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Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope with Explosive Feelings (2nd ed.) Paperback – December 1, 2015
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Written in an accessible, conversational style, Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students is a "must" for educators and parents of gifted children at all levels of grade school. --Midwest Book Review
After 19 years of gifted parenting, I thought I pretty much knew it all. I was so wrong and I learned so much from reading this book! Now that my children are almost grown, I intend to use what I've learned to help other parents. --LJ Conrad, Parent Advocate
Fonseca has made a great contribution to helping people understand the unique and too often unmet needs of gifted students. --Holly VanHouten, HUCK Center for Creative Learning
About the Author
Christine Fonseca is a school psychologist and award-winning author of nonfiction and teen novels dedicated to helping children and adults find their unique voice in the world, including the books Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students, The Girl Guide, and Quiet Kids. When she isn't crafting new stories or working with student groups, she can be found sipping too many skinny vanilla lattes at her local coffee house.
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There are case studies, and I like them. I like the range of the behaviours and symptoms in the archetypal children. The problem is that the case studies often say "After a family meeting, the parents gained some really subtle insight...". What is missing is the process the parents followed to reach that subtle insight. What questions did they ask? What answers did they get? How did those answers yield that insight? The scenarios often contain overly simplistic resolutions that sound like "they made some changes and everything got much better." There is no exploration of the changes the parents tried that didn't work, how they could recognise that it didn't work, and how they picked something new until they hit on the right technique. No change is a magic wand that works perfectly on the first try. Life isn't so simple that when you do the right thing, you'll do it correctly on the first try and it will be obvious that you've done the right thing. Too many of the resolutions are presented as a fait accompli, or perhaps obvious with hindsight.
Many of the "worksheets" involve a series of yes/no questions or questions that have 2 discreet answers ("Is your discipline positive or punitive?"). There is no discussion of "If you answered yes to question 2, this might indicate X, Y, or Z." These worksheets also ask pretty unsubtle questions like "Is your discipline effective?". Which parent, reading a book about coping with children, is thinking "Yeah, I got that all sorted out"? So given that the parent is probably answering "no", why are we asking the question at all? A "worksheet" needs some guidance on how to interpret and respond to the answers that you give. Frankly, I doubt that a series of yes/no questions, especially with no guidance on how to interpret the answers, will give me a sophisticated understanding of the problems in my household. At best it prompts a bunch of unstructured thinking as I ultimately consider lots of my behaviour and try to cook it down to a "yes" or a "no". And questions like "How do you contribute to the household?" are not great questions to ask a child (from the "Child's Household Inventory" worksheet). We need to ask children lots of other, simpler questions and use their answers to derive the answer of how they contribute to the household.
There is text that appears in boxes sprinkled throughout the various chapters. Most of that text feels like it was copy/pasted from a PowerPoint presentation, perhaps a talk given at a conference of educators or psychologists. They are bullet points with typical presentation-style grammar and they don't stand alone. They need narrative to make sense of them—narrative that the book often lacks. Rather than present some bullet points in a checklist, and then explain each one in detail, the bullet points are often just presented on their own.
I find the book a bit repetitive, too. Sometimes it is even consciously repetitive using phrases like "...as I already said...". The farther I got into the book, the faster I was reading. I started skimming more.
There are a lot of sterile and business-like expressions and suggestions. The "family meeting" could not be more dreadful. It reads like a business meeting and lacks any acknowledgement of the messy, emotional, complicated interactions we all have. It is hopelessly simplistic and offers no suggestions about how to do it successfully or hints at what difficulties you might encounter in having them. My 8-year-old does not come to a "meeting" with the attitude my 38-year-old colleagues do. So advice like "build an agenda with the children's input" need a lot more fleshing out than that one, bald statement. And some of the sterile, clinical language really takes away from the practicality of trying the suggestions. In describing what the parents did in one of the scenarios, the book says "his parents initiated contact with school personnel". In other words "his parents called his teacher." The vaulted language makes it sound much more complicated than it really is and it creates unnecessary cognitive distance between the reader and the suggestions.
You will want other books to fill in the areas that this book glosses over. You'll want separate books on relaxation techniques, helping children recognise emotions, label them, and cope with them, and how to run "family meetings" (if you go that route). This book motivates all those things and puts them in context, but gives you a very incomplete picture of how to do them well.
Finally, the kindle version is riddled with spelling errors ("dimculties"?), hyphenation errors, spacing errors and more. As an author myself, I find that very distracting.
Even as a toddler it was obvious that my child was different than other children. I searched numerous books on parenting, looking for answers. I read about ADHD, autism and indigos, trying to figure out how to be a better parent, sensitive to this child's needs. But none of the scenarios or definitions fit what we were experiencing until I read this book. Finally, this makes sense. This is what I've been looking for.
Most people saw only the highly intelligent, cooperative child that my child can be. They thought I was crazy to think something was wrong. They didn't see the erratic mood swings, the random hyperactivity, the inflexible viewpoint on issues, or the relentless drive for perfection that kept my child from trying new things. After I read the first chapter of this book online, I almost cried. I wasn't crazy. And neither was my child.
Amazing how a book can change your life.
While many of the parenting strategies found in EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS would be useful in any home, what really impressed me were the tips for helping children (as well as parents and teachers) recognize emotional triggers. Once kids and parents learn to see the signs building, they can work together to prevent outbursts and find ways to relax before negative emotions overtake the entire family. Useful tip sheets, checklists and worksheets throughout the book offer practical guidance for working through various issues. The final third of the book helps parents learn how to better communicate and "coach" their children through difficult scenarios.
This book is written in a conversational tone, making it incredibly readable. The author has managed to give her readers real insight into what it means to be gifted and clearly illustrated the internal struggle that children might face as a result. Anyone who works with kids can benefit from reading EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS, but if you have a gifted child in your home, you won't regret making this book your guide.