have a more positive view of lifelong learning. Parents can help their teen follow his passion by staying involved, learning about their teens' specific areas of talent and discussing possibilities for the future, such as turning their talent into a career.

Depression and Anxiety

Since many gifted teens feel an enormous amount of pressure and responsibility, it's no wonder that they are often more susceptible to developing psychological disorders like depression and anxiety. Gifted teens are also often highly sensitive and hyper-aware of being "different," which might also play a role in depression. Parents of gifted teens should be aware of the warning signs of these disorders. Symptoms might include mood changes, avoiding enjoyable activities, decreased socialization, academic decline, appetite and sleep changes or skipping class. If you notice any of these signs, discuss your concerns with your child and seek the advice of your child's pediatrician or a qualified mental health professional.

Sleep and Relaxation

Gifted teens are always on the go, both mentally and physically, and they might forget to take time to recharge their batteries. They are often sleep deprived, yet they generally need more than eight hours of sleep each night, according to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development. Too little sleep can make your teen feel irritable, depressed and stressed. It's important for parents to make sure their teens get enough sleep and also set aside time every day to unwind and release stress. You might encourage your teen to try different methods of relaxation, such as yoga or deep breathing, to help with stress management.

About the Author

Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.