How to help a child with high potential to flourish?


How to help a child with high potential to flourish?

It is often difficult to associate giftedness with any difficulties because in the minds of many, an intelligent child has no problems. However, it has been proven that the profile of giftedness or high potential, depending on its degree and form of expression, can present particularities on a behavioral, emotional and psychological level. Here are keys to better understand a child with high potential and help him grow.

1)  Who are high potential children?

Let’s see together what could be the different specific behavioral and emotional characteristics in a child with giftedness or high potential.

Generally it will be a child who will have difficulty in being able to manage his emotions. He will be very emotional and show great anxiety. He will also have low self-esteem and will be constantly undervalued.

He is a child who will not like being reproached, who will find it difficult to bounce back from criticism and who can get angry very quickly. Conversely, he may always be provocative, seek to titillate and want to negotiate and go beyond a certain framework imposed consciously or unconsciously by his peers or the adult. As a rule, these children also have a fairly fine sense of humor.

On a cognitive level, a large proportion of children with high potential acquire reading before the age of 6. These are children who learn to read almost on their own and who will retain this appetite for reading over the years. These are the same children that we see devouring books and for whom we constantly have to find new ones. Indeed, most of them also have a great need to be constantly stimulated. They tend to take more complex paths and possess a tree-like system of thinking.

Tip: The high potential profile has different levels and different forms of expression. Obviously, each child is unique and even though there may be similarities between clinical signs around the same diagnosis, keep in mind that each child has his or her own uniqueness and that if a method works for a child, it is not not say it will work for another. On the other hand, regardless of the profile of the child, they all need a framework with benevolence.

2) How to detect a child with high potential?

It is important to remember that the image we might generally have of a person with high potential is far from being in tune with reality. Most of the time the child is failing at school because he is bored, he does not respect the instructions, he is obsessed and no longer makes an effort to have an appropriate student attitude. For some of them, the adaptation is almost natural but it requires such an effort that they will chronically somatize (enuresis, headaches, stomach aches, eczema, etc.). Finally, some are not diagnosed during childhood and will be diagnosed in adulthood on their own initiative. They will first highlight a past and present suffering linked to this general misunderstanding.

To help them and accompany them as well as possible, while preserving this benevolence towards them, it is important to see the profile of high potential more through the prism of a person with a disability than of a force where one might think that the person is capable of anything, all the time, in all situations.

Advice: Certain signs, mentioned above, can alert and encourage you to consult. In my opinion, it would be wise not to necessarily advance on any diagnosis with the person concerned before a complete assessment is made. It often happens that a child presents difficulties on the emotional level without particularities on the cognitive level or that the child did not consider it necessary to learn a methodology of work because the parents reinforced him in this idea that he was very smart, smarter than the others. Once the balance sheet has been established, support work will be offered with a period of awareness for the patient and his entourage.

3) A space for listening and raising awareness to help a child with high potential

Depending on the age of the child, it is possible to offer a minimum of awareness-raising to explain the atypical functioning to the main person concerned and to his entourage.

The child is also constructed in relation to what others send back to him as an image. So if he is faced with a lot of negative remarks, there is a good chance that he suffers from a poor image of himself. Especially since the child with high potential already suffers from a strong tendency to devalue himself. For the youngest, it’s doing something good, thinking you’ve done it well, but the adult’s feedback is always the same and is generally negative. “You could have done differently, that’s not what I asked of you”… Faced with this ambivalence, the child is in pain and needs to understand.

Advice :

It will be for the professional and/or the parents, to explain his mode of operation to the child so that he does not feel guilty. Explain to him that it’s not his fault. There are many children who are like him. The idea is to help him grow with a more faithful image of himself and that he learns, with the help of those around him, to manage this overflowing of emotions.

For adults, most of them already know their own mode of operation but they do not know how to manage. Some have implemented compensatory strategies without being sure that these are the best strategies so ultimately it remains quite expensive. Many of them also always feel misunderstood, out of place or even imposters.

4) The Contribution of Social Skills Groups

 Social skills groups are groups originally founded to work on communication codes in society. An improvement in the behavior of some children with high potential has been observed through these working hours. The fact of being confronted with other children with globally the same profile would seem rather beneficial. Sometimes it is the children themselves, fed up with the behavior of their peers, who end up reframing the others. We work on the interpretation of each person’s intentions, emotions, behavior and also the management of emotions.

Advice: Obviously there are solutions to work on the areas to be improved in children or adults with high potential, the most important thing would probably be to get them out of a state of suffering and incomprehension and then to bring self-explanation and/or emotional management. There will necessarily be professionals to see first, but in general, regardless of the speaker, he must be aware of the high potential profile and must show the person concerned that he understands him. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to establish a relationship of trust between the two people and the sessions would be useless.

3 key ideas

We know full well that the child will be at 30% of his abilities and we understand this because, not only will he not see the reason to have to get more involved and then it will be too difficult to manage emotionally. It is less destructive when you get a 12/20 having been at 30% than having been at 70%.

The idea is to improve the behavior of the child because we do not want him to isolate himself or that others reject him.


Mr. Gabriel Rafi

  • Graduated in neuropsychology and cognitive psychology from University Paris Descartes, France.