Occasional, or frequent, turbulence in sibling relationships is a normal fact of life in families. No matter how close your children are, there are bound to be times when competition, conflict and plain old discord occurs. In a family where there is a gifted or twice-exceptional child, the non-gifted child may find himself feeling left out or unimportant in light of the attention being paid to his or her sibling. In these cases there are a few important things to remember in order to keep the peace at home and promote a healthy environment for all children involved.
For one, it’s important as a parent to understand that having a gifted child really is akin to having a special needs child. Honestly communicating this to his or her siblings from the beginning will set the foundation for the other children to understand and accept that the way you treat each of them may be different at times.
Secondly, you need to let your non-gifted children know that you understand and empathize with their feelings, too. It’s important that they realize, even though they may not have special needs, that you indeed do hear, respect and want to nurture their needs fully as well.
Thirdly, when their frustrations rear due to family circumstances or upheavals surrounding the special needs of the gifted child, it’s important that your other children are allowed a safe space to fully vent their own feelings. They need to be allowed to be human too and to know that it’s okay to feel upset, confused, alone or whatever else it is they might be experiencing.
Lastly, it’s important to look at all of your children as individuals with interests and needs of their own. Encourage them all to find activities and hobbies that they are interested in and passionate about. As you attempt to meet each of their unique needs, understand that it may be best, although not convenient, for your children to attend different schools.
Overall, it’s critical to make sure that everyone in the family feels valued and special in their own way for what they "bring to the table." This may be as simple as letting each person be heard, which can bring a huge sense of validation in itself whether or not there is actually a solution to an issue.
Dr. Dan Peters, Ph.D., is co-founder of the Summit Center, which provides educational and psychological assessments, consultations, and treatment for children, their parents, and families. Summit Center works with all kids, including those who are highly gifted and those with learning disabilities.