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Oct 15 2010

Book review: Emotional Intensity by Christine Fonseca

So, you may have heard me mention a time or two, perhaps in passing, that I have an emotionally intense son.

(And…the winner for Understatement Of The Year, Blog Edition…goes to…Jen! From Laughing at Chaos!!! <the crowd goes wild>)

Yes, it’s true. I have an emotionally intense nine year old. And husband. And self. The jury is still out on the six year old and the dog, but I suspect they’re considerably more of the “dude, what’s the deal?” variety. I really feel for J; he’s the only second born in a house of Type A first born children.

For years I have desperately wanted a hotline, a counselor, a book, anything, that could help me with A. He is not in any parenting book, magazine, or website. He’s kinda sorta in gifted books, but I needed answers on how to parent him, not further descriptions of the hell I was already living. Finally, five years after I was convinced A was going to be the death of me (no, I hadn’t yet learned that red wine was a necessity for raising gifted kids), the book I needed is here.

Christine Fonseca has written “Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope With Explosive Feelings” as a guidebook for parents and teachers. We know what we’re living with, we need help in raising them. Too often intensity is diagnosed as a disorder (think ADHD or ODD), instead of viewed as an integral part of the wiring that makes up giftedness.

The book is broken up into three sections. Part one deals with what it means to be gifted. If you have a gifted child, or have read any other gifted books, you likely know most of this. You’ll nod your head as you read, but wonder where the hell the help is. Dude, it’s coming. The book needs this refresher; not everyone coming to it has as strong as background in giftedness as others. It’s a strong section, and allows the reader to see giftedness and intensity in three different characters.

The second section is all “super, but what do I dooooo???” (Actually, it’s titled something very similar). And, yes, here we start to get into the nitty gritty of WHAT THE HOLY HELL DO I DO WITH MY EMOTIONALLY INTENSE GIFTED CHILD? What, you don’t think that on a hourly daily basis? Just me? Wow. Who knew? Anyhoo, this is where I started underlining passages and folding down corners. No stained pages yet, but that’s because I was reading in the middle of the afternoon and there was no wine around. This section deals with the groundwork that can and must be created during calm times. Oh, do I do this? Uh…no. Mainly because I like to pretend during the calm times that all is well. I also think unicorns poop glitter, but that’s a story for another day. Here I started seeing how we could create a framework on which to build coping strategies. This framework would then help us when all hell breaks loose. And yes, it will all break loose, no matter how desperately I wished I had a glitter-pooping unicorn instead. Within each chapter in this section are suggestions for teachers, but the most help for me, as a parent, are the worksheets and tip sheets. They are sprinkled throughout the chapters, and whoa Nellie, am I glad they are here. Little snippets to remind you of what to do or what to say to help you with your intense kid.

The third section was the best. Like homemade buttercream frosting on top of a decadent chocolate gluten-free cupcake, this was my favorite part. And…now I want a cupcake. But I digress. The third section was WHAT TO DO IN THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT. Dude, this is what I needed years ago. My only concern with this section is that it deals with school-aged kids, when I needed the help with much younger children. My best suggestion is to learn here and adapt as best you can to your particular situation. Get professional help if need be…but that’s my advice for any age. So why did I appreciate the third part so much? Two words: role playing. It teaches parents (and teachers) how to become the child’s coach, and guides them through a meltdown/inappropriate behavior or response. Several scenarios are presented with full dialogue. The confrontations are broken down, shown where things went wrong, and then reintroduced with dialogue that guides parent and child to a more effective conclusion. I wanted to take this section out to dinner, buy it a drink, and gush all over it about how big a fan I am. Words. Scenarios. Situations. Improvements. I can’t stress enough how big of a deal this is for me. I have always felt that I lacked the ability to guide A through various intense situations, and that if I could do that then he would have far fewer meltdowns. And that he could learn from them. This helps me help him. The suggestions in this section rely upon the framework built in the second section, so don’t skip over that work during the calm times. Jen, I’m talking to you here. You can have a decadent chocolate gluten-free cupcake if you do the work during the calm times. Good? Good.

All in all, I big puffy heart loved this book. I would have loved it if I had found it browsing the local bookstore, desperately trying to find The Answers. I want to get this book for anyone who has a relationship with an intense gifted kid; this includes teachers, grandparents, and the random person on the street who has seen my kid lose his shit in public. Gifted kids are wired so differently that it’s difficult to explain to people who don’t have one. They are hard to raise. Advanced Parenting, prerequisite not available. Christine recognized that and wrote this fantastic book on how we can guide our kids to helping themselves. I plan to read it again, then hand it to Tom to memorize (please God, let him see some techniques to help talk himself down off the ledge), and then maybe tattoo the entire contents into my eyelids. This is what I’ve been looking for since A was four and I wasn’t sure I was going to let him live to see five. If you have or teach or know a gifted child, “Emotional Intensity” needs to be on your shelf.

Don’t forget, all comments (including ones on this post) from Christine’s blog tour will be entered into a big honkin’ drawing for a signed book and some cool gifted swag.

