Developing Strong Social Networks

Maureen Neihart, Psy.D.



As a group, gifted children tend to have good social skills and make friends as easily as other children. But sometimes gifted children struggle with friendships because they differ from typically developing children in three ways. First, because they are often more similar to children 2 to 4 years older, they tend to prefer older children as friends. Second, gifted children sometimes look for intimacy or integrity in relationships at earlier ages than other children. Third, gifted adolescents in some cultures experience strong tensions between their need to achieve and their need to belong.


Paying attention to social relationships is critical for wellbeing because strong, positive relationships predict better adjustment, life satisfaction and resilience. When gifted children lack access to others with similar interests, ability and drive they can be at risk for social or emotional difficulties. Poor social support has been linked with a wide range of negative outcomes in both children adults. Therefore, it is important to help gifted children form strong social networks. This is not hard to do if we keep in mind some of the social characteristics and patterns that are observed in gifted children.



* Recognize their friendship needs

* Help them find others who share their interests, ability and drive

* Allow appropriate friendships with older children and adults.

* Set clear boundaries or limits regarding activities with older friends and communicate these limits to supervising adults.

* Consider a grade skip of two or more years for highly gifted children who need the access to older children and a more challenging curriculum.



* Restrict them from appropriate older friends

* Stress popularity

* Let high ability be an excuse for bad behaviour

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Image credit: Atomic: full of love, full of wonder by Ben Cooper is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.


Please note that the perspectives expressed in blogs are the views of the author/s and may not be reflective of the views of the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education. 

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