Social & Emotional Needs of Gifted Students

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As teachers, we have to think about the academic, social, and emotional needs of all of the students in our class. This lesson focuses on the social and emotional needs of gifted students.

The World of the Gifted Child

Mrs. Roberts is a fifth grade teacher who has spent the last several years learning strategies to meet the needs of her most struggling students. This year, though, she is surprised to find that she has several gifted students in her class.

Gifted students are those who have great academic, artistic, creative, or other abilities and talents, setting them apart from the crowd. Mrs. Roberts notices that her gifted students not only need academic challenges but also seem to have particular social and emotional struggles that she does not know much about. She endeavors to learn as much as she can about the social and emotional needs of gifted children.

Extra Pressure

One of the first things Mrs. Roberts learns is that gifted students often feel a great deal of pressure. There are two different kinds of pressure these students might feel: external and internal.

External pressure comes from parents, peers, or other adults. This kind of pressure might make gifted students feel like they always have to perform in accordance with others' high expectations. Gifted students might feel, for instance, that because they are 'supposed' to be gifted at math, their parents expect them to perform exceedingly well on every single math assignment or assessment. These expectations can be stressful because even for gifted students, material can be new or confusing.

Internal pressure comes from within students' own minds and can be even harder to deal with. Many gifted students establish high and rigid expectations for themselves and can get very upset when they do not measure up.

Mrs. Roberts helps her students name these pressures for what they are, working to identify them so that they have a less painful effect.

Fitting In

Mrs. Roberts also notices that some of her gifted students have trouble fitting in with their peers. This is partly because they really are different and often have different interests, hobbies, and thought processes. Gifted students may not communicate in the same ways as their peers. Some children feel envious and threatened by gifted students and are therefore reluctant to befriend them.

Mrs. Roberts helps her gifted students form social connections by:

  • Recommending particular children for them to play with
  • Helping them find hobbies they can share with other children
  • Teaching them social skills that make it easier for them to communicate with others their age

The Boredom Trap

Another thing Mrs. Roberts learns about her gifted students is that many of them struggle with boredom. Some gifted students are already familiar with so much of the material in the curriculum that they feel genuinely bored during the school day. Boredom can lead to feelings of sadness, anger, and complacency. Mrs. Roberts tries to keep her students engaged by giving them extra challenges, opportunities to mentor peers, and ideas for keeping themselves busy with creative activities throughout the day.

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