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And to all those who worry about these sorts of things, I received an Advance Reading Copy of “Emotional Intensity” to prepare for this review. Again, I would have purchased a copy regardless, as I have known of the coming of this book for several months. Doing the blog tour was awesome, and getting the book was just the buttercream icing on the decadent chocolate gluten-free cupcake. Mmmm…cupcake…

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  1. melissaz

    I so needed this last night…

    Thanks! When do I get my copy? 🙂 You mean I have to actually buy one? Oh well…
    melissaz recently posted…Maybe later…My Profile

    1. Jen

      I know, I know, hon. Order the book, get it from Prufrock. Everywhere else is backordered. It’ll be ok. Just remind me I said that when A loses it again.

  2. Michelle McLean

    Okay, this is by far my favorite review of Christine’s book…and that is including my own. LOL You hit every single nail right on the head with this one. It’s an incredible book.

    And I’m still peeing my pants over the unicorns pooping glitter LOL

    1. Jen

      LOL! Glad you liked it! 🙂 I think I’m going to sit down and read it again this weekend, this time taking notes and making plans.
      And, tell the truth, YOU want a pooping glitter unicorn too! 😉

  3. Sarah

    Coulda used this yesterday….. M had a very M day. No other way to say it then that! Adding that to my amazon want basket (on top of many other books on how to work with M).

    1. Jen

      Order it from Prufrock, Amazon is backordered several weeks. It’s a fantastic book. And I’d let you borrow mine, but I think you need to own it (LOL) and frankly, I’m planning on memorizing this sucker over the next several weeks. LOL

  4. Monica

    Jen,
    Great review of the book! So looking foward to my copy that I ordered a few days ago from Prufrock Press. You made me seriously want a cupcake…love the buttercream frosting. 🙂
    Thanks and please share your experiences as you use the book.

    1. Jen

      Well, there ain’t nuttin’ like fresh homemade buttercream frosting. LOL! Let me know how you like the book, and how it works as you implement her strategies!

  5. Benoit

    🙂

  6. Rasing Smart Girls

    I keep hearing good things about this book, and I think your review is really excellent. I actually teared up reading it…because I know how hard it can be raising these intense children. To hold in your hand a key to helping your child is priceless.

    I hope to hear how things go as you implement the techniques with your family.

    Peace,

    Casey
    Rasing Smart Girls recently posted…CannedMy Profile

    1. Jen

      Thanks Casey. It really is a remarkable book. I think I’m going to crack it open again this weekend and read it again in greater depth. I truly believe it’s going to help us with our incredibly intense son (and husband). LOL

  7. Sally_L

    I so like the idea that intensity does not equate to a disorder. Off to make a purchase, thanks for sharing.

    1. Jen

      It took a LONG time for us to finally conclude that intensity isn’t a disorder. Wish we’d known it earlier, but at least we know now. These kids are just wired differently, that’s ok, and it’s our job to help them navigate it all. Hope you enjoy the book!

  8. HeatherS

    I think I need this book right now. My son is busily melting down in his room after a day of hanging off me during his field trip while complaining of being too tired to walk, melting down on the computer over math problems that I think were designed for 8th graders, then hitting his dad after attacking his brother over pieces from our Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit game. Mercy! And all this with a desperate need to just lie on the couch and have no sensory input for myself.

    1. Jen

      Yeah, sounds like this might be a good fit for you. 😉

  9. Amy

    Hi Jen,
    Just got home from Bunco (a.k.a. drinking) and I am soooo glad to see this post. Took my 3 to the zoo today and as predicted we were 25min. late meeting our friends because they played the drama card on me over what to wear, how to do their hair, and whether or not it was necessary to brush their teeth. D couldn’t find his sneakers and refused to wear his Keens, so I settled for the flip flops. Instead of getting in the car to depart, they insisted on finishing some LEGO creations and ignored me blatantly to my face. If I hadn’t promised we’d meet someone there, I would have canned the trip right then. Finally…I did the unthinkable. I lost my cookies and screamed at them in a way that gave me instant regret. Guilt, powerlessness, shame, bad mommy. It doesn’t take much to figure where the intensity comes from…it’s certainly not my husband. After many apologies I am feeling a little less guilty – but acutely aware that I need more help for those times when I am at the breaking point. (Luckily, they are few & far between, but getting harder to control lately.) I was going to re-read Setting Limits With Your Strong Willed Child, but I think I’ll order Christine’s book now. My mother in law was just in town and told me she’s very concerned about K’s sassy & rude attitude. She has no clue. I used to wonder if the defiance was ODD, but it’s almost certainly not. He’s just intense…like me.

    1. Jen

      Oh hon. I’m so sorry. Gotta say, though that I really can’t imagine you losing it. You’re so laid back. 😉 But I totally know where you’re coming from! BTDT, have the battle scars. Get the book; I suspect it would help. At the very least, it’d make you realize you’re not alone!

  10. PinkStuff28

    Sound good

  11. Sherrie Petersen

    Don’t enter me — I already have a copy of this book. But like you, I was SO happy to get this book in my hands because *unlike* you, I had no idea what the deal was with my 10 yo. Christine is now my angel. I’m so thankful to have this resource.
    Sherrie Petersen recently posted…Book Review- Across The Universe by Beth RevisMy Profile

    1. Jen

      Well…we kinda knew what was going on, but had NO idea how to cope with it, how to parent it! We’re better now, but dang…still so glad to have this book!

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