Socialization and Your Gifted or Intense Child

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If you’ve been homeschooling for any length of time, you’ve likely been asked about your kids’ socialization. And, if you’re beyond your first year of homeschooling your kids, you likely find the question laughable. Not only is there rarely a problem getting your kids to talk to people, you often have to say no to opportunities just so you can stay home every once in awhile and teach your kids.

For you new homeschoolers, or those of you who live in areas where there aren’t a lot of activities in which to involve your kids, you may still worry about this. Rest assured, though, it’ll be okay. The type of socialization your kids will get at home will be far superior to what they’d get at school.

Socialization and Your Gifted or Intense Child via

For parents of gifted and intense children, this question can be more difficult to brush off, though. The gifted or intense child often struggles in social situations. Gifted and intense children have different social and emotional needs than typical kids. {Click to Tweet} Oftentimes their strengths and intensities contribute to difficult social issues.

How Strengths Can Become Problems

People who have never lived with an intense or gifted child often scratch their heads when parents of these kids talk about how hard it can be. They see kids with incredible strengths and potential. We know firsthand how those strengths can backfire, though.

A child who:

  • “gets’ material quickly and easily is often impatient and rude to others whom they must wait for.
  • is highly inquisitive may ask questions that are embarrassing and inappropriate for his or her age.
  • searches for significance in all things can perseverate on topics until everyone else is turned off.
  • has a great deal of intrinsic motivation may be strong-willed and resist any kind of direction.
  • enjoys problem-solving and can conceptualize abstract ideas resists routines and questions teaching methods.
  • is highly sensitive to the plight of others may not be able to play for fear of hurting friends inadvertently, coming across as aloof.
  • likes things well-organized may take over games, creating complicated rules, seeming bossy and unlikable.
  • has a large advanced vocabulary and depth of knowledge may get bored with age peers, and try to manipulate them verbally.
  • has high expectations for himself and others may become perfectionistic, intolerant, and depressed.
  • is highly creative and likes to try new and different ways of doing things may be seen as a troublemaker who won’t follow directions.
  • intensely focuses on things of interests will neglect friends, family, chores, and school work.
  • has a long attention span may resist interruptions, getting angry and disrespectful.
  • is sensitive and wants to be liked may try too hard, and seem much younger and more immature than peers, resulting in exclusion.
  • has high energy may become frustrated with inactivity, and act impulsively.
  • is very eager may seem hyperactive and pushy.
  • is independent may become so nonconformist that he struggles with relationships of any kind.
  • has diverse interests may seem scattered and become frustrated with the lack of time available to complete things of interest.
  • has a developed sense of humor may take on the role of class clown in an attempt to get kids to like him.

These issues can push other kids away. In my experience, these behaviors often push parents of other kids away too, and they take their kids with them. One of the toughest things for a parent of a gifted or intense child is that lack of understanding from other adults.

Your child looks normal on the outside, and can talk to an adult at an intellectual peer level, and so other parents don’t understand why this super-articulate kid can’t play with the other 12 year olds in the group. They chalk it up to bad behavior. And they steer clear.

It’s hard for your child to make and keep friends.

Helping Our Gifted and Intense Kids Socialize

So what do we do? As parents of homeschooled gifted and intense kids, we want to make sure that they are getting all they need. And we don’t want to be caught without an answer to that socialization question, either. {And, if you don’t homeschool your gifted and intense kids, chances are you still have a child who struggles socially, so read on.}

Create Opportunities

While you’re probably already going to co-ops, classes, play dates, and other programs designed for homeschoolers, as a parent of a child that struggles in social situations, you need to be careful about the types of programs you choose. Try to choose ones that capitalize on your kiddo’s interests and strengths so he stays motivated to work well with others.

Help Gifted and Intense Children Socialize Through Interest Based Classes and Extra Curriculars

When your child seems to hit it off with someone, and you think the friendship could be a good one, try to set up times for your child to get together with the other child. Coordinate with that child’s parents so your kids are participating in similar extracurriculars.

Cultivate Strong Family Relationships

Sometimes the best thing we can do for our gifted and intense children is to help them form strong connections with their siblings and extended family members. Set up times for your engineer-minded son to meet with his grandfather and the model railroad club he’s a part of. Build those cross-generational relationships.

The best peers for children like yours are like-minded and intellectually equivalent. Age isn’t as important.

