When working and playing in the realms of a gifted child as parents or as therapists we can rest assured our kids will show us what their creative places, called realms, look and feel like. We only need to learn how to read the maps and signs into their physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual development.
Gifted kids might need a little help and special attention, but internally they are wired for self-expression that will give us 'elders' valuable insight. Children know exactly who they are in each and every moment and only need a bit of encouragement, love, and confidence to light their way.
In our modern society, children are confronted with serious choices and sometimes debilitating social juxtapositions. Adults have similar issues to face whether we want to admit it or not; we want to fit in with the social group, but we may have to play a different role, or at the extreme become someone else to fit in.
Playing challenging roles is an easy task for a gifted child.
Gifted children are: achievement-oriented, creative thinkers, out-of-the-box processors, natural problem solvers, think abstractly, may be advanced in subjects in school beyond their peers, idealistic, may experience heightened sensitivity, have high expectations, show unique abilities like "leaping" or "mapping".
These are only a few characteristics of gifted children. As examples, leaping or "leapers" are spatial learners. They are quick, mercurial thinkers. Leapers may not understand how they arrived at an answer, yet like magic they divine the right one. "Mappers" are sequential learners. These students map out an organized way of learning to get from point A to Z. Usually tying many of these traits together within a gifted child's personality is perfectionism.
Perfectionism is an ideal of making our life, even our external world, perfect in every way. Which as we grow and become less rigid in our expectations of life, hopefully we come to understand as adults, this is never fully achievable. Perfection can be the crux which creates a lot of pain in our young ones lives. We want to fit it. We want everyone to like us. We have emotional needs and if we are afraid of being who we are in social or public settings for fear of others liking us, perfectionism becomes a slippery slope for self-identity which spins us on our heads.
Despite the often loud, critical, and distracting world of social media we all have the ability to turn away from the chaotic world of being ‘tuned in’ and ‘on’ and perfect all the time and lean inward and learn who we really are. When we look within with nature as our guide, as teachers, parents, and therapists we give our youth permission to do the same.
Let your child know you are doing an art exercise which will help both of you gain insight into words, feelings, and imagery that will allow you both to understand more about him/her. Due to ethics, art therapists are required to let both the child and parents know they are doing art therapy in a clinical setting.
Use Art as a Guiding Force
Who Am I? Draw Yourself in a Tree House.
This is an exercise drawing upon painting as a high art which gives rich depth and meaning to the identification process. We're going to simplify it and put ourselves into a four sided 'frame' and use pencils or watercolor paints as our tools. Build a nice small portrait frame from popsicle sticks, straws, or other kids of sticks like tree branches. This frame is our container which concretizes the mental picture or image of ourselves we have in our mind.
Guide your child into a drawing session where you allow about thirty (30) minutes to create their tree house. Don't guide or instruct. Resist any urges to take over the process or ask questions during the drawing time. Act as a silent witness to this child's creative freedom which is powerful by itself. If the child asks for direction only repeat this (or similar) question, "What does your tree house look like?" Watch the clock and ask the child to put all pencils down when the time expires.
This is a very nice way of discerning one's identity through color, perspective, motion, and other elements. As the leader of this exercise look at the drawing or painting holistically. As yourself these questions internally as you look at your child's drawing:
Are they any creatures in the drawing?
Who might these creatures represent?
What is the predominant color being used?
What does the tree house contain?
What is the perspective of the child/house?
Are there other environmental elements like sky, water, etc?
Where is the child in relationship to the house (inside/within, outside, above)?
It will be up to you to help the child identify different and unique perspectives within their creative realm, which is represented as the tree house. As a caution, it is better for the adult to use little verbal interpretation of the picture and rather pose questions to the child instead allowing them to answer what they think and feel.
The way our Draw-A-Treehouse process works is for the child to bring you into their world and share a little bit of it, expressing how they experience it, rather then us impressing upon them ideas which do not fit with their identity. A way to bring yourself into the process more as a participant if the child is struggling with the task is to say, "If this was my drawing" and then give your own interpretation as it relates to you. This allows for closeness, intimacy, building trust, and vulnerability through a safe experience.
About the Author: Courtney Marchesani is the creator of Intuitive Soul Language™ a creative process for increasing communication skills. She designs integrative health plans for social anxiety, performance anxiety, fear of public speaking, and expressive language.
As an award winning coach and advocate, Courtney empowers others with her strategies learned from Wilhelm Reich's character structure, Jacob Moreno's psychodrama, Method Acting, and art. She is attaining her M.A. in Expressive Art Therapy from California Institute of Integral Studies and her works have been featured in The Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, and OM Times Magazine.