I wanted to share a little more about my family's personal story, something that has helped me to become a more supportive Mom to our gifted, highly sensitive, highly creative and divergent thinking child.
The image above is from my teen daughter’s Facebook Page — Cartoon Dreamer. The page features her character art, videos, animations and more. Abbey is a highly sensitive, highly creative and imaginative teen, with an insatiable passion for character design and animation, and the stories, morals and lessons she hopes to tell through them. She hopes to help other kids who struggle with difficult emotions or family dysfunction, those who feel they are different, or just have a hard time fitting in. She calls her more than 100 original characters, "My children," and she hopes to share what she has learned through her own bullying experience and growing up different; gifted, highly sensitive, highly imaginative and creative, an "out-of-the box divergent-thinking-daydreamer” (Our Personal Story). She wants to let other unique kids like herself know that, “They are awesome just the way they are,” and so much more. She features her character art as well as some videos on her Page that go in to more detail about what she hopes to share through her characters and animated series ideas. If you would like, you can visit her Facebook Page @ Cartoon Dreamer. We also share her story, links to other blogs and pages she owns, and the gifted and bullying organizations we now support, through her Cartoon Dreamer website. So, that's my wonderful daughter, but the part of our story that I personally wanted to share with you today, is something I have learned through our journey — that giftedness is not what many people think. It is not only high intellectual ability or potential. Where this understanding is especially important, is with highly creative or creatively gifted kids, because their gifts may show themselves in unpredictable ways, the gifts and the child themself may be misunderstood, overlooked, or left unsupported by the adults in their lives. To help identify and support highly creative children, it is important to understand that there are 5 different "over-excitabilities" or what are also called “super-sensitivities” that are found in gifted children that can indicate high ability or potential in a certain area. The same sensitivities that give gifted children their advanced focus, potential or ability in a certain area, can also create inner struggles, that in turn create special social/emotional needs, and specific approaches to parenting, education and counseling.
The 5 over-excitabilities are: Intellectual (intensity and activity of the mind), Psychomotor (high levels of physical energy), Sensual (heightened awareness of all five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing), Emotional (exceptional emotional sensitivity and/or understanding), and Imaginational (vividness and free-play of the imagination). The gift or advanced ability or potential can be in any of these areas. Giftedness does not only show itself in intellectual or physical ability, it also shows up as creativity, which presents itself in a variety of ways; overall creative or divergent thinking, sensory and intuitive sensitivity or intensity, emotional sensitivity or intelligence, and imaginational vividedness, free-play, and original artistic concepts. Abbey, although she also tests high intellectually, the two sensitivities that are strongest in her are the later - emotional & imaginational.
What started out as looking like immaturity or disorder to some; an obsession with drawing, characters and cartoons, in actuality was so much more. What intrigues her mind, as is the case with most gifted kids, is the details and complex connections. For Abbey, it's the depth of characters, the interactions of complex characters including those with family, behavioral, emotional or psychological pain, dysfunction or disorder, how believing in yourself and the support of true friendships can conquer all, how positive traits and optimiistic thoughts can help us to overcome negative emotions and life situations, as well as the villainous evil we sometimes face. What I am trying to share through Abbey’s story is that our children's gifts can show themselves in unpredictable ways, and where they may first show themselves is in our children’s unusual or intense interests.
The sad truth is, that unlike Abbey, many highly creative people never find their creative passion. The divergent and creative thinking is there, but other unique and inherent characteristics, social, mental and emotional struggles, may keep them from being able to develop their gifts. It is also true that when parents have trouble understanding or supporting their highly creative children, they in turn will often struggle to understand themselves, see their own potential, or even their place and value in the world. Due to their unique pysiological makeup, and lack of understanding and support of peers and adults in their lives, they often struggle with life long issues of self doubt, low self worth, perfectionism, anxiety, and existential depression. Some of these children are left unsupported because the adults in their lives prioritize intellectual ability, with creative interests often being misunderstood as being inconsequential or time wasters. Today, many have been preconditioned by family or society in general to focus only on careers that will bring the most income or status, they may not have the needed perspective, knowledge or skills, to know how to support a creative child.
It is true, that parenting a highly creative and divergent thinking child is often not an easy task, but if we allow our children to have interests that are different from our own, and work hard to find value in what is interesting and important to them, they will in turn find value in themselves, and have the ability to find, pursue and find joy in their own unique creative expression. If instead, we keep directing our children away from their creative interests, or the “divergent-thinking-daydreaming that drives all creativity,” they may never grow the self confidence needed to pursue their creative passion, or reach their full potential. Sometimes the easiest way to help our children identify their creative gifts is just by watching them do what they love to do - those unique and unusual interests they find so compelling. If it seems almost like an obsession (doing or talking about it and the details of it day and night), just remember, this is pretty normal for gifted or highly creative kids. If it appears odd, not important, or a waste of time - take a little longer look from a changed and positive perspective - when you do you might just see that what is interesting and important to your child - is something of great value and worthy of your support.
If you have a child like Abbey, or if any part of our story is similar to your own - if you have questions or concerns or would just like a hearing ear, you can request a coaching session here on our website.
Hugs & Happy Parenting!
Julie L Gibson-Vasquez The Proactive Parenting Coach