Child stardom, fade to adult
Three former young phenoms discuss what parents can do to guide their exceptional offspring
Tatyana Ali, who starred in "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" with Will Smith, recalls being chased by fans. "We were terrified," Ali recalls, laughing. "We ran because we didn't know why they were doing it — it took a while to figure it out. It was like the big wake-up call that my life had changed." (Angela Weiss, Getty Images / February 12, 2012)
of the limelight
Sooner or later all child stars have to move on, but few as suddenly and unexpectedly as Tracy Austin.
At age 21, when she was the No. 2 women's player in the world, Austin experienced a back injury that, coupled with a later car accident, basically ended her career. The transition period was difficult, she says, but her parents, Jeanne and George, were supportive and the sense of balance and perspective that they had instilled served her well.
"You have to let go of what you had," when you move beyond an accomplished childhood, she says. "It's important to realize that it's something to be very proud of, but also to realize that it's in the past and to strive for something in the future."
She became a tennis commentator, most recently for the Tennis Channel, and threw herself into a consuming new endeavor: raising her three sons (now 15, 13 and 10) with her husband, Scott Holt.
"I raise my family with the same attitude that I played tennis: I try not to let anything slip through the cracks," she says. "Whether it's making sure that they're all academically sound, or do they play enough sports, or are they playing too many sports. I'm trying to make sure their lives are balanced. I want happy, well-adjusted kids."
Raising a star
These guidelines for parenting a gifted child are just part of the offerings on the website of the Macomb Intermediate School District in Clinton Township, Mich. It includes several articles and myriad resources for parents of high achievers. Go to misd.net/gifted.
Establish well-defined standards of discipline and conduct.
Do not let family life revolve around the gifted child.
Value the child for who he or she is, not just his or her accomplishments.
Help the child learn to manage the stress or tension they may experience over performance expectations.
Balance social experiences and solitary experiences. Avoid overscheduling activities or programs.