How Giftedness and Anxiety Can Often Go Hand-in-Hand

Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s piece. 

Last week, my husband and I were called into our daughter’s school. We knew, going in, that she wasn’t in trouble. After all, she’s the type of girl who cares a lot about grades, impressing her teachers and avoiding any type of conflict. We met with her school principal. It was at that meeting that he said Stacey had experienced “a bit of an episode.” Apparently, she was trying to focus on her work while a couple of other children talked and played next to her. She told them to quiet down a few times, growing a bit more frustrated each time. When they didn’t, she began yelling at them and having a tantrum. Her principal said that he’s not too concerned about her academically, but he’s worried that her desire to be perfect may be starting to affect her. We’ve always strived for perfection and valued this quality in our daughter, but now we’ve learned that perfectionism often has some serious drawbacks.

According to the National Association for Gifted Children, gifted individuals demonstrate outstanding levels of skill in areas like mathematics, music, language, sports and art, to name a few. Unsurprisingly, these qualities can make parents feel extremely proud of their children.

Unfortunately, gifted children often experience their emotions to a more intense degree than typical ones, and when they feel anxious, it can feel completely overwhelming. These kids can develop anxiety over worrying about global and local issues, their own perfectionism and fears regarding things out of their control.

At Rice Psychology Group, we understand that your child means everything to you. We’re here to help you better understand and support their giftedness.


When Perfectionism Becomes a Problem

Chances are that you remember trying your best at one point in your life to achieve the best looks, the greatest group of friends and even the most rewarding achievements possible. While high standards are great to have, perfection is an unrealistic goal in most situations, and perfectionism is risky business.

Perfectionism can affect your child’s well-being and may even lead to a fear of failure. While psychologists are trained to spot anxiety, it’s important for parents and teachers to understand the ways that kids may show signs of anxiety as well:

  • Tension
  • Irritability
  • Overall changes in temperament or attitude
  • Sudden outbursts or tantrums
  • Sleep difficulties
  • An inability to concentrate
  • Constant worry and asking lots of “what if” questions
  • Difficulty getting started or completing schoolwork

Making a Change

One of the best things to do for your child is to understand where they’re coming from. Talk to them in a helpful manner that won’t make them feel like they’re being judged. You might also find it beneficial to discuss hypothetical situations with them. Tell them of a hypothetical student who worries too much about being perfect and let them mull over the advice they would give that student. To help your child choose excellence over perfection, you can additionally:

  • Teach them coping and relaxation skills like deep breathing and muscle relaxation.
  • Provide opportunities for them to make mistakes and learn from their experiences.
  • Value effort and the joys of learning over grades.
  • Encourage them to participate in social events and activities even if they’re nervous by letting them know that lots of kids feel that way. Also consider roleplaying scenarios beforehand.
  • Stimulate creativity and encourage them to find what he/she needs in order to feel successful, self-expressive and less-stressed.

Excellence Over Perfection

At Rice Psychology Group, we want to help you and your loved ones feel good about yourselves and the world around you. Our team of licensed psychologists in Tampa is ready to help you and your child understand the root of their anxiety while establishing ways to help you find your way back to feeling better. Your children are our priority, which is why we’re ready to make a positive impact in their lives. For more information about how our Tampa-based psychologists can help, give us a call today.

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