"Why does the problem of world hunger
make him so anxious? We have plenty to eat at home!"
"She's so smart, why can't she use her intellect to get past
whatever's worrying her this week - be it spiders in the rest room
or plane crashes?"
"He's so cautious, he won't do anything if he isn't sure he can
do it perfectly or without injury. He's still not riding a
two-wheeler and he's going on 8!"
Do any of these sound familiar to you? Is your gifted child
anxious about things big and small? How much of this is normal, and
when should *you* be the one worrying?
First, it might help to know and understand that for gifted
children, worrying often comes in tandem with their high intellect,
high sensitivities, and intense curiousity. Read more about characteristics of the
Perfectionism, which is worthy of its own
lengthy discussion, often appears in gifted children. Perfectionism
can cause them to feel as though their first efforts aren't
adequate, or demonstrate some fears about initiating an activity or
task that they aren't certain they can do flawlessly. Perfectionism
can often contribute to anxiety in a bright child. Linda Silverman
discusses many aspects of perfectionism on the Gifted
The reality for most gifted children is that their advanced
intellectual development means they are much more likely to
experience moments of stress when the world doesn't match up to
their high expectations. For some children it may be that they have
developed an extremely detailed understanding of rules and fairness
in play and become overly rigid with other children about rules.
Others may become preoccupied with world affairs and express
concerns about issues such as poverty, war, access to clean water,
or saving the rainforests.
One difficulty children can face is that their rigidity about
rules or right/wrong stands in opposition to our fast-paced
information-saturated world. Kids today need to be able to adapt,
and rigidity hinders or even prevents adaptability. Being immersed
in a variety of social situations or attempting to develop
friendships can present quite a challenge to children who possess
While these concerns may cause a gifted child some anxiety,
remember, too, that their heightened awareness of right and wrong
and sense of justice may lead them to a path of high moral
development. A gifted child's tenacity in pursuing subjects of
interest may lead them to develop expertise in certain fields even
before they complete their educations.
Today's child concerned about world hunger may be tomorrow's UN
representative. Today's child collecting penny donations for the
local animal shelter may be tomorrow's veterinarian or animal
rights activist. Being strict about right and wrong, being very
black and white may feel challenging when parenting a bright child,
but when you think about the underlying reasons for these
behaviors, it's a sign of good personhood. The bright child who has
a strong moral compass and is bothered by unfairness in the
world--whether it's on a global scale or on the playground--is
getting the whole point of being a person, a global citizen.
But when is it time for parents to worry? When are a child's
anxieties, fears, worries something more than typical? According to
Ann Weller, Psy.D. with Plum Tree Child and Adolescent Psychology in
St. Charles, IL, it's when a behavior or thought pattern
interferes with a person's functioning either at home or school
that the behavior becomes a problem. "When anxiety significantly
interferes with your ability to do your job--make friends, get your
homework done--then it is time to seek help."
Psychological Association has both a wealth of resources and a
Psychologist finder that may help.
Dr. Weller goes on to point out that many fears of a gifted
child come from something known as Base Rate Fallacy. This is when we overestimate
the probability of danger in an environment. This affects anxious
people across the board, but can be particularly true of gifted
children. They know so much about what could happen but don't have
enough experience in life to provide the balance of what probably
As for how anxiety manifests, Dr. Weller points out, "It's
important to understand, too, that anxiety is in the body. You
can't be talked out of being anxious every time. There are physical
signs of anxiety. Even though you might think a bright child should
be able to think their way out of being anxious, for some they may
require treatment from a licensed psychologist, who will focus on
It may be comforting to know that parents around the world
struggle with figuring out the right path for their bright
children. What about you? Have you found any strategies that have
helped alleviate your gifted child's worries and anxieties?
Interested in learning more?
We love hearing from parents
and advocates for gifted children! Please comment if you have an
idea for a topic you'd like us to cover in future