Moving Onwards – Your Eight-Year-Old

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You might feel like an old hand as a parent, having watched your son progress from a tiny baby unable to roll over to a boy running everywhere, but he has some way to go before he’s ready to face the adult world and he still needs support from you.

His gross motor skills are getting better all the time and he may now have a preference for particular sports. It’s likely he’s 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 improve further.

He’s been making great 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 information drawn from different sources. If he’s struggling, taking the opportunity to link reading with his interests and giving him support and reassurance will give him 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 have a tendency to overestimate his ability leading to frustration when he fails; the key is to provide him 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 him about how to achieve his goals, getting qualifications or developing certain 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 giving him the opportunity to help others.

His social skills have developed though he’ll veer from being confident and independent with a clearly developed 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 bad behaviour is key to him learning to manage this for himself in the longer term. He’s 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 easily, 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 like embarrassment, guilt or shame but he’s better at talking about thoughts and feelings; this is a good time to teach him 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. He’ll still seek your support when he’s feeling emotional but he’ll be more circumspect and less likely to want to sit on your lap for a cuddle.

Parenting a child this age 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, 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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