At the moment we are trying our best to understand our crazy, beautiful, moody and delightful 8 year old daughter. Mostly it’s a pretty good age and we are enjoying our time with her however it’s always good to have more information on what to expect as we navigate through this year of her life. Hopefully the following information will be helpful for you too.
NB When reading this brief guide to understanding 8 year olds please remember that every child’s development is unique and complex and that the information below is a general guide to this stage of development.
Children at this age are beginning to identify themselves as athletic or un-athletic influencing their future involvement in sports and other activities. Try not to let them define themselves as un-athletic even though they may not be the greatest of athletes. Every young child will have a different kind of physical activity that they are more suited to, it’s just a matter of experimenting to find the right one for your son or daughter. Encourage them to engage in activities that make them feel positive and successful about their skills and abilities.
Some 8 year olds will become more aware of their body image, what they look like and how they compare to others.
They have improved small motor skills and control over small muscles, and their stamina and strength is increasing for activities that go for longer or over greater distances. Sewing and drawing in detail become accessible as do odd jobs around the house which involve their fine motor skills eg folding washing. Helping with these jobs give children a sense of satisfaction from contributing to the running of the house. Earning pocket money for these tasks can tie into a developing interest in money at this age.
This period in a child’s life is an excellent time for parents to instill healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. By teaching an 8-year-old what choices to make to have a balanced diet, and how to limit unhealthy choices, parents can set a foundation to help your child stay strong and healthy for all of their life.
Sleep is always important no matter what age and for the 8 year old it is recommended that they get 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night. Screens before bedtime and also any caffeine such a chocolate and even too much sugar too close to bed should be avoided as it can make it more difficult for them to fall asleep.
Educational & Intellectual
Fundamental reading skills are being established and reading may become a major interest. They will become much more developed in their comprehension and meaning making skills so books become more interesting. Children at 8 are moving from learning to read to reading to learn, becoming obsessed with certain series of books they enjoy. It’s a good idea to take some time at this age to help them find a series of books they really enjoy reading.
They will begin to feel competent in certain skills and have preferences for some activities and subjects. Also they may get frustrated easily doing activities they perceive are an area of weakness for them (we know that one all too well!!).
Their level of concentration for certain activities will be increasing with some being able to concentrate on a particular subject or task for an hour or more. This will be for those things they find particularly interesting and that suit their skills and abilities.
8 year olds are seeking to understand the reason for things as they move from concrete to abstract thinking and are looking for opportunities to solve problems independently. To be honest though sometimes our miss 8 will need some encouragement to solve problems independently as she can get frustrated easily. Our challenge is to learn to live with her of level frustration and help her process it constructively and come up with her own solutions rather than relying on us to fix it.
Emotions & Relationships
Children at this age are learning how to relate to peers and adjust to social rules. They are beginning to understand the concept of masking emotions, hiding their frustration at something or sadness. 8 year olds begin to travel in groups with girls tending to pair off with a close friend within the group. Boys have less close relationships but tend to identify with a group. Because close bonds and friendships are forming so is social cruelty and bullying. Children at age 8 begin to develop the ability to understand the intent behind an action or choice, they are therefore becoming capable of meanness and the exclusion of others. To a certain extent this is normal behaviour and part of them learning how to understand power and relationships, so rather than protecting our children from these situations we need to help them learn how to deal with it while monitoring and offering help and support when required.
Age 8 is often when peer pressure is coming into play because of the possibility of inclusion or exclusion from ‘the group’. This increased understanding of group can translate over to an interest in team sports which can be important for their social and physical development.
The Internet, Social Media and Technology
Part of their development of independence at this age will involve the use of technology, whether it be ipads, computers or even their own smart phones if they have them. Particularly the increase in their understanding of ‘the group’, social interactions and peer pressure will mean keeping up with all of the other kids and what technology they are using. There is some ideas below on what to think about when parenting in this space.
This age group is increasingly motivated by money and it can become an obsession as it is a relatively new concept. They are beginning to understand its value in getting what they want. Take advantage of this interest in money to talk about the value of money, saving, and achieving goals. It’s a good time for them to start paying for, or contributing to paying for, their own things if they want them eg rollerblades, skateboards, technology.
Parenting an 8 year old
Lastly here are a few key actions to consider when parenting your child at this age:
- Talk to them about peer pressure and how to negotiate it.
- Listen and discuss any concerns they have about friendships and school performance.
- Develop their morals, why are some things wrong or right?
- Recognise your child’s need for privacy at some level.
- While parents should respect their child’s request for privacy, there are some matters, such as what they are doing online or conflicts with friends, that should be handled with a parent’s guidance, monitoring, and support.
- Technology is a really important place in which to set boundaries and set them up for a life ahead of healthy engagement. Things to consider include how much time they are spending, or are allowed to spend on technology. What they are allowed to watch or look at. Where they are allowed to use it eg in their rooms, out in the open with parent supervision, at friends houses. One important thing to remember is that all of your children’s friend’s parents will have their own unique boundaries around technology use, and they will probably be different to yours. Make sure your children are clear on what your expectations are.