I tell my kids all the time how fortunate they are to have each other. We create situations where they can play or learn together, regardless of their ages. I want to know that they’ll be there to support each other long after I’m gone, sharing their own memories with each other and each other’s families. If they have shared interests right now, it’ll lead to closer relationships as they grow.

Coach Them

I don’t know about yours, but my kids — one in particular — just doesn’t always get how to interact with kids around the same age when they’re playing outside in our neighborhood, or we’re heading to a party or other event. Before my child goes outside or we walk into a party, we talk about what it’s going to be like, and plan what kinds of things they can say. I try to help my children be successful in those situations.

Family Relationships are Improtant to Cultivate in Gifted and Intense Children

Sometimes it even works.

But when it doesn’t we talk it out afterwards and try to problem-solve before the next time.

For example, the other day one of my children wanted to play with a group of kids that were throwing a football at the park. We’ve played with these children before, and my child has often struggled because he likes to force complicated rules that the other kids aren’t interested in. We chatted for a quick second. I told him that a good way to get invited to play would be to walk up and ask if they’d him join in their game. I reminded him that they’d been playing happily for  awhile and it was his job to acclimate to their game, not force them to do something else.

And so he went over to play, observed for a bit, and when one child dropped the ball and blamed the other for throwing it poorly, he jumped in. “It was actually a good throw. You’re just saying that because you missed.” And then they argued about the quality of the throw, and the boys ended up walking away, not wanting to play with my child.

When I touched base with him afterward, I told him that whether or not the throw was good was irrelevant. He created a problem where there was none, and never got to play with the kids he wanted to play with. In his mind he was calling out the lie, wanting justice served, but since the other kid wasn’t bothered by being told it was a bad throw, he should have just stayed out of it and played catch.

And it’s a lesson we’ll have to repeat again. And again.

Be Patient

This is a long road, moms. For every great day your gifted or intense child has with a group of kids, there will be numerous not so great days. Your biggest role in this is to help keep your child’s self-esteem up. Gifted and intense children struggle, and are at-risk for depression, anxiety, and even suicide. We need to help our children find social opportunities that are a good fit for them, and help coach them to success.

Gifted and Intense Children Have Different Social and Emotional Struggles Than Their Typical Peers

And when they fail, we need to let them know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are valued and loved.

Find a support system, moms. Whether in person or online, you’ll need a community {or at least one other mom} that understands the challenge you face. You’ll feel frustrated, sad, and alone at times as you work with and for your child who struggles socially.

We’re building a lovely community on our Facebook page, and I’d love for you to join in by asking or answering questions and enjoying the resources we share there every hour or two around the clock.

Remember that, above all, you are the mom your child needs. You can do this.

And your child will be fabulous with you supporting him.

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  • Bluesky

    What do you do when your child behaves rudely despite coaching before the play-date? He is 8, and today got together for the first time with a 2+ year old (not his strongest age group for success but I had arranged to meet his mother for the first time as they are new in town), and he reverted back to not sharing, pushing in, telling him off for touching his things, aimed an unloaded nerd gun at the boy and then got mad at me for setting boundaries with him around his behaviour. He has ADHD as well, and it is a daily struggle often times. I am doing the Orange Rhino challenge…day 5 today. He failed today with this playdate, but I don’t think I let him know he was valued and loved. I told him off instead…..

  • Teri

    I have a 7 yr old, 2E, who can be aggressive…..we have coached him for more than a year! Sometimes the play dates are fabulous and he is so happy, other times disaster! He is VERY type-A, so he definitely doesn’t let other kids make up games or have a say in the rules……as of late, he expresses he is truly lonely:( my heart is broken for him, he is a great boy, just has some social issues. I’m at the end of my rope, I’ve contemplated sending him back to public school, which labeled him and failed him! ANYONE HELP!!

  • Clare Swindlehurst

    Some great advice here Colleen, I’m sharing it with my readers.

  • Cindy Howell

    My boys are seven years old and I’m not sure if they would be considered “gifted”, but one of my boys could definitely be considered “intense.” I’m going to keep your suggestions in mind.

  • Sheila Rogers

    Great post. Ah, socialization. You bring up a good point. One thing I like about homeschooling is that it allows that gifted or intense child the change to learn how to interact in situations with less pressure and with a parent there to guide them.

