Former "A" Student Now Unpopular and Failing

A dramatic change in a gifted teen's academic performance and emotional state should be a red flag.
Our 16-year-old daughter used to be self-motivated and got straight A's all through eighth grade. She is also a gifted musician who plays three instruments. She is, however, in the unpopular group of kids and has felt alienated and picked-on by the popular cliques. Ninth grade was a nightmare for her and she got D's and F's.

She is now in tenth grade, is still intensely uncomfortable in classes, and is ruining her chances of better grades by not passing in work or passing it in late and by "tuning out" in class. She is begging to be homeschooled, but her psychiatrist is against it (so am I). I have taken away her Internet privileges to help limit distractions, but I don't know what else to do.

It's heartbreaking to see a child who was doing so well have so much difficulty now. I also am opposed to homeschooling in this situation. Homeschooling is a great path for many students, but I suspect your daughter thinks that staying home would permit her to psychologically withdraw even more. You mention her psychiatrist, so I assume your daughter is receiving help for her problems. She sounds depressed and anxious. Is she receiving medication, and if so is it the right one for her?

I hope her counselor has experience in working with the gifted. Gifted kids in trouble can be very skilled in convincing us how their problem is caused by others. In truth, your daughter must learn to deal with -- or ignore -- her detractors and go forward, focusing on her strengths and interests.

Taking away too many privileges will depress her even more. Why not offer a certain amount of Internet time in exchange for completed homework or extra study time? The focus right now must be on intensive counseling for her. She will not respond effectively if she is too depressed. I am referring you to the national organization SENG, Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted. They have helpful information for kids in your daughter's situation. Good luck.

Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.

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