The day 16 month old Trevor looked at me and asked if I’d take him to “Macedonia to sit near the tracks and watch for trains,” I was reminded that I was going to need help with him. At 16 months old, he already spoke with better articulation than many five year olds I knew, and his fascination with trains seemed insatiable.
Like… way more than most little kiddos’ love of trains, planes, and automobiles.
He knew the difference between steam trains, electric trains, maglev trains, and whatever other kinds of trains there are. I, clearly, did not — and still don’t. We did the normal things like books and videos, toys and model train displays… after all, he was a toddler. But that kid, with his train-loving, engineering mind, didn’t stay a toddler, and eventually we needed to do more.
Have you ever faced that challenge?
Have you ever come to a point where you realize that you won’t be able to give your sweet kiddo all that he needs in order to learn all he wants to learn? Or found that you have a child who wants to learn about things you don’t know anything about? What can you do?
Your Child’s First Mentor
Remember that, even if you don’t know about a subject that is firing your kiddo up, it’s okay. In fact, by letting your child know that you don’t have all the answers and that you’ll help him find out what he wants to know, you’ll be teaching him to seek and find knowledge for the sake of it. AND, you’ll be showing him that it’s okay to NOT know it all.
This becomes a chance for you to mentor your child and help him grow as a learner. There are so many great ways to learn together.
Go to the Library
Check out your local library’s offerings. There are books, magazines, videos, and oftentimes classes about all manner of subject. Get to know the librarians and pick their brains. While you’re not mentoring your child in the normal way that we think of in terms of mentoring, you’re doing the best kind. You are teaching your child how to find out about the things he wants to know, and letting hi, know, too, that it’s okay keep learning.
Take Field Trips
I don’t know about your area, but there are so many opportunities to learn in the greater Cleveland area, that I know I can find somewhere to go if there’s a topic about which my kids would like to learn. We just learned about a cool place to blow glass and take classes to experiment with different chemicals and make new colors. There are classes and camps and museums and small businesses — all places for kids to learn about the world and cultivate their interests.
Finding Mentors Outside the Home
Sometimes, though, you need to look further beyond yourself to meet the needs of your child. You’ll need outside help, and finding that perfect mentor can be a challenge. It’s really important, though, to talk with your kiddo and to make sure everyone is on the same page and committed to a mentoring relationship.
Sit down with your kiddo to talk about what a mentorship will entail. Once you find someone willing to work with your child, that commitment needs to be honored and the mentor’s time respected, so make sure that everyone is really ready for the relationship.
Make an effort to realistically evaluate the time your child has to devote to the mentoring experience so that everyon is on the same page from the beginning. Be aware of your own limitations too. You need to be responsible for getting your child to wherever it is he will be working with his mentor, so you need to make a commitment as well.
Finding Great Mentors
First, you need to chat with your child a bit more to find out exactly what he wants to learn more about. What is he looking to dig deeper into and needs the support of an expert for?
Then, start asking around. It’s always a good idea to start with people you know. Among your friends and family might be the perfect person with whom your child can work. For my train obsessed little one, we talked to his grandpa. My father in law is a model train lover, and lives alone. We made sure that the two of them got together regularly to talk trains, watch documentaries, read books, and design train layouts. Now, at almost 14 years old, my son still visits his grandfather’s regularly, staying the night and working on train layouts until late, then getting up to work on those layouts with the “old train guys” that come to my father-in-law’s once a week in their retirement to work on the epic layout in his basement.
Mentors can build lasting memories as well as further learning. The time my son is spending with his aging grandfather is precious and he’s learned about compassion and has empathy for the elderly.
If you can’t find someone in your immediate family or friends list, ask them to reach out to their friends. If you’re still not having luck, call up a local college of university. There may be students or professors that would like to work with young and eager minds like your child’s.
The bottom line is to make sure you and your child are ready for the relationship, and you find a mentor who will challenge your kiddo and develop a great rapport with him. The benefits will be long lasting and rich — for both the child and the mentor. Just see what these parents have to say:
Our art teacher is amazing. Our son has been artistically gifted since he could hold a pencil. When he was five and enrolled in a kindergarten level art class, this teacher saw his talent and made an exception to her 7 and up requirement. She has been working with him for over three years and they have a remarkable relationship. She gets him on a level that many adults do not and he thrives under her mentorship. ~ Cait from www.my-little-poppies.com
Teddy’s parkour coach has been wonderful for him. He helps Teddy understand social cues which is great, but more importantly, he has really helped Teddy understand that the things that don’t come easily are worth working to achieve. ~ Lara from www.laramolettiere.com
My son’s FLL coach is a mechanical engineer who loves his industry. His patient encouragement teaches the kids that it’s not only ok to be smart, but that it’s also ok if something doesn’t work and to try again. I see my son developing more patience than I ever imagined as he waits for his turn and is learning how to be a team player. I’ve watched as he has patiently allowed Jonathan to share his thoughts and ideas, without pushing him for more. As a result my 13 year old has learned to vocalize his thoughts more succinctly. ~ Renee from www.greatpeaceacademy.com
Your child’s need may be physical like Teddy’s, character building and social like Jonathan’s or artistic like Cait’s son. Or, they could be found in the trainyard like Trevor’s. The truth is, you never really know what’s going to come next for your brightest kiddos. That train-loving, engineer-minded, scientific kiddo of mine is a teen who meet regularly with his old buddies to talk trains, and is now taking apart and rebuilding old computers in our basement so he can manufacture better communication between the (and this is where he loses me…) parts, components, sections, whatever… on that huge epic train layout in Grandpa’s basement.
What about your family? Do your kids have mentors in any area? How did you find them? Are you still looking? If you’re the parent of a gifted or twice-exceptional kiddo, join over 6100 parents from around the world raising kids just like yours — quirky, different, smart, interested, inquisitive, and fun — in our group on Facebook Raising Poppies. We’d love to get to know you!
For more great posts about parenting your gifted kids, check these out:
Why It Stinks to Be Gifted in Schools TodayThe Gift of GiftednessRecognizing and Nurturing GiftednessIf He’s REALLY So Smart… When Gifted Kids StruggleDear Tired Mama of Gifted Kids…Navigating Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Kids
Find more posts like this on the GHF page.