  • Pam Barnhill

    Such a wealth of information in this post. I do not have gifted kids, so the most fascinating thing for me is to look at this from the standpoint of the “other” mom and realize it might not be that the kid is just a jerk. There might be something else going on. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Colleen Kessler

      Thanks, Pam. Yes, it’s hard because oftentimes that child {mine included} IS being a jerk, but doesn’t have the social awareness to know it or fix it.
      Colleen Kessler
      Blogger at Raising Lifelong Learners
      Freelance writer and author of books for kids & teachers
      Connect with me on Facebook , Twitter , Pinterest , Instagram , & Google+

  • jeanne

    One of the biggest things I’m struggling with right now, is how to help my child not get so upset when something doesn’t go her way, or when she is playing (alone or with other kids) and it’s time to go. I am reading that misdiagnosing book you mentioned and trying to figure out my kids. I feel one is gifted (they have an older brother that is too), but the other I have no idea, she’s just very ADHD and/or OCD. She is my youngest child and I don’t know how to help her with her temper. I’ve tried to talk to her calmly and help her see the other side of the coin to her opinions, and I’ve tried to put her in her room, or take away privileges, but I don’t know if anything is working. I feel like, okay, I’m starting to see the way these minds work, but what do I do about it. I am just coming across all of this info all at once and I haven’t gotten to a solution yet. Is it just to keep trying? Can you share a link of some helpful tips to deal with meltdowns and tempers? I feel so at a loss sometimes. But I am very thankful to have found your FB and blog. I probably need to spend more time browsing the blog, but I’m lucky if I get to read articles you share on FB most of the time. I have pinned things for later use, and hopefully I’ll get back to them at a later date. In the past 4 years the amount of homeschool info online has just shot up! I love it, but it’s a lot to process about how it fits into our lives. I have to be careful to sort what I’m reading with what I have learned myself and not distrust my own experiences, but I do feel that these resources are a blessing. I just don’t know what to do with all of the info yet! Sorry- that was long and scattered!

    • Colleen Kessler

      Long and scattered is how I think and talk most of the time, Jeanne. :-) No worries…

      I’d suggest trying the Emotional Intensity book I link to on this page –>

      It’s the book that’s helped me the most as a parent. It’s an easy read, and written very conversationally.

      And you’re right; there is SO much out there. It’s hard to sort through it all. Relax and know that you’re the best mama for your kids, and that everyone struggles…they just struggle differently. Parenting is tough work.

      Do you want me to ask some specific questions for you on the FB page? Those post around 4:30 each day, so if you know to check the page at that time, you won’t miss them. The moms on the page are SO supportive of one another and helpful; I’m sure someone’s walked in your shoes before.

      My best advice is to relax and get to know your hardest kiddo better. She’s probably the one who needs you most right now, and conversations without conflict can help you see into her head and heart.

      I’m walking that road with my oldest — and it’s hard.

      But you’re right — you SHOULD trust your instincts and filter all you read {even from me} through those instincts and your own heart. YOU are the best mom for that sweet {tough} girl. You can do it.

      I’ll keep your family in my prayers.


      Colleen Kessler
      Blogger at Raising Lifelong Learners
      Freelance writer and author of books for kids & teachers
      Connect with me on Facebook , Twitter , Pinterest , Instagram , & Google+

  • SchoolatHomeMom

    Great advice! I totally struggled with all this as a child myself, and I see it daily with the kids I work with now. (I’m wrapping up my last year of teaching before starting to homeschool my own child in the fall.) One thing that works with bigger kids sometimes is to share findings from social psychology research with them – helping them to understand the science aspect of it and encouraging them to treat their interactions with others as learning experiences. Kids with an advanced sense of right and wrong, for example, might be tempted to criticize others or find fault with them (I have one student who threatens peers with calling “animal control” or “going to jail” when they don’t behave up to his standards!) but if they can be helped to think about what motivated that person to act that way, or what in the situation created that result, they can shift from a “police mode” to a “scientist mode”. Once they know more about human behavior, they can then think about how to intelligently respond.

    For younger kids, I think a good start is a “live and let live” approach – coexisting with toys, belongings, space, etc. and being comfortable there, before going the step further to try to negotiate conflicts and get someone else on your agenda. And when things are neutral, encouraging and celebrating helpfulness and kindness.

  • Kelly

    What is the facebook page for moms who have gifted or intense children? I need some support!!