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A question I often receive here on Devoted Grandma is how to support our special needs grandchildren, which has me on a mission to research and report back to you on these best practices. Today’s topic may not be considered special needs to some, but it is indeed that: giftedness. Defined as an “intellectual ability significantly higher than average,” giftedness is, well, a gift. Still, it can also be a stressor for children thanks to their unique academic, social, and emotional needs.
While gifted children can receive adequate support in a school setting, they need different support at home, where you, Grandma, and other family members come in. If you are looking for ways to love and support your gifted grandchild, I recommend beginning with:
1. Feed their thirst for knowledge
Your gifted grandchild’s mind is a sponge, soaking up information at an incredible – and sometimes alarming – rate. Satisfy your grand’s thirst for knowledge by exploring their interests together. Doing this is easy (and is probably something you already do!), as it involves activities like visiting museums, reading books, and watching documentaries. The world is their classroom, and you, Grandma, are one of their favorite teachers!
2. Understand their emotional intensity
Gifted children often experience the world more intensely, which can result in strong emotional responses. While these actions can be a bit jarring, it is important to be patient with these bursts of emotion and offer your grandchild a safe space to express their feelings. Trust me: Your understanding will mean the world to them.
3. Challenge their intellect
One of the greatest gifts you can give your grandchild is the gift of intellectual challenge, so don’t shy away from complex puzzles, deep discussions, or advanced games. Not only is the above great for their brain development, but also for your bond!
4. Discuss their giftedness
As we discussed in the intro, giftedness is a gift and one that deserves to be celebrated. Help your grandchild understand their unique intellectual abilities, as they may not understand why they think or feel differently than their peers. Your guidance, Grandma, can help them appreciate their giftedness and navigate any challenges it presents.
5. Validate their feelings
Gifted children often feel misunderstood or different, so your grandchild may struggle with feelings of isolation, frustration, or pressure. Listening to their concerns and validating their feelings the way only a Grandma can may provide much-needed emotional support.
6. Encourage creative expression
Gifted children usually have vibrant imaginations and rich inner worlds, so support their creative endeavors, whether it’s through art, writing, or imaginative play. Enroll your grandchild in classes or programs that encourage this, or set aside time each week to do something with them.
7. Celebrate effort over achievement
While it’s natural to praise your grandchild for their impressive achievements, try to focus more on their effort, which can help them value growth and learning, not just the end result. (Now that I think about it, this is a good rule of thumb for every child!)
While your grandchild might enjoy their own company or relate better to adults, they also need to interact with peers. Help them develop the social skills they need and encourage them to make friends with children of all abilities. You can do this by organizing playdates or simply taking them to places where other children will be (like the library or a park).
Being a grandma to a gifted child can be an enriching experience. Your role in their lives is more than just spoiling them with love and cookies – it’s about understanding their unique needs and being there for them every step of the way. Don’t worry, Grandma, you’ve got this!