Gifted kids are often placed under extreme pressures by themselves, their teachers, and their parents. While being gifted has many benefits, it can also cause a lot of stress and anxiety, resulting in burnout. Here are some signs you’re dealing with gifted kid burnout, and how to cope with it. 

Gifted children often struggle simply being in their environments because of what separates them from average people. Being gifted affects every aspect of your life; how you learn, how you interact with others, and even how you are treated by others. Giftedness can be a blessing and a curse, and some kids can unfortunately break under the pressure of being gifted, resulting in gifted kid burnout. 

In this article, we will discuss:

  • What giftedness looks like
  • What burnout looks like
  • The signs you are dealing with gifted kid burnout
  • How to cope with gifted kid burnout

First, what is giftedness?

What does it mean to be gifted, and how should giftedness be identified?

Gifted people are those who are more advanced in a given subject area than the average person their age or grade level. This is not exclusive to school, it can be shown in every aspect of life. Some signs of giftedness include advanced thinking and the ability to comprehend more complex issues than average kids, excellent memory, and being highly sensitive. 

Many gifted children can be identified by their intelligence type, because they tend to have many different interests, and they excel in more than one out of the nine intelligences. Gifted children are usually placed in specific classes which allow them to be around other gifted children, and be taught at a level which suits their learning style. 

It’s important to remember that while some children may be advanced in reading, they could struggle in math, and vice versa. Because there are nine intelligences, not all children are going to excel in every one of them. Many people, including parents, will assume that because their child is gifted, they should excel in every subject, but this expectation does much more harm than good. 

What is gifted kid burnout?

What it means and how it’s brought on by people and society.

Much like burnout from a career, gifted kid burnout is the result of long term stress and anxiety taking a toll on the mental health of the person. Because gifted people are highly intelligent and often perfectionists, they are expected to meet certain standards. Whether these standards are set by themselves, by their parents, or by society, they place an enormous amount of pressure on gifted people, which can cause burnout. 

These kids learn at a different pace and level than most children, making it difficult to blend in with the rest. Most of the time, burnout occurs because their learning environment is not fulfilling their needs. It can also occur due to the pressures put on by parental figures to be the best at everything. Generally, it means they are simply exhausted and under too much pressure. 

A gifted young boy looking sad.
Burnout can cause depression in even young kids. Image courtesy of Rainard School.

What are the signs of gifted kid burnout?

Signs to watch out for and how to deal with them.

It’s very important to pay attention to the warning signs; when a gifted kid is experiencing burnout, they will often voice their concerns before it turns into a serious problem. There are different areas of burnout; social, mental, emotional, physical, etc. It’s important to know the difference between burnout and normal stress of being in school. 

When it comes to gifted kids, because they are often emotionally intense, normal stress can feel exceptionally strong. 

Ten signs to watch out for are:

  • Feeling depressed about school, or about life in general
  • They take a minor setback as the end of the world
  • Change in eating habits; eating more or less
  • Changes in sleeping habits; sleeping more or less
  • Panic attacks 
  • Feeling jaded toward school, friends, teachers, and even family members
  • They begin putting more pressure on themselves, and making one little mistake makes them feel like a failure 
  • They stop enjoying the things they used to such as hobbies, sports, and playing games
  • Physical symptoms such as digestive problems, stomach aches, and headaches
  • When discussing the future, they show no hope or enthusiasm

While gifted kid burnout can be a serious issue that may require talk therapy, it can also be helped by talking with a parent or someone they trust, or taking a break from their stressors. 

Image and caption here

A happy kid with a lightbulb above his head.
Giftedness can be a beautiful thing, but parents and teachers must embrace and build upon it. Image courtesy of Parenting for Brain.

Ways to Manage Gifted Kid Burnout:

Accept Your Child the Way They Are

Oftentimes, burnout is caused by pressure from parents. When a child feels that they will not be loved or accepted if they do not excel academically, or even if they make a simple mistake, it can be detrimental to their self esteem. 

Expectations set by parents can instill fear in children; fear that if they fail at something, they will be looked down on. Fear can be a very difficult emotion to live with. It can distract children from enjoying their childhood, and even affect them down the road in adulthood. As a parent, it’s important to be accepting of your children and not put unreasonable expectations on them.

Discuss Emotions

When a child keeps their emotions bottled up and to themselves, it can create internal pressure. It is important that they have someone to discuss their emotions with, such as a peer, a parent, or trusted family member. Discussing things like anxiety, depression, or just the struggle of keeping up with expectations can be extremely beneficial in allowing the child to feel less alone in their struggles—and figuring out a way to combat the feeling of burnout. 

Discussing emotions can also allow the child to be more open about their struggles, which will naturally alleviate some of the pressures they feel, especially if someone tells them it's okay not to be perfect all the time. 

Scheduling Breaks

Sometimes, taking breaks can help lessen the load on the child’s shoulders. Figuring out how to create a schedule where they can take breaks can allow for relief of some of the stress caused by their workload. By choosing a few hobbies that they enjoy, whether it be drawing, going on walks, playing games, etc., they can allow themselves to take a break from their academia and do something unrelated to work or school.

It’s important to have social outlets, too. If you are the parent of a gifted child, try getting them involved in sports or other activities and clubs, or even schedule a get together with friends. This will allow time to play, socialize, and relieve some of their stress.

A woman and a student working together.
Working with your child can help lessen the pressure they put on themselves. Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Talk to Their Teacher

Burnout can happen as a result of an unfit classroom environment. In this case, a discussion with the gifted student’s teacher may be beneficial in finding a solution. Many schools will have specific classrooms or lesson plans for gifted students. If they are not in a gifted-specific classroom, talk with someone at their school to get them into a classroom that will suit their needs. It’s vital that teachers understand giftedness and can help those who are gifted thrive in every aspect of learning.

If they are already in a gifted class, try scheduling a meeting with their teacher to discuss their symptoms of burnout. Let them know what is going on, and come up with a solution together. Perhaps this means the student will need more one-on-one attention from their teacher, or less expectations placed on them in the classroom. 

Being gifted can literally be a gift, but it has its drawbacks. Children can experience high levels of stress and anxiety, resulting in burnout. Burnout can be detrimental to their mental wellbeing, and their success in school. Just because someone is gifted doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes, or that they will excel in every subject. Just like every other kid, they need compassion, understanding, and help from their parents and teachers.

Nov 4, 2022