3 Challenges Gifted Teen Students Face Today & How You Can Help
Gifted Teen Students
Gifted students are awesome to work with. It's amazing to watch their teen minds at work sorting through information and facts at lightening speed. The power of their memories in retrieving detailed information and being able to apply that information to practical problem solving is fantastic to watch. Their ability to communicate at adult levels creates unique opportunities for growth and development in teen counseling or family therapy.
A gifted teen student is a teen who scores 130 or above on IQ tests. These are the teens who may have learned how to read, write, and count at an early age. Gifted students are those who may have advanced vocabulary and communicate more like an adult than a teen. A gifted student tends to have a very good memory and strong reasoning skills. These are the students in your class who you envied because they don't ever seem to study but still get awesome grades!
Due to the gifted teen's intellect, they seem to have it easy. From early morning to late evening, their lives are filled with productive activities preparing them for the best possible future. They can juggle school, one or more extracurricular activities, and other pursuits while still killing it with their grades.
Who wouldn't want this gift for their teens? Wait, forget the teens, who wouldn't want this for themselves?!
Yet, from the outside looking in, we cannot see the inner world that gifted teen's experience. In general, teens today have become adept at hiding the internal struggles they may feel. Gifted students tend to be, well -- exceptionally gifted at hiding their inner experiences.
3 Inner Struggles Common Among Gifted Teen Students
No two gifted students are alike. In counseling teens, we have found that though each gifted teen is a unique individual with unique gifts and talents, there are some common struggles that they tend to share. Out of the various struggles that gifted students share, below are the 3 that we have found, through teen counseling or family therapy, that tend to have a significant impact on gifted teens.
1. Perfectionism -- Failure is Not an Option
Gifted teens have succeeded intellectually from a young age. Compared to children their own age, they were more advanced in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Think about the pride you would feel as a parent with a child like this. As parents we want the best for our kids. When we see our child who surpasses the intellectual ability of other kids, internally we beam and radiate pride for our little one as well we should.
As parents of a gifted student, we post the accomplishments on Facebook and Instagram. We brag about their accomplishments, we tell our child how proud we are of them, teachers tell them how proud they are of them, neighbors tell them how proud they are of them, and the list goes on. This is all NORMAL and good stuff. We should validate our children's successes.
As our children develop into teens, they have had years of verbal praise for their intellectual prowess. They are unstoppable. As the teen years hit and they attend Jr. High School, many parents and teens are already start to plan for what college their teen will attend.
We start to proactively select what extracurricular activities they need to participate in to prepare them to be accepted to the top colleges. Suddenly, there are more activities and higher expectations during the teen years.
The pressure mounts where there wasn't any during the younger years. Before, it was awesome. It was pure praise without expectation. During the teen years, it turns into praise WITH expectation -- be in the top 10% to attend a top university.
Perfectionism and Fear of Failure
Gifted Teens want to make their parents proud. They don't want to let their teachers down. Family, friends, and neighbors are watching. Gifted teens also have their own internal standards of success that they want to achieve.
They are competitive with their peers and must be in the top 10% in order to be accepted into the top universities. They are now in an environment where failure does not seem an option.
The pressure cooker that has been unintentionally created does not allow for wiggle room. Teens feel immense pressure to succeed at the highest levels. This means that mistakes cannot be made. A mistake may mean failure and they have not had experience with failure up to this point. As a result, a fear of failure is often created in teens who have perfectionistic tendencies.
Teens often will not communicate this fear of failure to their parents as they do not want their parents to be disappointed or worried about them. Besides, admitting that there is a fear of failure feels like a failure in itself.
Perfectionism can impact a gifted teen's self-esteem. Perfectionism can and often does create teen depression. The day in day out battle to avoid failure starts to create teen anxiety in gifted students. In providing counseling for teens, we have observed an increase in teen anxiety and teen depression and gifted students are not immune.
Many gifted students feel that they can manage their depression and anxiety like they have managed everything else in their lives -- with their intellect. However, emotions are not logical, do not make sense at times, and it can feel like failure to a gifted teen when they cannot manage their emotions.
