A Physiologically Gifted Child is part of the 10 to 15% of the youth population who feels the world more deeply. With certain parenting practice, the PGC’s highly tuned antennae on the world can be cultivated into a gift to help them succeed personally and professionally in life. The aim of this newsletter, therefore, is to offer parents a few tips for raising a PGC in an environment that helps them to thrive.
Dr. Leah Lagos
The Most Important Key To Parenting the PGC
Self-care is not optional. Many parents invest hours, months, and even years exhaustively trying new approaches to help their PGC feel the world less deeply. They assume responsibility for their child’s emotional reactivity and may even assume, “if I was a better parent, my child would not have such strong emotional reactions to stressors.” In an effort to try harder and do more for the child, the parent of the PGC often loses sight of his or her own needs for self-care. Just as an athlete’s recovery in between plays impacts performance, the parent’s ability to take frequent breaks from parenting will affect their ability to optimally parent the PGC. Because PGC’s require more empathy and understanding than other kids and even their own siblings, parents of PGCs require more breaks, time away, and assistance than parents of non-PGC’s. Making time for self-care is possibly the most important key of parenting a PGC. Without diligent self-care, the parent may have difficulty providing the empathy, nurturing, and understanding that can greatly benefit a PGC.
When a PGC is emotionally responding to a situation or specific stressor, he or she is feeling over loaded by physiological and psychological reactions that disturb balance in the body. In this situation, the PGC benefits from compassion to pull through this period of sensory overload. In an effort to help parents understand how to react to their child’s distress, I often recommend that the parent consider how they would offer understanding to an adult friend who had been experiencing back pain for several days. Through empathic responding, the parents help to validate the child’s experience of sensory overload (e.g. we know what you’re experiencing is real and not deliberate or malicious). Further, this continued compassion can serve as a foundation for self-exploration in which the PGC autonomously begins to explore and implement skills/tools for self-regulation.
Communicating Emotions and Needs
A major source of stress for parents and the PGC relates to communication especially during times of emotionally intensity. When strong feelings are experienced, the parent as well as the PGC may have difficulty identifying the cause, the feeling, and what they need. While there are possibly hundreds of modalities that could be created to communicate about emotions and needs, the enclosed method has helped many parents and PGC’s (off all ages and backgrounds) to improve their ability to effectively respond to stress during times of high emotional intensity. I call this method the FFN formula.
This three-step formula includes developing one or two sentences to describe the fact, the feeling, and the need. For example, if a PGC is feeling overwhelmed by a parent who is miscommunicating with them, it is important to define this situation in simple terms: “There was a miscommunication when… (refer to particular situation). I am feeling overwhelmed and frustrated because I do not think I am being heard. I need my opinion to be heard, understood, and validated.” By following this formula, a complex and emotionally charged situation can be simplified into non-defensive terms that can be addressed and managed.