As the parent of a teenager who is growing faster than we ever imagined possible, we sometimes deal with growing pains at home. Bones sometimes grow faster than muscles, and feet grow faster than we can get new shoes. Sometimes growing hurts – and not just physically.
As a parent, one of the biggest challenges we face is letting our kids experience the pain of growing. It is so tempting to swoop in and rescue them when things get hard or when their feelings get hurt. It is painful to see our children hurting – whether from a skinned knee or the aftermath of an argument with a friend. But it is a necessary part of growing. It is in the times of challenge and frustration that children (and adults if we are honest with ourselves) are most open to letting go of old patterns and embracing new ways of thinking and doing.
The Polish psychologist and psychiatrist Dr. Kazimierz Dabrowski calls it a process of “Positive Disintegration.” His theory is extremely complex, but in essence he says that when we face a situation that causes us to come undone in some way (to dis-integrate our understanding of ourselves and of how things are supposed to work), we have the opportunity to put ourselves back together in a way that is more mature or advanced or at a higher level of being. To grow. And Dabrowski believed that gifted people are more likely to experience this process to greater degrees because they often experience over-intensities or over-excitabilities that make them more tuned in to potential conflicts and challenges. Our job as parents and educators is not to prevent this process, but to support our children as they walk through these challenges – to allow them these opportunities for growth.
It is a delicate dance, as a parent, to know when to step in and protect the safety of our child and when to let go and let him work his way through the challenges he faces. Certainly there are times to step in and say, “This is too much for you right now, and for your safety, I am going to take you out of this situation.” But most times, we need to find the courage to come alongside and say, “Yes, I know it is hard. And it will get better. I have confidence in you and know that you will figure it out.” Different situations and different stages of development call for different levels of intervention and interaction with our children and, as a mom, I often feel like just when I get things figured out a little, my son changes again and I am back to the drawing board.
At Seabury, we can support each other as parents. We are all raising children who think and learn differently than typical children their age. Children who often have a disparity between their intellectual maturity and their social/emotional maturity. Being at Seabury gives us the opportunity to support each other on this journey. Share your stories – your successes and your mistakes. Get to know each other and lean on each other when it is hard. Laugh and cry together (I often find myself doing both at the same time!). Educate yourselves about the unique challenges and opportunities that come with raising gifted children. Take advantage of PBC events and Seabury learning opportunities to come together as we support and nurture our children (there are several opportunities coming up next week!).
Growing sometimes hurts. For our kids. And for us as parents. But avoiding the hard times is not the answer. Walking through it is the key to learning and growing and evolving. Let’s support each other through this adventure of learning and growing!
Read more about Dabrowski’s Theory and its implications for gifted children on Hoagies Gifted Website.