PARENTING THE PHYSIOLOGICALLY GIFTED CHILD
Dr. Leah Lagos on
Physiologically gifted children are wired to have greater sensitivity than other kids; they tend to carry their emotions closer to the chest and often have a heightened ability to connect and perceive and feel the world more than others. With this gift, children and adults can be challenged by feelings of stress and anxiety. They may benefit from a little training on controlling their physiology.
Physiologically Gifted Child
A physiologically gifted child (PGC) is part of the 10 to 15% of the youth population who feels the world more deeply. With certain parenting practices, the PGC’s highly tuned antennae on the world can serve as a gift that helps them succeed personally and professionally, and thrive in their lives. An expert in working with clients and families with physiological sensitivities, Dr. Leah Lagos has developed resources to optimize health and performance and help children lower stress, ease their anxieties, and find equilibrium at home, at school, and in social situations.
Tips for raising physiologically gifted children
Self-care is not optional. Many parents invest hours, months, and even years exhaustively trying new approaches to help their PGC feel calm and confident. They assume responsibility for their child’s emotional reactivity and may even assume, “if I was a better parent, my child would not have such strong emotional reactions to stressors.”
In an effort to try harder and do more for the child, the parent of the PGC may lose sight of his or her own needs for self-care. Just as an athlete’s recovery in between plays impacts performance, a parent’s ability to take frequent breaks from parenting will improve their ability to optimally support their child.
Because PGCs require more empathy and understanding than other kids—sometimes more than their own siblings—parents of PGCs require more breaks, time away, and more assistance than parents of non-PGCs. Making time for self-care is possibly the most important key to parenting physiologically gifted children. Without diligent self-care, parents may have difficulty providing the empathy, nurturing, and understanding that can greatly benefit a child with exceptionally fine-tuned emotions and empathetic responses to the world and people around them.
When a physiologically gifted child is emotionally responding to a situation or specific stressor, he or she is feeling overloaded by physiological and psychological reactions that disturb balance in their body. In these situations, the PGC benefits from expressions of compassion that help pull them through such sensory overload.
In an effort to help parents understand how to react to their child’s distress, I often recommend that the parent consider how they would offer understanding to an adult friend who had been experiencing back pain for several days. Through this kind of empathic responding, parents can help by validating their child’s experience of sensory overload (e.g. We know what you’re experiencing is real and not deliberate or malicious).
Further, this continued and mindful compassion can serve as a foundation for self-exploration in which the PGC autonomously begins to explore and implement skills for self-regulation
Communicating Facts, Feelings, and Needs: The FFN Formula
Stress for parents and physiologically gifted children often arises from unfocused communication, especially during times of emotional intensity. When strong feelings are experienced, the parent as well as the PGC may have difficulty identifying the cause, the feeling, and being able to identify what they need. While there are possibly hundreds of modalities that could be created to speak about emotions and needs, Dr. Leah Lagos has developed a method that’s helped many parents and PGC’s (off all ages and backgrounds) to improve their ability to effectively respond to stress during times of high emotional intensity. I call this method the FFN formula.This simple exercise includes developing three succinct sentences to describe the fact, the feeling, and the need.
For example, if a physiologically gifted child is feeling overwhelmed by a parent who is miscommunicating with them, they can use the FFN Formula to express themselves by identifying the specific fact (what happened), the feeling (how it made them feel), and their need (what they require to move forward):
There was a miscommunication when… (refer to particular situation).
I am feeling overwhelmed and frustrated because I do not think I am being heard.
I need my opinion to be heard, understood, and validated.
By following this formula, a complex and emotionally charged situation can be simplified into non-defensive terms that can be addressed and managed.