Advice for Parents with Gifted Children
This article sheds some light on how and why interests in your childhood can have a huge impact on your early adulthood.
We also explain how parents’ vigilance of their children’s interests can help create an easier time facing the quarter-life crisis that often happens when young adults have to choose their career paths.
If your child shows an interest in music, however slight, that’s great! Our advice is to encourage them to keep exploring that interest. Get them a small keyboard or a ukulele for Christmas and let them explore music through playing with the instrument. If your child shows no interest, you can try to introduce them to an instrument anyway to test their interest, but it is important to not force something onto them that they do not want to learn. At this young age, it is crucial that they enjoy the process of learning music. If they are not interested in it and you still make them play, they will stop playing when they get old enough to decide for themselves what they want to do, and your efforts in keeping up your children’s skills will result in time that could have been spent better.
The most important thing that we feel is easy to overlook is to keep an eye out for any other subjects your children are interested in or other curiosities they may have. Let your child explore different fields, not just music. If you spot their interest in something else, carefully encourage them to keep exploring that field as well. This might be another instrument or another area that does not have anything to do with music.
A situation might arise where the child has a huge interest in playing the piano, so you arrange lessons for them. After 3 years of lessons, they lose interest and stop practising. Five years later, they regain their interest in playing the piano and then regret that they did not pursue it during those five empty years. They might blame their parents for not keeping up their interest or making them practise, but this kind of situation can be quite hard to anticipate. As their parent, you cannot force them to keep practising if they lose their interest. It is difficult to decide exactly what to do in this situation, so we have to be open to adapt to different situations.
Generally, we think that keeping a strong eye on what kind of person your child is will give you very good indications of what they are truly interested in. A lot of the interests they will have when they get older are actually interests they had in their childhood, even though it was not their main interest.
The important thing to take from this is, if they have a small secondary interest as well as their one “passion”, make sure you are encouraging them to explore their secondary interest as well. This might become their “one passion” in the future. They will thank you for making them explore this field closer if they end up pursuing this in their early adulthood. Just remember to keep it fun so it does not get overwhelming for them.
We would also like to mention another reason why it is important to really keep an eye out for what other things your children are interested in. If they are interested in music, do not get too hung up on that they have to pursue just this one interest. If they show an interest in other fields as well, like languages, philosophical questions, or science, encourage them to explore this more.
Let us imagine this scenario: You are 12 years old and you have a noticeable talent for playing the piano. Everyone around you loves when you play the piano. Before going to bed, you like reading magazines like “All About Space” and “New Scientist”, and you like to watch documentaries about the universe. Having established this, let’s say that your main interest is piano, your secondary interest is science.
To a lot of people, it is impossible to know what you should have become or want to become even though you are convinced about this while you are young. It is impossible to know how you will think in the future. The reason you might become convinced at such a young age is often that if you show talent in something, people around you will encourage you to pursue this career. Since you feel proud of all the encouragement and compliments you receive, of course you would feel that playing the piano is your great call, and pursue that career. But what is really happening here is that you are listening to what other people think is best that you do. Do we really have the freedom to choose while we are young, or is this a false freedom? Theoretically, you have the freedom to choose what you want, but the “help” you get to choose your path is for many people often pressure to choose what other people think you should choose. When you choose your path for higher education, these people are often not around you any more to express their belief in you. This is when you are mature enough to realise that your secondary interest, science, is what you really want. Bang! There you are, in the middle of your twenties, with a deep regret that you studied music for three years instead of physics, which you have realised now is what you really wanted, but that no one else wanted you to do. By having explored several subjects in your childhood, you have a stronger and more diverse foundation. Changing occupation when you realise what you truly want will then not seem so daunting.
Hopefully, this will be a little help towards preventing despair caused by this quarter-life crisis. This work starts early in the childhood by parents with a hawk-eyed scrutiny over their children’s interests and personality. This is something all parents can benefit from, but it is perhaps particularly important for parents with musically talented children to take this advice. A lot of parents that notice a talent for art in their children has an extra strong tendency of becoming very driven towards making their children succeed in this subject. As a result, they can become blind to other interests their children might have which later will turn out to be more real.