Perfectionism is, in part, why they tend to not share their inner, emotional struggles with their parents. They don't want to 'admit failure' in not being able to figure out how to manage teen depression or teen anxiety.
2. Existential Crisis
When we provide counseling for gifted teens and/or during the course of family counseling, it is not uncommon to come across gifted teens who find themselves in an existential crisis. An existential crisis is when a person is negatively impacted by the contemplation and questioning of the following:
What is the meaning of life and my life in particular
what their purpose is of life and my life in particular
what are my own personal values and principles
Now, you may think that's heavy stuff -- because it IS heavy stuff. But remember, we're not talking ordinary teen minds, we are talking extraordinary teen minds. Normally, teens start seriously thinking about what college they will attend somewhere around their Junior year. With gifted students, this starts much earlier and sometimes as early as their entrance into Junior High (or sooner).
Gifted teens start to proactively plan their lives as young as 12 years old in relation to what top University they will attend. During much of the week and during the daily activities, the thought about Harvard, Yale, and other premier Universities floats around in the back of their minds. Combined with their gifted intellect as well as the pressure to succeed at the highest levels so that they can attend top Universities, young teens find themselves starting to contemplate these heavy, life questions.
Adult Questing with Teen Emotional Regulation
For many an adult, we are still in pursuit of answers to these heavy life questions. As adults however, we often have the advantage of figuring out what our career and are well into our careers. We have settled into a groove in life where we can casually, and without pressure, contemplate these heavy, life questions.
For gifted teens, not only do they have the pressure to succeed at the highest levels, they have to at the same time figure out what they want to do when they grow up while navigating puberty and the social pressures of the teen years. Classes and extracurricular activities and other facets of their life are being molded around their future selves. Piece of cake, right?
Gifted students feel an immense pressure to figure it out quickly and before they graduate High School. There is a pressure to know the answers to these questions before they attend the college. If they don't know what they want to be 'when they grow up', how can they succeed in college and won't that mean that I may fail?
Remember, though they sound and act like an 'little adult', their emotional reasoning is more that of a 'larger child'. We can sometimes forget that with their gifted intellect. The pressure to figure out life's meaning while they are still a teen on top of the other life pressures can have a negative impact on their mood and emotion.
Teens who are genetically predisposed toward teen depression or teen anxiety may see these symptoms arise. Even those teens who may not have a predisposition to teen anxiety or teen depression may experience long episodes of depressive or anxiety symptoms.
3. Difficulty With Social Interactions and Making Friends
Gifted teens who attend teen therapy and/or family counseling at Katy Teen & Family Counseling often have struggled in this area. There is good reason for this and it has nothing to do with their worth or value as a person or individual. It has everything to do with their ability to think and reason at a higher level than same aged peers. Now, this does not apply to all gifted students but it does seem to be a common theme.
Though there are a lot of benefits in being a gifted student, there can be some draw backs. When you can think, reason, and remember at much higher levels than your peers, it can be difficult to make friends. There are two main reasons for this:
1. Gifted Teens Often Out-Pace Their Same Age Peers
Often, a gifted teen outpaces their peers in conversations and can come across as a 'know it all'. May gifted students are eager to share their knowledge with their peers and do not mean to showcase themselves, this is simply their way of interacting and gaining connection. Yet, it can have an impact on their ability to connect at their friend's level and may push some away.
2. Gifted Teens May Have Different Interests
In order to develop a friendship, two people must have enough things in common to find interest in a plutonic relationship. With gifted teens, their interests are usually not the interests of teens their same age. This makes it difficult to build, develop, and sustain friendships.
A gifted teen girl may not be drawn to the drama and gossip of girls her own age. A gifted teen boy's life may not revolve around sports like the boys his age might. These are just two examples and are not meant to typify gifted teens. Simply to provide comparisons.
What Can I Do to Help my Gifted Teen?
Step Back, Observe, Talk and Teach
As parents, we want the best for our teens. When we have a gifted teen, if we're not careful, we can get wrapped up in what WE may want for the teen's future and miss out on some of the subtle warning signs that they are battling internal struggles.
