Moving Onwards – Your Eight-Year-Old

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You might feel like an old hand as a parent, having watched your son or daughter progress from a tiny baby unable to roll over to a boy or girl running everywhere, but they have some way to go before they’re ready to face the adult world and they still need support from you.

Your child’s gross motor skills are getting better all the time, and he may now have a preference for particular sports. He’s likely taking more risks, especially when out of sight, and a safety talk might be in order. His fine motor skills are improving, with his drawing and model-making becoming more realistic and detailed. Practicing both gross and fine motor skills will help him progress further.

Your eight-year-old has been making significant progress with his cognitive skills and will want to tackle problems on his own before he asks for help. He’s reading more confidently and reads books to find information and not just for the pleasure of a good tale. He can create detailed and entertaining stories using data drawn from different sources. If your child is struggling, taking the opportunity to link reading with his interests and giving him support and reassurance will provide him with the extra boost he needs. His writing is more legible and will continue to get better. His numeracy skills are at the point where he can readily identify patterns, translate simple word problems into number sentences, and use a variety of strategies to solve problems with three digits or less. He’ll also be able to count to 1,000.

His confidence has grown, but he may tend to overestimate his ability, leading to frustration when he fails. The key is to provide your child with realistic challenges, focus on what he has achieved, and reassure him that no one gets everything right. He’ll be thinking about the future and understanding more about his place in the world; he might even know what he wants to do when he’s older. Talking to your eight-year-old about how to achieve his goals, getting qualifications, or developing specific skills will help give him focus. You may see the beginnings of a social conscience, whether it’s a concern for the environment, the plight of refugees or world poverty, and you can encourage this by allowing him to help others.

At the age of eight, your child’s social skills have also developed, though he’ll veer from being confident and independent with a sense of self-worth to sensitive, overly dramatic and self-critical. His temperament is changeable too, and he may be rude, bossy, curious, demanding, giggly, and silly all in the same day. You’ll need to allow the negative emotions, but setting limits on poor behavior is key to him learning to manage this for himself in the long term. Your child is more of a team player now even while he struggles with being a good loser. Being accepted by friends is important, and he’ll make new ones quickly, though it can be tricky keeping up with the politics of his relationships. He might become less interested in family activities, which is something you’ll need to live with.

He’s starting to feel some of the “big” emotions such as embarrassment, guilt or shame, but he’s better at talking about thoughts and feelings; this is an excellent time to teach your child to value himself and give him strategies to make things right and forgive himself. He’ll start to understand the other person’s point of view more as well the concept of masking emotions. Your child will still seek your support when he’s feeling emotional, but he’ll be more cautious and less likely to want to sit on your lap for a cuddle.

Parenting a child at the age of eight can give you new challenges, but maintaining the habits you’ve developed over the last few years—showing affection, recognizing effort and achievement, setting and sticking to clear boundaries, and encouraging patience and respect towards others—will give your son the foundation he needs to continue progressing towards a healthy, happy adulthood.

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