There’s a common refrain heard on the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (GHF), a national forum for the parents of gifted kids.
“Lonely in Massachusetts.”
“Looking for other families in Illinois.”
“How do I find a support group in a small town in the middle of nowhere?”
There’s no question that online support groups are helpful (see sidebar, “Parent Support Groups”), but that parents and children also seek a personal connection in their daily lives.
“I think the power of a face-to-face support group is the validation that there are physical others right here in our own area who are having similar experiences,” says therapist Mika Gustavson, who works with gifted children and their families. “Feeling isolated is one of the biggest challenges when one is raising a gifted or 2e kid.”
Corin Goodwin started GHF because she had a personal need that wasn’t being addressed by existing organizations. “The homeschool groups didn’t like the ‘G’ word and the gifted organizations were all about schools, not parenting and homeschooling,” she explains.
The group started with the high concentration of gifted homeschoolers in the San Francisco Bay Area, but branched into a national support group to fill that void. The Bay Area still has a local gifted support group (Bay Area Gifted Homeschoolers), but many areas lack even the whisper of local support for gifted families.
Where might parents find an existing support group?
- If your local school district has a gifted program (whether or not your children take part in it), a gifted program coordinator might be able to point you toward a group that suits your needs. Some school districts run SENG model support groups (and SENG posts lists of groups on their website as well).
- Posting your location on a national e-mail list, such as the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum or GT-World, might lead to groups you hadn’t known about.
- Look at the activities your child is enrolled in that might attract other gifted kids (chess, robotics, book clubs) and speak to other parents about what you’re looking for.
But what if there’s nothing in your area, and it looks like you’re going to have to be the one to start it? For parents in areas without gifted programs in the school, even starting with the word “gifted” might be difficult.
Goodwin experienced this firsthand when she moved to rural Oregon.
“I think it is much more difficult in a smaller, more rural area,” she says. “I began a secular homeschool group here in southern Oregon a few years ago, as well, but there is a lot more resistance to labels or even to anything other than religious homeschool-in-a-box. Despite reaching 60+ families, there is a reluctance to speak up — everyone is waiting for someone else to stick their neck out.”
Parents who need support in out-of-the-way places, however, shouldn’t necessarily consider it impossible. Here are some suggestions from those who have done it:
- A “group” can start with the number two. If you find one other parent who is interested, you can start meeting and form an idea of how to get other parents involved. Do you want a parents-only group? A family-based activities group? Homeschoolers only? Families in district gifted programs only?
- If you’re uncomfortable with it, “gifted” doesn’t need to be in the title. Some activities will self-select, such as starting an activity group for young children that requires advanced skills or a support group for parents of “intense, academically advanced” children.
- If your concern is finding friends for your child, ask your child what s/he’d like to do: Just go to a playground and play? Do robotics? Have a book club?
- Sometimes the guidance of a professional can help. If you have a local therapist knowledgeable about gifted children, suggest starting a parent support group at her office.
- Look at successful gifted support groups for ideas and guidance. The Gifted Homeschoolers Forum maintains a list of local gifted support groups.
Whether parents meet alone for time for commiseration or families get together for activities that suit their children’s needs, support groups can be an essential part of raising gifted kids. With some investigation and ingenuity, as well as willingness to “stick your neck out,” you could help not only yourself but other gifted families in your area.
For more information: Read a review of Living with Intensity. Read about SENG model support groups. Read an interview with Mika Gustavson. Visit a list of online support groups at Hoagies’ Gifted.