Teens, particularly gifted teens, do not want to disappoint their parents. They see the pride their parents have in them. With pride, parents talk to family members and friends about their accomplishments. Teens see the excitement in their eyes when they talk about academic and extracurricular success they have and the brightness of their future.
Parents know whether their gifted teen can effectively share their inner world. If you notice signs of depression or anxiety and the teen denies experiencing these things, it could be that they don't know how to describe what they feel and/or they don't need help and can solve it on their own. Our teen's social and emotional development is as important as their academic and professional development:
If our teens grow up and have missed out on how to develop relationships with others outside the family, they may struggle forming meaningful relationships in their adult years.
If our teens grow up and have kept hidden their teen depression, teen anxiety, or other struggles they experienced, adult responsibilities can compound the depression and anxiety exponentially.
In talking with parents in family counseling or updating them about their teens participation in teen therapy, I often hear, "I just want them to be happy." In order for our gifted teens to develop into happy adults, it's important to make their social and emotional development as important as their academic success.
Talk with your teen. They often will not admit to struggling with perfectionism, the stress and anxiety that contemplating the deep meaning of their lives at such a young age creates, or struggling to make and keep friendships. Help them to see these things not as failures. They are skills to develop and openly talking about them is the best way to develop these skills. It allows others in to help. They may be used to succeeding 'on their own' and this is a good opportunity to teach that we all need support along the way.
What Do I Do If My Teen Needs Teen Therapy?
There is help out there if your gifted teen is struggling with the these or other challenges. Gifted teens face unique challenges that are different than other teens. It takes a teen therapist who understands these unique differences to help. It is one of the hardest things to reach out to a therapist for help and support. As parents, we are supposed to fix anything. The reality is, there are some things that we cannot fix on our own.
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, PLLC, we work with gifted teens who may be struggling with teen depression, teen anxiety or other teen struggles. We have seen an increase in teen depression and teen anxiety due to COVID-19. In addition, teen depression and teen anxiety has increased 59% in the past 13 years. Gifted teens are not immune to and struggle with teen depression and teen anxiety at the same rates as other teens.
We want to make the process convenient for the families we work with. We strive to answer your call the same day. To provide the information you need over the phone and schedule an appointment as soon as possible. We have flexible hours for your families busy schedule. We can provide teen counseling and family therapy at times that will suit your families needs. If your gifted teen is struggling, don't put it off any longer. Our specialists in teen therapy and family counseling can help.
Katy Teen & Family Counseling, PLLC
Begin Counseling for Gifted Teens in Katy, Texas and Serving the Houston Area
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, you have specialists with expertise in providing counseling for gifted teens in addition to providing family therapy. Counseling can help remove the barriers and road blocks depression and anxiety create. Reach out and contact one of our caring therapists to begin your journey today. To start your counseling journey, you can follow three simple steps:
Meet with one of our teen therapy and family counseling experts
Start today in helping your gifted teen regain hope and happiness
Other Teen & Family Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling, PLLC
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we provide other therapeutic and counseling services in addition to teen counseling and family therapy. Below are some of those counseling services in addition to other therapeutic approaches in treating a variety or struggles :
Teen Therapy for Self-harm
Teen Therapy for Self-esteem and Self-worth
Teen Substance Use Therapy
Teen Anger Management Treatment
How to Begin Teen Therapy or Family Counseling
To begin teen therapy or family counseling, simply contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling through our website or by calling 346-202-4662. Our Owner and Lead Clinician answers each phone call to help match you with the right therapist for you teen and family.
About the Author
Jason Drake is a Licensed Clinical Worker. He is a Specialist in Teen Therapy & Family Counseling. He has provided therapy to teens and families since 2003. Through his expertise, he helps teens who struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, ADHD/ADD, and PTSD. He works with talented teen athletes who have experience mental blocks. Gifted students have unique challenges that Jason understands well. Jason uses CBT, EMDR, Neurofeedback, FFT, and Motivational Interviewing. We only work with teens and families which allows us to focus on what teens and families of today need. Resolving the struggles of today can assure a more successful tomorrow. Proudly serving Katy, Tx and Houston.