Vol III, No 2 February 15, 2021
Both Sides of Too Much
by Cara Maclean
You’re too intense. Too serious. Too quiet. Too loud. Too opinionated. Too…
Chances are you’ve had someone tell you that you’re “too” something. Perhaps it’s something from childhood that sticks around in your psyche, or maybe someone pointed it out yesterday at the grocery store. 
 
The comment never feels helpful, yet the comment giver thinks they’re doing society a favor: ‘This person doesn't fit my acceptable social norms, so I will shame them.’ Even if it’s not a conscious thought, that’s what it is.

Being called “too anything” is attempted shaming.

These kinds of comments linger, which highlights the strength of that exact kind of social shaming. It doesn’t even matter who made the comment. The intended message is clear: 

You are different, and that’s bad. Tone it down.
 
When you’re young, the tendency is to believe that there’s something wrong with you. (It’s hard not to feel like this when you’re an adult too!) This is true especially for intense, gifted, and twice exceptional people because they often see all the things they don’t know or can’t do, while not valuing what they can do. They also may not realize that others don’t think or feel similarly. If they do see their different qualities, they may not yet know where those qualities can exist as a positive. 

Often when you’re an intense child (or even adult), it’s not easy to find your tribe. When my oldest was younger, he had one friend that had similar intensity, humor, and interest. It was refreshing. (Then we moved, but that’s another story.)

Adults can shrug off ‘Too Much’ comments more easily. If one hasn’t found a place where their intensities are celebrated though, it might still sting. It could also cause you to doubt if it’s good to be as “too” as you are. You might be tempted to tone it down, just in case. Maybe you should for the sake of others, right? We wouldn’t want anyone to be uncomfortable. (I hope you can hear my sarcasm.)

As a parent, you get the ‘Too Much’ from both sides.
 
You have your own intensities, and you get to experience the joy of everyone else’s. What fun! Particularly when you’ve been at home 24/7 with your family for months. There’s a lot of energy!

I’ve told my kids to ‘tone it down’ many times. I’d love to say it’s only when they’re singing with their new, bellowing teenage voices when I’m in a meeting. If I’m honest though, it’s when I’ve either tried to protect them or reduce someone else’s discomfort (sometimes mine). 

It’s no fun for a parent to see their child as the odd one out or attracting unwanted attention. We all feel a need to be part of the group, for ourselves and our kids, even if it’s some imaginary version of ‘normal’. We know what’s best intellectually, yet sometimes worry, exhaustion, and exasperation win. Sometimes a lot. 


We all have bad days.  
 
If you look back generations, it was either dangerous or troublesome to be too different. Our families likely created their own ways of protecting each other, fitting in, and staying safe. Those generational patterns live within us, even when we now know it’s better to express ourselves and engage our intensities. It still feels scary at times, for ourselves and our kids. It feels safer to tone it down. 
 
Don’t beat yourself up about wanting things to be ‘normal.’ You inherited that message, so it’s what feels safe. Easier perhaps. Here are a few things to try if you find the intensity driving you bonkers
 
  • Give yourself a break. We all lose patience when we’re exhausted and overwhelmed, which most parents are most of the time. You’re allowed to be human. Bring yourself back to what’s best for you, your children, and your family without the guilt. Guilt helps no one. 

  • Make it a conversation. Let your children know where the cultural impulse of “too much” and “tone it down” comes from: the need to fit in and be safe. Being different in any way makes people uncomfortable, as it calls their own behavior into question. 

  • Engage the intensity creatively. Guaranteed, everyone in the family can benefit from more play and creative expression. It could be messy and might not be easy, but it’s always positive.

  • Move that body. This one seems counterintuitive, but movement helps discharge built up emotion. Whether it’s from your own intensity, or your responses to others’, physical activity always helps. #danceparty!

  • Go for grace. Remember extended families are often the biggest purveyors of “too” shaming because those same patterns and coping strategies live within them as well. They may have never been able to fully express their intense feelings and interests, so believe it’s not safe for you either. 
 
Space, grace, and movement help every time!  😉

Cara Maclean, M.A. is a Wellness Coach & Writer who works with moms to undo what keeps them exhausted, so they connect to their own brilliance amidst the chaos of parenting gifted/2e kids. Together we cultivate the calm, joyful energy they crave, so they can handle any challenge with humor and grace. Author of Just the Way It Is: A Look at Gender and Generations in Gifted/2e Families, Spring 2022, through GHF Press. She’s also a yoga instructor, runner, and sudoku junkie. Don’t miss her blog at CaraMaclean.com, and follow her on Instagram @carajmaclean.
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FROM THE EDITOR
AGH! It’s all too much!

by Jen Merrill

Sound familiar? Feel familiar? Smell familiar? Wait...I may have taken that a step too far, unless you also have a teen son, and then you know. Talk about too much. 

For everyone I know, it’s all too much has been the rallying cry whimper of the last 11 months. Parents of gifted and twice-exceptional kids live in the valley of it’s all too much and intensities are what threw us down there. Too loud, too curious, too active, too shy, too complex, too much too much. This month’s featured writer Cara Maclean walks us through the “too” of intensities, complete with recommendations for getting through those intense days when you’re just not sure you’re gonna make it. Hint: grace toward everyone, including yourself, goes a long way.

