At the Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG), we often emphasize how important our students’ social and emotional well-being are to us. We make great efforts to provide our students with opportunities to interact with their intellectual peers in social ways, as we also make great effort to challenge them in intellectual ways. Our overall goal is to provide a safe psychological environment where young people can feel free to express themselves, pursue ideas to their conclusions, and explore what they are about.
Just as mental health, positive self-concepts, and enjoyable social interactions are experienced by most of the general population as well as the gifted population, gifted students also can be vulnerable to certain kinds of adjustments due to their unique characteristics. It’s not that gifted children feel more that makes them vulnerable, it’s that they feel differently. It is logical to note that as gifted students think and function intensely, they also feel intensely. These emotional complexities and intensities allow them to feel a wide array of emotions, sometimes all at the same time. In such cases, their senses and perceptions can become overly heightened and sometimes overwhelming.
You might have encountered challenges with gifted children that stem from uneven development, perfectionism, adult expectations, intense sensitivity, alienation, and/or ill-fitting learning environments. Success in adjusting to these challenges depends to a great extent on environmental support, which is what we seek to provide during SIG programs.
At SIG, we capitalize on students’ passionate feelings to fuel their abilities to pursue topics of interest to them as far as they would like to go. Intense study and problem solving can engage their emotional energy in productive and satisfying ways. We allow and encourage them to let us know what it is they would like to learn about in relation to the courses they are taking and then we facilitate that discovery process. In this way, we can help gifted students to accept and employ their emotions, thereby lessening the feelings of isolation, depression, and self-criticalness. It is our hope that they take the ability to employ these adjustment strategies with them after they leave our programs, as well.