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  • Christy George, LMFT

A Summer to Remember: Activities and Support for Gifted Children and Teens

School is out, and summer has officially begun. For many families, this season offers a welcome break from the rigors of the academic year, but for parents of gifted children, it can also present unique challenges. Gifted kids often crave intellectual and creative stimulation and can quickly become bored, under or overstimulated, and emotionally dysregulated without the right balance of activities and structure.

If you’re noticing your gifted child or teen exhibiting signs of restlessness or emotional distress, it’s a signal to take a thoughtful approach to their summer. Here are some strategies to make the most of these months, turning potential boredom into a period of growth and enrichment.

Embracing the Summer Challenge

My own experiences with my child has shown me how tough it can be to find the right fit for summer activities. When he was younger, he found most camps uninteresting and felt out of place. He disliked structured activities and deemed them pointless, preferring to spend his time on personal interests like programming and building projects. Many gifted kids share these feelings, making traditional camps and activities a poor fit.

Even if you don’t need daycare, you might worry that your kids will be bored, forget what they learned in school, or miss out on valuable social interactions. For parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children and teens, these concerns are often magnified. But summer doesn't have to be stressful. With a bit of creativity and planning, you can create an enriching environment at home.

Creating a Rich Home Environment

Pause and Connect: Start by taking a deep breath and appreciating this unique time with your children. Summer is a wonderful opportunity for building stronger family connections. Plan a few family activities that everyone can enjoy, whether it's a hike, a beach day, or a simple game night. Don't forget to schedule downtime, too. Gifted kids, like all children, need time to relax and recharge.

Encourage Self-Directed Learning: Gifted children thrive when they can explore their interests deeply. Provide resources for your child to dive into their passions, whether it’s through books, online courses, or DIY projects.

Gardening and Nature: Gardening can be both educational and therapeutic. It teaches responsibility, patience, and the joys of nurturing life. Plus, it's a great way to spend time outdoors. Encourage your child to take on a gardening project, whether it’s a small herb garden or a more ambitious vegetable plot. For those interested in biology and chemistry, it provides many hands on learning opportunities about plant life, ecosystems and biomes.

Encourage Creativity: Bright minds often like to create new things. Whether your child or teen is an artist, scientist or programmer, there is plenty of time to embark on a creative project. If they need an end goal to get them started, take a look at local art and science fairs for inspiration.

Volunteer Work: Volunteering can give gifted children and teens a sense of purpose and community. Look for local opportunities that align with your child’s interests. Whether it’s working at an animal shelter, participating in community clean-ups, teaching others or helping out at a local library, volunteering can boost self-esteem and provide meaningful experiences.

Language Learning: Summer is an excellent time to pick up a new language. Apps like Duolingo make language learning fun and accessible. This can be a rewarding challenge that keeps your child's mind active.

Physical Activities: Physical activity is crucial for overall well-being. Encourage your gifted child or teen to stay active through swimming, biking, hiking, or even participating in a local sports league. Physical exercise helps manage stress and improve mood. If your child doesn't love traditional sports, encourage them to make up their own games with physical elements. Walking and scavenger hunts count as movement. Your gifted child or teen might enjoy a walk or hike that allows them to examine and learn about plants and animals in the area for example.

Family Projects: Working on a family project can be a great bonding experience. Whether it's building a treehouse, creating a family scrapbook, or embarking on a DIY home improvement project, these activities can provide a sense of accomplishment and togetherness. If these suggestions sound too simple, you can always take it up a notch, by researching and developing building plans or activity strategies together. Remember, this is a great opportunity to apply skills learned at school to real world problems.

Preparing for the School Year Ahead

Summer is not just a time for relaxation but also a valuable period for preparing for the social and emotional challenges of the upcoming school year. Therapy can be particularly beneficial during these months.

Therapeutic Benefits: Engaging in therapy over the summer can provide your child with tools to handle school year challenges, from managing anxiety to improving social interactions. Therapy can help gifted children learn to regulate their intense emotions and develop strategies for dealing with stress.

Focus on Social Skills: Some gifted children struggle with social interactions. Summer therapy can focus on enhancing these skills in a low-pressure environment, setting the stage for a smoother transition back to school.

Emotional Regulation: Gifted children often experience intense emotions. Therapy can offer techniques for managing these feelings, helping your child maintain emotional balance and well-being.

Maintaining Structure and Routine

Maintaining a consistent routine helps children feel secure. Establish regular times for waking up, going to bed, and completing chores. Setting limits on screen time and encouraging healthy activities can foster better habits. Helping your gifted child plan their day can promote a sense of empowerment and structure. All children benefit from this, but gifted children who may feel more intensely, be more prone to pushing their own limits, and more easily bored need structured time even more. Their day doesn't need to be overly structured, but should be consistent, especially with sleep/awake times, and eating.

Self-Care for Parents

Remember to take care of yourself. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep, exercise, and nutritious food. Take breaks from your children as needed, pursue your interests, and connect with friends. Enjoying fun activities with your kids can strengthen family bonds and improve everyone's mood.

Seeking Additional Support

If you find that your child needs extra support, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Therapists and other professionals can provide guidance and assistance tailored to your child's needs. By taking these steps, you can turn the summer into a time of growth and joy for your gifted child, setting them up for success in the school year ahead.

Enjoy your summer, live well, and savor the life you are creating! If you feel the need for additional support or guidance, feel free to reach out to me. Together, we can navigate the unique challenges and joys of raising gifted children.

Christy, is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner practicing in San Diego, California. She has over 15 years of experience working with children, teens, parents, families, couples and individual adults with complex psychological and relationship problems. She specializes in the needs of gifted, bright and high achieving people, as well as those who have suffered past trauma. Christy uses an eclectic approach, meeting the needs of whomever she is working with. Her work addresses the needs of the whole person, incorporating mind and body.

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