Everyone experiences stress as a part of their lives, and some may be more predisposed to experiencing stress. It is imperative, however, to recognize that children experience stress just as adults do. Gifted children, in particular, may experience stress for various reasons, which can seriously impact their academic, social and emotional well-being.
In this article, we will discuss some of the causes behind this. We will also discuss mitigating this stress through relaxation techniques for gifted children.
Children Experience Stress The Same Way Adults Do
Researchers have been aware for many years that continual stress can morph the physical size and shape of a child’s brain. Scientists at King’s College London performed MRI scans on a sample of young men, some of whom had experienced stressful childhoods. The superior frontal gyrus, a part of the brain linked with depression, had shrunk in the men who had experienced stress and developed depression and anxiety. In addition, the precuneus – involved in processing harsh or stressful experiences – had become larger. This may indicate the brain learning to cope with the constant stress.
Moreover, scientists have found a definite link between experiencing stress and internalizing issues and decreased brain matter. These findings highlight the importance of identifying stress in your gifted child and helping them learn to manage and release it.
Gifted Children Are Prone To Stress
Gifted children are particularly prone to experiencing stress, facing some unique challenges that can increase anxiety and result in depression.
They are more likely to develop high expectations for themselves, strive to achieve unrealistic standards due to their perfectionism, and become frustrated at or develop a fear of failure. They may over-commit themselves and feel shame or guilt at not being able to manage their priorities.
Gifted children are also highly empathetic and may be more in tune with issues that do not immediately affect them, such as those involving politics, social justice, or global issues. Researchers have found that these gifted children may experience their emotions more vividly and intensely than other children, increasing their potential for anxiety.
Parents and educators of gifted children need to help formulate strategies that these children can use to manage their stress, decrease anxiety, and employ well into adulthood.
Relaxation Techniques For Gifted Children
Relaxation strategies are critical to helping maintain composure during stressful situations. Even mental stress elicits a physical response from the body:
- Increased heart rate
- Feeling a “knot” in the stomach
- More tense muscles
- A feeling of alertness
- An inability to think clearly and calmly
Since the body and the mind function as a system, relaxation techniques for gifted children help reduce physical tension. This also helps soothe the child’s mental faculties, promoting a calmer state of mind more conducive to decision-making.
At Rainard School for Gifted Students, we encourage children to learn deep breathing, visualization techniques, and muscle relaxation. Our students practice yoga, involving slow, controlled breathing, meditative practices, and calming movements. We have found that it helps children immensely to have a set of tools available to lean on during times of crisis and overwhelm.
For more information about Rainard or to get in touch with our academic staff, contact us at (713) 647-7246.