Therapy for the Gifted Child: Empathy – Morality – Anger – Gender

Empathy for others is a common hallmark of many gifted children. They may have an unusual sensitivity for the emotional distress of their friends and an unusual ability to help them resolve their emotional conflicts. However, these valuable personality traits may also create painful moral/ethical dilemmas and emotional conflicts for gifted children when they themselves feel misunderstood and mistreated. These moral-ethical dilemmas are especially intense when gifted children need to express their angry feelings but are afraid they cannot find acceptable ways to do so. Although some gifted children can’t hold back angry explosions, these are often directed at the wrong, but safer targets (teachers instead of parents, parents instead of friends). Expressing hurt and anger are invariably accompanied by intense guilt and unrealistic worries about hurting the feelings of others.

In order for moral and ethical dilemmas not to lead to problems, the feelings associated with them have to be properly expressed. For instance, angry feelings that are denied and left completely unexpressed can implode and lead to depressive symptoms, mood swings, lowered self-esteem, learning problems, cutting, or suicidal thoughts. Sometimes, unacknowledged and unexpressed anger can be so troublesome that it can distort a gifted child’s sense of identity, making them feel that they have two selves: good and bad.

Sexual identity issues have often plagued gifted adolescents. Gifted girls who feel strong and gifted boys who are sensitive may question their sexual identity or even whether their external sex and their internal sex match. These conflicts can become serious preoccupations for young people and their families. If left unresolved, they can become a source of serious symptomatology.

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Jerald Grobman M.D.

646-872-6842

Madelon Sann L.C.S.W.​

646-354-0907