Coping with Unwanted Gifts

ADOLESCENCE

Everyone knows that academic achievers in high school are often resented or taunted for their smarts. Ann Swiatek, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Lafayette College, has discovered ways gifted students make friends despite their nerdy reputations.

Using the Social Coping Questionnaire, a series of 35 questions that assess thoughts, feelings and behaviors related to being gifted, Swiatek has found that boys tend to fend off negative reactions with a "class clown act," while many girls deny being "gifted" altogether. Some of their healthier social coping strategies are: helping students with schoolwork; highlighting similarities between themselves and other students such as interest in sports or movies; using wit and humor to make people laugh; and getting involved in activities.

When all else fails, Swiatek discovered that kids cope with their gifted stares by denying the value of social ties. But she warns that belittling intelligence or blowing off loneliness can prevent them from living up to their potential.

Swiatek encourages parents to find places for their children to interact with other exceptional kids, such as special classes or extracurricular activities, "allowing them to see there's nothing wrong with being gifted."

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