Being the parent of a gifted child can be a lonely and isolating experience. Too few people understand the ups and downs of gifted parenting. You can’t talk about your child’s achievements or you may be seen as bragging. You can’t talk about your child’s problems without someone invariably telling you that you should be glad to have a smart kid or that maybe you’re kid isn’t all that smart. It’s important to find support, people who understand both the joys and the challenges of raising a gifted child. Without it, you may find it difficult to face those challenges because your energy can be drained quickly and your frustration can become pretty intense.
Thanks to social media, it’s not as hard to find like-minded parents as it once was. Facebook, for example, has numerous pages and groups parents of gifted kids can participate in. You can like a page (like mine) or join a group and find parents from all over the country and all over the world who will understand what you are talking about and will understand how you feel.
Nothing, however, can compare to face-to-face support. So even though you can find people online who will understand you and the issues you face, it is still beneficial to join a support group for parents of gifted kids. Unfortunately, these groups aren’t always readily available. If you can’t find one in your area, consider starting one. It does require some work, but it is well worth the effort.
Find other parents of gifted children in your school or community
Finding other parents of gifted kids can be a challenge. But there are ways to find them.
- Contact the GT coordinator, teachers, and counselors at your child’s school to let them know you are seeking other parents of gifted kids. Be sure to let them know that they have your permission to give out your name and contact information to other parents who might ask about other parents of gifted kids. Keep in mind that schools are not allowed to give out the names and phone numbers of other parents, so you can’t just ask for a list of names. Besides, some gifted kids were not identified by the school, so even if the school were allowed to pass out names, you’d be missing some names. Among those might be the parents you most want in your group.
- Let your state’s gifted organization know that you want to find other parents interested in forming a parent group. They can serve as a link between you and other parents who have contacted them or will contact them in the future looking for other parents of gifted children in your area. This is how I found another parent in my area. Together the two of us founded a parent group for our area.
- Put an ad in your local newspaper or school newspaper. An ad in the local paper may not be as useful as it once was as fewer people today read the paper than before. However, if you do want to put an ad in the paper, have it placed in the Sunday edition. Many people who don’t read the paper the rest of the week will read the Sunday edition. My parent group co-founder and I got the core members for our group this way. School newspapers are often looking for information for their newsletters, and since those newsletters go out to parents of children in the schools, it can be a good way to let other parents know you are looking for other parents of gifted kids. On the other hand, some schools may not be willing to post ads unless they are from already established groups.
- Create a flyer and ask your local public library post a copy of it. Some libraries have information tables where people can leave flyers and brochures. You’ll need to print out numerous flyers, so it might be better to make them small – four to a page. That way you can cut the paper and have four times the number of flyers you’d have with one full sheet.
Choose an initial location for meetings
Once you have a few parents who are interested, determine where to hold an initial meeting. Groups start out small, so a large room isn’t necessary. In fact, many groups start out meeting in someone’s home. Since you are the one starting the group, consider opening your home to the parents you have found. If you aren’t comfortable inviting strangers into your home, check out any bookstores, like Borders or Barnes and Noble, in your area. You can also check out places like Panera Bread. These locations have small seating areas where a small number of people (5-6) can meet. They also have free wi-fi, which you might find useful.
As your group becomes more stable, you’ll want to find a regular meeting place and have a regular meeting time to make it easy for people to find you when they are ready. That way you don’t have to advertise every individual meeting with a new day, time, and place. Groups for parents in one school district, rather than several districts or an entire county, are often able to use school facilities. Most libraries have rooms available for free, but they may have a rule about how many meetings any one group can hold each year. Health care facilities and community centers also sometimes have free rooms.
Decide how often your group should meet
Meeting too often will discourage people from joining your group, unless you intend your group to be a short-lived support group. (In that case, a weekly meeting for a couple of months is not unreasonable.) On the other hand, not meeting often enough can cause people to lose interest. A parent support group should meet at least once a month.
You should also decide if you want the group to meet over the summer. People tend to lose interest in school-related issues over the summer months and also have numerous summer activities to keep them busy, so attendance at meetings tends to drop. On the other hand, some people have more free time during the summer months and so will be more willing to attend meetings. Some groups choose family activities, such as an annual picnic, rather than meetings in the summer to keep people from losing interest. Family activities give the kids a chance to meet and spend time together, too.
Choose a format for your meetings
Consider having a different topic of discussion for each meeting. People are more likely to be drawn by a specific topic (i.e. gifted and ADHD) than by a general notice of a group meeting. Having a topic for each meeting can also help you plan any advocacy efforts or help you learn about giftedness and gifted education.
Don’t feel as though you must be an expert on everything related to gifted children. You can learn along with those who attend your meetings. Prepare for meetings by reading about the topic chosen for that meeting, and if you can, bring copies of one piece to distribute to those who attend. If that’s not possible, simply bring a list of suggested articles or books to read, along with where to find them (a Web address, for example). You might also want to create a Facebook group where you can post links to the readings for the meetings. Just remember, you aren’t teaching classes. You are facilitating discussions.
Advertise Your Meetings
Once you have a few core members and have determined where and how often to meet, you’ll want to advertise your meetings.
- Create a simple flyer about your group and its purpose, making sure to include the meeting day, time, and place. (Black and white is less expensive to reproduce than color.) Distribute your flyer as widely as possible: grocery stores, coffee shops, book stores, and the local library (and any of its branches). Another idea is to create bookmarks with your group name and meeting information (and Facebook page/group address) to leave at coffee shops, book stores, and libraries.
- Advertise your meetings in the local newspapers. Most newspapers have a community news section which lists meetings and community events. These ads are often free for non-profit, local community organizations. You can publicize the topic for each meeting, too, to generate more interest.
- Contact schools and let them know about your group. They may be willing to distribute your flyer with their newsletter. Keep in mind, though, that if the schools are still sending the newsletters out by snail mail, it can be expensive to print out a sufficient number of fliers, and they may not be able to distribute group flyers electronically with their electronic newsletter. Talk with them and see what, if anything, they can do.
Welcome the Support!
Once you start having meetings, you’ll no longer feel isolated and alone, nor will you feel quite so frustrated. The support you receive – and give – will help eliminate some stress and be quite gratifying. You may even find some long-term friendships. Some of my group members and I have been good friends now for over 15 years.http://giftsforlearning.com/wp/start-support-group-parents-gifted-kids/For ParentsSupport for Parents of Gifted Kids