Free Spirit Publishing 1.800.735.7323

Bright, Complex Kids

Supporting Their Social and Emotional Development


Many bright and gifted kids do not feel understood or supported. For adults wanting to change that, Bright, Complex Kids provides guidance for gaining entrance to their internal world. This practical and easy-to-use field guide includes ideas for how and why to:
  • listen and respond
  • self-monitor adult biases
  • avoid communicating awe of high ability because of the potential impact on trust and openness
  • apply knowledge of learning disabilities
  • help high-ability children and teens make sense of themselves 
Well-known gifted experts Jean Sunde Peterson, Ph.D., and Daniel B. Peters, Ph.D., wrote Bright, Complex Kids to be an accessible short course for adults wanting to build a base of knowledge for understanding and supporting the social and emotional needs of highly able children and teens. From how adults can be involved to insights on the social and emotional development of bright kids, each chapter has a section with “points to ponder.”

Additional information is provided about characteristics, anxiety, perfectionism, resilience, underachievement, twice-exceptionality, and hidden distress to provide a picture of the whole child. A free downloadable PLC/Book Study Guide is available at
Read More


Paperback $34.99 85867 Paperback 85867 $34.99

View where you can purchase the eBook.

ISBN: 978-1-63198-586-7
Audience: Grades K–12 parents and guardians, grandparents, teachers, school administrators, directors, coaches, school and community counselors, school and other psychologists, professors, undergraduate and graduate students, youth program leaders, and others
Trim Size: 7.25" x 9.25"
Page Count: 152
Praise for Bright, Complex Kids

“Peterson and Peters have written a practical guide exploring the topics that are most important in learning about, and understanding, bright children. I always know a resource book is valuable when reading it makes me think about students I know and how it would help them make better sense of themselves. Educators, parents, and mental health professionals will learn more about what bright students need from us and can use ideas from this book to support and nurture increased self-awareness in gifted youth. The authors help us to discern pitfalls of misdiagnosing what it truly is that these young people need us to know about them, so that they may ‘be seen’ and thrive.”—Terry Bradley, M.A., gifted education consultant and past president, Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented
“In Bright, Complex Kids, gifted education experts Drs. Jean Sunde Peterson and Daniel B. Peters combine their vast experience and wisdom as practitioners and scholars to coauthor a fantastic resource for parents and others invested in understanding the unique social and emotional needs and concerns of high-ability youth. Engaging, informative, and practical, this book will surely be a favorite on the readers’ bookshelf. Filled with keen insights, useful suggestions and strategies, and relevant case examples that bring the content to life, Bright, Complex Kids is a treasure trove of information and truly a delight to read. I don’t like this book—I LOVE it!”— Michelle C. Muratori, Ph.D., senior counselor at Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and faculty associate at Johns Hopkins School of Education
“Great things happen when a well-respected scholar joins a clinical psychologist in collaborating on a project that involves a shared passion. Peterson and Peters have done just that. Through their insights, shared experiences, and scholarship, the authors bring a deep understanding of how to support the social and emotional development of highly able children and teens. Grounded in contemporary theory and research, filled with practical suggestions for teachers, counselors, and families, and delivered in an accessible writing style, Bright, Complex Kids will serve as an informative resource for all who work with children and teens with high ability.”—Thomas P. Hébert, Ph.D., professor, Gifted and Talented Education, University of South Carolina
Bright, Complex Kids is the book I have been waiting for! Written by two esteemed names in gifted education, this book shares with us combined treasures of wisdom from two colleagues who have grown a lasting friendship around both their shared and divergent experiences with bright and gifted children, adolescents, and adults. While predominantly a book for parents, any counselor, teacher or other caregiver will find this beautifully written and highly readable book full of helpful information, touching case studies, seasoned insight, and encouraging guidance for understanding and nurturing the bright and gifted they care about and love. Each chapter is a gem, and the combined work is an exceptionally rich and welcoming read. I cannot wait to tell my colleagues, friends, students and clients about this book!”—Debra Mishak, Ph.D., PSC, Winona State University, and private practitioner counseling gifted and talented teens and adults
Bright, Complex Kids is a gift to the field of gifted education. Within the pages of their book, Dr. Peterson and Dr. Peters offer educators, clinical professionals, and caregivers a masterful course in understanding and nurturing the affective needs of high-ability children. Their book is filled with gentle reminders and research-based strategies (many informed by their own research) that will help adults truly open themselves to learning about the complex nature of high ability. Through a nonjudgmental and strengths-focused approach, the authors guide adults in how to meaningfully engage and interact with high-ability children. They offer hands-on strategies that are intended not only to empower bright, complicated kids, but also the caring adults in their lives.”—Jennifer A. Ritchotte, Ph.D., associate professor, co-coordinator of Gifted & Talented Graduate Programs, and director of the Center for Gifted and Talented Education, University of Northern Colorado, and coauthor of Start Seeing and Serving Underserved Gifted Students
“Jean Peterson and Dan Peters have created an important book with practical advice for parents and teachers about authentically relating to gifted children and youth and helping them with their emotional issues. Bright, Complex Kids is a unique blend of the authors’ counseling and clinical insights, embedded in Jean Peterson’s stellar empirical research. The authors urge readers to learn from the children themselves and ‘embrace their awesome complexity.’ Highlights of the book are Jean’s Asset-Burden Paradox and Dan’s Worry Monster. This excellent resource should be in every doctor’s office and is recommended for parent book clubs.”—Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., licensed psychologist, founder, Gifted Development Center/ISAD
“Jean Peterson and Dan Peters have spent decades working with—and learning from—bright and complex kids. This book synthesizes their knowledge and compassionate understanding to provide insights into the hearts, minds, and experiences of these bright, talented, and creative youth. The two authors share stories from the lives of the children they have worked with, and they provide resources, recommendations, and guidance for those who know, care about, love—and sometimes are confounded by—them. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!”—Dr. Susan Daniels, cofounder and educational director of Summit Center, associate dean of Bridges Graduate School, and author of Visual Learning and Teaching

Download the PLC/Book Study Guide for the book:

  • ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success

    M 1, M 2, M 3, M 4, M 5, M 6, B-LS 1, B-LS 2,B-LS 4, B-LS 5, B-LS , B-LS 8, B-LS 9, B-SMS 1, B-SMS 2,B-SMS 6, B-SMS 7, B-SMS 8, B-SMS 9, B-SMS 10, B-SS 1, B-SS 2, B-SS 3, B-SS 6, B-SS 7, B-SS 8, B-SS 9, B-SS 10

Related Resources

Bright Complex Kids PLC / Book Study Guide
10 tools for developing talents in multiple areas, from academics to arts to athletics, in all kids
Help underserved gifted students claim their right to education that addresses their unique needs.
Recognize and support twice-exceptional / 2e students to help them succeed in school—and beyond.
Get Gifted Students Talking
Start Seeing and Serving Underserved Gifted Students
Teaching Gifted Kids 2018
Power of Self-Advocacy for Gifted Learners

Free Spirit’s monthly e-newsletter, Upbeat News, is full of practical tips, free downloads, and special offers. Sign up today!