Is Your Eight-Year-old Full of Angst?
The Emotional Development of an 8-year-old
The emotional development of an 8-year-old can look very different than when your child is 7-years-old. Your easy going child may begin to be stubborn. Your fearless child may all of a sudden be full of fears and your social butterfly may begin to have problems with their classmates.
We are not telling you this to make you fearful. It may not happen with your child and if it does, recognizing that it is a developmental stage can help you navigate your way through this time.
What is the social-emotional development of an 8-year-old?
Remember that when we talk about 8-year-olds that all children are unique and can hit their milestones at different times so your child may be younger or older and that’s okay. Also, some children breeze through this stage and you may not really notice a change. The ages of 4-7 have been called the age of innocence, where magic is a reality and lies are really wishes. Then the hormones begin to change. There is a neurological shift in brain development. The 8-year-old is not as innocent as they used to be.
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A New Awareness
This is the time when children begin to be more aware of the world around them. This brings many wondrous changes. Your child may become more independent, more capable, they may start to excel in their areas of interest. It can also bring on angst. After all, our children need to segue from being little kids to being big kids and change can be difficult. Being a big kid means becoming a citizen of the world they inhabit. This is the time when children really yearn to belong and fit in. Social and behavior problems can bloom during this time. Children are just trying to figure out their identity and how that measures up in their environment. However, they still lack the sophisticated language skills needed to talk about their feelings on a deeper level so what they are feeling often comes out in their actions and reactions.
Tips for Parents
- Have a set routine that your family follows. During times of change children particularly crave structure and firm boundaries.
- “This is an important age for children to develop their sense of competence in what they set out to do.” Give them tasks to do where they can feel that they accomplished something on their own.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise! Physical movement is a good way for all of us to work out some of our angst.
- Going along with tip #3, sign your child up for a sports team. This is a good time for them to learn how to work with others and it will appeal to their desire to belong and help build self-confidence.
- Be patient and be careful not to over-react. When my daughter started waking up in the middle of the night wanting attention I didn’t feel all that kindly about being woken up. For our family, the solution was to make a cozy sleeping spot for her in our room that she could creep into in the middle of the night. This lasted a few months until the stage passed.
- Talk about and model kindness toward others.
- Write about it! Journals are a fantastic way to help children build their language skills and express their thoughts.
- Talk to your child about their day so you can be aware of any possible conflicts with their peers at school.
- Teach them about perspective taking. If they can understand another person’s point of view they are likely to be more empathetic.
- Give them activities to do that allow them to get their frustration out.
- Spend some time exploring emotions and feelings. The more they understand, the better they can handle their own wave of alternating feelings.
- Practice positive parenting. Tell your child what you want them to do rather than focusing on the negative behavior.
- Have a sense of humor. It can save your sanity.
More Resources for the Developmental Milestones of Eight-Year-Olds
- The Emotional Lives of 8-10-Year-Olds. Crushes and bullying are not uncommon during this age. Learn what else to expect.
- Supporting Social & Emotional Development in Kids Ages 8-11. Fostering social and emotional development in kids ages 8-11 is incredibly important.
- Symptoms of Emotional Development Delay in an 8-Year Old Child. Middle childhood marks a threshold in the development of your child’s self-esteem.
- Developmental Milestones: Middle Childhood (6-8 years of age) Here is some more information on how children develop during middle childhood.
Do you have any stories about your eight-year-old? We would love to hear about your experiences and any tips on how you helped your child breeze through this stage.