Let Spring Breakers Rule

Technically, Stern’s on Spring Break.

Took one flight to Mexico. Brought five friends. Rented a beach apartment, Unpacked. And now CHILLING, Stern style.

Chilling. Relaxing. The importance of taking a break. That’s the subject of this blog.  Much has been said about gifted and talented children and their inability to relax. "My child can’t shut down; he’s over-stimulated, has too many interests and wants everything to turn out perfectly."

How does a parent handle these barriers to relaxation?

1. Model relaxation methods: If your child sees you relaxing, taking a break, going for a swim, reading a book, or playing a game with a friend, he may experiment with one of your methods (or others that he’s observed) and find one that works for him. Gifted authority James Alvino, notes the importance of modeling relaxation for children at a very young age.

Relaxation is an essential first step in optimizing learning. The human brain literally shuts down as anxiety, tension, or fear increase. As it moves toward relaxed awareness, it processes information faster and remembers it longer. Relaxation allows the limbic area of the brain to function more effectively and enhances the interaction between the right and left hemispheres….. Through the continued use of relaxation, an individual can create a more balanced and coherent use of brain energy.  See, Alvinono, J., Considerations and Strategies for Parenting the Gifted Child, http://www.gifted.uconn.edu/nrcgt/reports/rm95218/rm95218.pdf

2. Encourage mindfulness: For those who have a tougher time relaxing, mindfulness (being present in the moment, visualization, focusing on mind body connections*), yoga, and meditation are great tools to moderate perfectionism and overstimulation. Children have to focus on their breathing and “natural rhythm.” That takes them away from their worldly or personal concerns and eases them into more relaxed thought. Over time, the hope is that the perfectionist child will realize that work can wait or be delegated.

3. Indulge silly behaviors: While your child has a chronological age of six, his intellectual age might be 12. On an emotional level, he may be four. Remember, most gifted children develop in an asynchronous (or uneven) manner. So, allow him to let loose and be silly; that will lead to a relaxed state.

4. Support friendships: It’s tough for gifted kids to make friends. In many cases, their senses of humor and interests are more finely developed—or at a minimum different--than their peers. Help them seek out other gifted children. Their teachers or other school staff may have leads. Look for outside enrichment programs that may interest your child and like peers. You may meet other families. There may be a gifted and talented parent group in your community; that would be a good starting point. In Illinois, parent groups collaborate with the Illinois Association of Gifted Children. Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted is also a group that many parents join.

When gifted and talented children gather with their peers, confluence occurs, a coming together, a meeting of relaxed minds. They delight in sharing ideas and activities with their intellectual peers. Family activities can foster confluence, too. Games, trips, and parties provide great opportunities during which children can relate to trusted relatives.
As I sit here writing in sunny Mexico, Bob Marley is on the radio: “Don’t worry. Be happy.” Here I go for a week of chilling. Wishing you a relaxing spring break, too! Your brain will thank you for it.

*For an excellent presentation on student anxiety and mindfulness, see Dr. Michele Kane, Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Gifted Children, http://www.District158.org/weblinks/GiftedAnxiety.

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