Sometimes trying to find places my kids can be themselves and meet others with the same interests feels like a walk in the jungle. I set off with a map, but it's soon useless as the twists and turns under the canopy disorient me and I'm stumbling through the semi-dark, hoping for a clearing and a brief glimpse of light. For a few moments I'll think I've learned the do's and don'ts . . . until I tumble into a new part of the jungle.
But those glimpses of light - when connections are made, friendships formed and a real meeting of minds happens? Those moments are worth every laborious step.
One thing I have learned is that much like with learning, to find friends, we follow their interests.
For my son, he has found friends through passions for trains and programming - places where his over-the-top knowledge has been an asset and not a deficit.
This is also one of the reasons that we have allowed more screen time for him than most families - in watching endless videos of people playing games, he not only learns about games, but also picks up the lingo and the language of kids his age. This is not something he can easily do in person - there is no rewind switch in live conversation.
The other thing we have done is not leave it to chance - my son has done social learning groups for almost a year now, and I have seen the blossoming of his communication skills. I must admit to be hesitant at first, but after seeing how much he has gained from explicit instruction, I have found myself altering my own communication style with him as well. It has been eye-opening. Sometimes, kids need a little helping hand.
For my daughter, it's been a different set of challenges. Sometimes, just getting her to a location to make friends is the most challenging part, but here, too I have seen friendships bloom in unusual places - making friends with kids who have challenges like her own who are not necessarily gifted. This was and is helped along, of course, by us parents making sure that both little people have safe places to play together that don't bump up against either child's challenges.
To find friendships, sometimes I have simply had to go to where the kids are - for us, that's involves finding where the gifted and twice-exceptional organisations are, joining, and helping them with their own events - or creating our own. When you're the host, it can be a lot easier to find the kids who spark off each other.
I know I have sometimes felt such despair - will my children ever find their best friends? Am I doing enough? There have been times when I was sure it would all end in disaster. And I am sure there will be times in the future that I will feel that again. But for now there is a glimmer of hope in the darkness of that jungle - I know these connections don't just happen, and if I and my family go out to find them, serendipity has a chance of meeting us half way.
This post is part of the GHF Blog Hop, "Gifted Children: The Importance of Finding Intellectual Peers and Community".