Speaking of grace, I must beg yours. This is my first month as editor of the GHF Journey and I’m still figuring out...everything. I reckon I’ll have a handle on everything shortly before the heat death of the universe, hopefully sooner. While I’m still learning where the copy paper and scissors are stashed, I encourage you to pop over to the GHF Forum to check out the groups, upcoming events, and anything else that piques your interest. I’m constantly amazed by the variety and depth of resources there, and I’m confident you’ll find what you need.

And with that, enjoy the February Journey. 

Be well.

-Jen

While in The GHF Forum, you can search for more in the GHF Writers’ Showcase. Go ahead and check out the various groups, upcoming events, choices, and member discounts available there, too.
Jen Merrill is a writer, music educator, and gifted-family advocate. The mom of two boys, she homeschooled one twice-exceptional son through high school while happily sending the other out the door every morning. Her book, If This is a Gift, Can I Send It Back?, struck a nerve with families; her second book, on the needs of gifted parents and selfcare, is in progress. In addition to writing on her longtime blog, Laughing at Chaos, Jen has presented at SENG, NAGC, and WCGTC.

Jen brings both her acquired wisdom and her experience as a teacher and mentor to her work in the service of parents, teaching them techniques and mentoring them into their own versions of success. Her goal is to support parents of gifted and twice-exceptional kids, because they are the ones doing the heavy lifting and are too often ignored, patronized, and discredited. It is her hope that her sons never have to deal with these issues when they raise their own likely gifted children.
GHF CHOICES: DIY Education
Most of us have watched DIY shows on TV. Handy people invite us to watch their creative approach to their current project. Have you noticed that the bigger the project, the more help they need? These folks consult experts, refer to source materials, explore options, and enlist help.

Your project is your child's education, with the goal of helping them learn what they need to become independent adults. Our kids may engage in higher education, trade school, careers, volunteer work, or go down a host of other paths, but our job is to help them be as prepared as possible to reach for their goals.

Homeschoolers do not DIY with only their own wits and limited materials. Homeschool parents are some of the most resourceful people in the world. They consult experts, refer to source materials, explore options, and enlist help. Sound familiar?
THE G WORD
GHF DIALOGUE


Working with your child as a both a teacher and a parent can be challenging. Teachers go to years of school to learn how to reach and mold talented young minds. Mental health professionals have years of practice in trying to unpack the tangle of human motivation. You have a career and a life (and potentially other kids), and now you have to teach as well?! This was not in the parenting manuals! Thankfully, I am here to help. 
 As we have moved into this distance learning world, and we’ve all become homeschoolers, I get three questions most often from parents. Actually, I get many more, but these are the ones that are PG-rated. 
  1. How do you manage behavior in a way that is both supportive and holds firm boundaries? 
  2. How do you encourage learning without getting pulled into power struggles or inadvertently fostering underachievement? 
  3. How do you keep yourself from having to fight with your kid ALL THE TIME?

I will answer these questions for you in the following ten strategies. I cannot promise that my advice will solve these problems for you, but I can promise that using them will help. These solutions are based on solid research and I can vouch for their efficacy as a psychologist with over a decade of experience in the mental health field. I want to set your expectations in a way that helps you read this article with an open mind and a set-up for success.  

In psychology, we measure behaviors in three fields: frequency, intensity, and duration. Our goals of intervening on a behavior is to change in the amount of those fields in the direction that we want (downward in the case of negative behaviors, upward in the case of prosocial behaviors). We know that we may never get the behavior to 0% (or 100%, as the case may be), but we move in that direction as best we can. For example, if Suzy is having meltdowns over her writing homework, our goal is not to make the meltdowns never happen ever. That would be lovely! But it is wildly difficult and it will take a long time, if it is even possible at all. Instead, we work to reframe our thinking to “This can happen less often, less intensely, or shorter periods of time.” That’s a win! Think of how much more energy and time you’ll have with your kid(s) if you are dealing with problem behaviors less!  Focus on the steps you are taking towards the goal rather than reaching the goal itself.

Ultimately, these interventions all come down to language and behavior. As people who care about kids, language is our biggest and best tool to effect positive change. We must strive to not only say the right things but to say them in the best way possible. When we communicate effectively, we promote creativity, develop resiliency, keep our students on task, and even model emotional regulation and self-control. We have to understand, however, that not all language is verbally communicated. Our kids can, will, and do communicate with their actions (and inactions), especially in the fights they pick, the struggles they show you, and in the activities that they flock to when eyes are turned away. When we step out of judging these behaviors, we move naturally into curiosity. And when we are curious, we understand ourselves and our kids better.  From a curious stance, try using some (or all) of these techniques in your interactions with your kids. I think that you will be pleased with the results.

Whether you are new to homeschooling or a veteran, we can always tweak our language to encourage a more effective collaboration. With that in mind, here are ten language techniques to implement in your homeschooling that may improve your working relationship.
GHF PRESS
We Hope You Enjoy This GHF Press Latest Release!
Is Giftedness a myth? What is a Gifted Child? Why is Giftedness such a hot-button issue? Where does the fear and dislike of ‘gifted’ come from?

Come on an adventure about how Mrs. Einstein, newspaper articles from the 1920s, and the San people of the Kalahari Desert can help us understand what gifted isand is not.

In an easy-to-read style, Gifted Myths explores these and other stories on the history, science, and lived experience of gifted and twice-exceptional families.

Gifted Myths is a must-read for parents, educators, and professionals who work with gifted and twice-exceptional children.
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