133: Advocating for the Needs of Intensely Gifted Kids with Jen Torbeck Merrill

If you’re the parent of a gifted or twice-exceptional child, then you know the struggles that come with the territory. Parents need a voice and an advocate, and today’s guest promises to be that voice--the one screaming out for the needs of these amazing kids.

Jen Torbeck Merrill is an Illinois-based writer and gifted family advocate who is the mom of two teen sons. She homeschools one, but happily sends the other off to public school every morning. Her book, If This Is A Gift, Can I Send it Back: Surviving in the Land of the Gifted and Twice-Exceptional, struck a nerve with families who suspected Jen was living in their closet. Her second book, on the needs of gifted parents and self-care, is in progress. Jen is a Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Ambassador and is slated to be one of the SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted) Conference keynote speakers at their annual convention in Houston this July. She intends to support the parents of gifted and twice-exceptional kids because they are the ones doing the heavy lifting and are too often ignored, patronized, and discredited. She hopes that her sons never have to deal with these issues when they raise their own likely gifted children. I first encountered Jen when we contributed to the Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hops together, and I was always delighted with the humor and relatability in her writing. I’m excited to see her next book come out! Jen is also teaming up with past EI guests Kate Arms and Chris Wells to put on a series of webinars for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children.

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Show Highlights:

  • Jen’s life as a musician, reluctant homeschooling mom, teacher, writer, and parents’ advocate

  • How Jen is intensely passionate about life, screaming for the needs of these amazing gifted and twice-exceptional kids for the past 14 years

  • How Jen was/is characterized as “tightly wound,” overly stressed, emotionally intense, and strong willed

  • How she never recognized her own intensities and strengths until she learned them from raising her kids

  • How she grew up in a diverse community with people of all ethnicities and backgrounds

  • Why Jen wanted to be average as a teenager and “not stand out”

  • How Jen’s intensity gets out of control sometimes, when she’s not taking care of herself, not sleeping well, and taking on too many projects

  • How she uses vulnerability and honesty in her writing

  • When parents AND their kids are profoundly gifted

  • How Jen uses her fire for good in helping other parents

  • Why it’s easy to discount the things that come to us easily

  • Harnessing the power of intensity by being aware that the power actually exists

  • How specific aspects of her intensity have made her a better writer and musician

  • How personal habits have helped Jen harness her intensity

  • How Jen embraces her “subtle arrogance”

  • The best advice she’s ever received (even though she typically doesn’t listen to others’ advice): “Your book is good; you should write another one.”

  • Two books that have helped Jen: Giftedness 101 by Linda Silverman and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

  • How Jen helps others use their fire by modeling hers

  • Why she wants parents to trust themselves and believe in themselves


Find Jen:  Laughing At Chaos

Find Laughing At Chaos on Facebook and Twitter

Giftedness 101 by Linda Silverman

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson