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It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.

- Decouvertes

Possible solutions

Below are a range of suggestions to support the social and emotional needs of gifted students.

Programming Options

Educationally appropriate challenges and academic programme options can assist these students to develop positive social and emotional wellbeing. 

Related reading



Bate, J and Clark, D (2013) 

Like minds learning well together. Improving academic, social, and emotional outcomes for gifted students 

ERO (June 2008) 

Schools' Provision for Gifted and Talented Students




‎Anecdotally, humour is often suggested as a trait or characteristic of gifted individuals. The ability to notice how things are related in abstract or complex ways can differentiate a gifted child from their same aged peers. Making intuitive leaps in thinking or creating alternatives to problems not yet considered are other features. Frequently humour is used by gifted individuals to communicate their thinking or hypotheses.

Sometimes gifted children gain social acceptance by being the ‘class clown’. It takes a high degree of intellect to be able to consistently control and manipulate a class full of students. This advanced social skill can be used for leadership, and have that energy diverted into positive activity.

Humour can also be used by a parent or teacher to diffuse a situation, engage interest, appeal to ‘quirkiness’, and hold attention on subject matter.

Related reading



Le Sueur, E (2011)

Recognising a Gifted Sense of Humour


Books (or films) can be used to assist a child to gain understanding and engage in problem solving of issues with particular relevance to themselves. This can help the child feel they are not alone, and give them some distance to look at a problem objectively in terms of the story they are reading. Bibliotherapy can be used in anticipation of an upcoming event, or in response to a problem that has already arisen. It can also be used to develop the problem solving skills of a child who is thinking about world events, and searching for meaning.

Bibliotherapy requires the child to identify with a character in the story who is coping with similar issues or experiencing a similar event. The child can be guided to release emotions after becoming involved in the story (by art, writing or discussion). Further assistance can be provided to support the child to come to the realisation that the characters worked out solutions to their problems – and that they may be able to do this too.

The story is used as a way to begin a discussion of issues, but should not be used as a substitute for dealing with those issues. An appropriate adult should be available to assist in controlling the depth of the discussion, and to identify if more help is needed.

Some of My Best Friends Are Books by Judith Wynn Halsted is a book that contains extensive information on different books, categorised by topic and age groupings. It is available from  NZAGC Library.



A mentor can be a role model, and support and provide encouragement to a gifted child. The mentor may be able to share knowledge, set an example and understand the child and their needs.

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Teaching philosophy to children can provide the children with an opportunity to think things through when facts are inconclusive. It can provide an opportunity to question and explore ethical and moral issues, and for each child to investigate and develop their views on their values systems.

Philosophy can foster a child’s natural curiosity and assist them in their search for meaning. It encourages intellectual courage and risk taking, and enables them to develop the qualities that make for good judgement in everyday life.

Related reading


Teaching social skills

Some children may struggle to form strong friendships, or may not ‘fit’ with other children of their age. They may have rigidity in adhering to rules and struggle with the normal ebb and flow of social relationships. The children may either think much faster than their peers, or alternatively much more slowly, deliberating at length, and out-of-sync with others around them. Some gifted children can be unusually sensitive and vulnerable to perceived rejection.

There may be tension experienced between the social desire of the child to belong to a group, and be connected to others and that child’s strong sense of integrity: “They don’t want to talk about the things that interest me, and the things that interest them are not important to me”.

  • Consider friendships with different aged peers. Look for opportunities to meet with others of ‘like-minds’. This may be available through local NZAGC branches or One Day School either Gifted Kids or Gifted Education Centre
  • Follow the interests of the child and see if there are local clubs supporting those interests.
  • Consider role modelling some of the social situations where the children are having difficulties


Managing stress and anxiety

Try and recognise/understand what your child’s perspective is.

Assess the level of stress the child can reasonably tolerate and try and remove or reduce any factors that escalate the child’s specific stressors. Would some additional time to do tasks (or less tasks to do) help the child? Is there a need to prepare this child for new situations in a predictable and routine way? Is there anything in the environment that can be managed (e.g. lighting, noise, too open, too shut in)? By reducing known stress factors you can assist a child with the ability to self-manage at a level they are comfortable with, and able to manage. Enabling a child to have extended periods of self-management can help with overall resilience.

Let the child know that you understand their perspective (not just from your perspective “It’s nothing to worry about/ it didn’t happen though did it!”). Acknowledge the issue the child is raising.

Try and help the child externalise, or bring out the feelings that are causing the distress. It may be too many choices are a problem – which one is the right one? What if I pick the wrong one? How will I know? You may help the child more easily work through issues if you can identify that they are.

Books can provide an opportunity for a child to develop strategies to work through their worries. Many parents will have experienced the late night question, often prefaced by “Mum, I have a worry….” Strategies to enable the child to work through management of the “worries” can help the child gain the power to control their own worries without always requiring assistance from others. Again, this can develop the child’s resilience.

Related reading


Mental Health Issues

Gifted children often intellectually understand abstract concepts but may be unable to deal with those concepts emotionally, leading to intense concerns about death, the future, their sexuality, or other such issues. Some gifted children participate in adult conversations about issues such as global warming or world hunger, but also experience intense feelings of helplessness as they cannot solve these huge world problems. Alternatively, other gifted children might intellectually envision a result or outcome but lack the physical motor skills to complete it to the level pictured. These situations may result in an intense feeling of failure and disillusionment with life. These sensitivities may become barriers to a child’s social and emotional wellbeing within the home and/or school environment and therefore require professional support.

It is recommended that you seek immediate professional help if you have any concerns that a gifted child or adolescent may be experiencing depression or having suicidal thoughts.

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