April 17, 2012. Challenge One: Take a hike!
When my darling daughter was four-years-old, I enrolled her in dance classes. She didn’t want to attend classes at all, but doing my motherly duties, I felt it was necessary that she have some structured physical activity because she preferred to lounge reading and drawing for hours on end every day. On the way to classes she would regularly comment, “I don’t know why I have to go dance classes, I already know how to dance.” And, at the end of each class, she would ask me if she “won”, because once she won, she wasn’t going back!
Recently, I listened to several NAGC convention presentations given by P. Susan Jackson, psychotherapist and founder of the Daimon Center for the Highly and Profoundly Gifted. In her 2010 session, 21st Century Parenting: Optimal Mind-Body Practices to Support the Child and the Gifts, Jackson introduced the idea that gifted people are prone to “cognicentrism”, which is privileging the desires of the mind over the needs or desires of the body and spirit. She suggested gifted people often need to be taught to cherish their physical bodies. (Hear Jackson and more at NAGC’s Live Learning Center)
Before I go further here, I must confess that the word, “cognicentrism”, burned my ears just a bit. I know that my husband and I have modeled for our children excessive focus on the cognitive to the detriment of our physical and spiritual needs. Neither of us are athletically inclined (Don’t tell him!). Further, we didn’t grow up in families that pursued non-competitive or leisurely physical activity. So, when high school sports came to end, so did a good part of our motivation to keep moving our bodies in ways that would support optimal health. We have the fortune of exciting minds, and to that end, we’ve not been too concerned with whether we have exciting bodies. After listening to Jackson, I am convinced that learning to cherish our physical bodies is one of the most important keys to balancing our sharp minds and achieving whole, vibrant lives.
Research has shown that aerobic exercise improves executive functioning and decreases depression and anxiety better than medication. The overexcitabilities that many gifted experience often manifest as challenges to executive functioning and anxiety, and can result in depression. It strikes me as especially important to explore this in our gifted community. It is possible that if we simply work toward cherishing our physical bodies and teaching our little ones to do the same, we can take great strides toward alleviating and mitigating depression and anxiety in gifted children and youth, as well as our own.
Jackson remarked that many of her clients have a mind-body disconnect, as a result of the asynchronous development between physical abilities and mental abilities. For example, a very young gifted child may intellectually understand soccer, but his physical development may not enable skillful play. So, often, he becomes frustrated and gives up. Instead, he may understandably pursue activities that capitalize on his cognitive abilities.
Thinking of my darling daughter, the master dancer in her own mind… We replaced dance lessons with dance parties at home after dinner to everyone’s delight. There is no need to frustrate a gifted child’s sense of his or her physical ability with a structured, competitive activities if they do not enjoy those. However, for our cognitively gifted babes, who may not be athletically inclined, it is critical that they get moving nonetheless.
So, this is a challenge! Spring is the perfect time to get moving and explore ways that you and your gifted child can cherish your physical bodies!
Suggestions: If you or your little one enjoys writing, reading, drawing, photography, or other arts, incorporate it into your hike. For example, when you arrive at the end of the trail make time to sit quietly and pursue that passion. Maybe your little one is a collector, help him notice and discover rocks, plants, and trees along your hike.
To maximize this experience, pack healthy snacks and picnic lunch, and bring along plenty of water. Nix the processed snacks, juice boxes, and sodas for this trip.
Some gifted children are hesitant to try new activities, especially when it relates to physical coordination or movement. Others are hesitant to explore unfamiliar environments, outside of books. This challenge is a low stakes, rewarding way to introduce the one of many ways we can support and cherish our physical bodies.
Parenting for High Potential wants to hear from you! How you get your “cognicentric” family and kids moving?
Stay tuned for the next challenge!
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