My eldest daughter is 7 years old, turning 8 in July. We have now entered into a whole new phase, the 7 & 8 year old phase. This is an extremely emotional phase in a child’s life. Trust me! After doing some research [read: crying into my wine to my friends] and interviewing parents who are currently going through this, or have already been through it, I have discovered that whether they are a 7 year old girl, or an 8 year old boy, or somewhere in between, there seem to be a typical pattern of [irrational] behaviour that they all have. The 7 & 8 year old phase is emotional, to put it politely.

How To Spot The Signs Of An Emotionally Charged 7 & 8 Year Old Child

Here are some of the typical behaviour you can expect from your child during this very emotional time in their life.

  • Without provocation or warning, your child will have an emotional meltdown of epic proportions.
  • They could become extremely sensitive to … everything.
  • Their ability to process their emotions manifests itself in the form of a tantrum that any three year old would be proud of.
  • They become extremely aware of their looks and physical appearance, but are not able to process the outcome of this, and so just appear weird.
  • A sudden urge to be independent and ‘grown up’, but they aren’t quite there yet.
  • They think they know everything, and quite often then can back up their arguments with a very profound argument which will leave you speechless.

It’s tough for parents too!

The parents of these children have never been more unprepared in all their years of parenting. And have never felt more worthless or inept at their job. That includes the newborn phase, because let’s face it, the newborn can’t tell you you’re rubbish, but the 7 year old can and does.

One thing that I think that doesn’t get enough air time, is the fact that everything that happens with your first child, is your first time experiencing as well. I might have a teenage bonus daughter, but she didn’t live with me when she was this age so I didn’t experience the full range of emotions that my eldest daughter is going through. This is my first time parenting a 7 year old. And let me tell you, it’s hit us all … hard!

Parents of children going through this 7 & 8 year old phase can be identified by the constant frustrated or bewildered look on their face, and [in my case anyway] bottles of wine in the fridge.

They Tried To Warn Me

A couple of years ago I was chatting with some friends and as the conversation with moms often goes, we were comparing notes about our kids and their phases. I was bemoaning the difficulty of a four year old child [aka the fournado], and saying how much easier I was finding my 6 year old compared to her! I clearly remember three of my friends who all had slightly older children, warning me that 7 and 8 year old phase was extremely rough. More so emotionally for the child.

I didn’t dismiss this information. Instead I filed it away in the recesses of my mom brain. It wasn’t relevant to me at the time, but I am long past the stage of dismissing advice from those I trust who have been there and done it already. Motherhood has effectively broken down any ignorant arrogance I may once have had, and I now realise that I don’t know everything, and I haven’t been there and done it all yet. In this situation it was important for me to take on board the advice of three very different moms.

Our present day reality of parenting a 7 year old girl.

Roll forward … and I’m right there, in the thick of it!

Living with my 7 year old daughter is exactly what I imagine living with a ticking time bomb is like. She’s never been an easy child, but without going on again about the struggles of parenting a strong willed child, let me just say that this is different.

For years her sensory processing issues have resulted in major drama and raging screaming matches between her and I. [No, I’m not a perfect parent.] I thought I was used to it. These were mostly related to clothing: she would rather freeze to death than wear layers of appropriate clothing. *Give me strength*

But since she turned 7, these frustrated rants from her have taken a completely different form.

The 7 & 8 Year Old Phase is different!

Instead of having a meltdown because of the way things feel physically, it’s now all about how she feels emotionally. And let me tell you a 3 year old’s tantrum because her tights feel weird on her has nothing on a 7 year old’s emotional meltdown about how “everyone hates me, why is it always my fault?”, all because I asked her to pick up her laundry. I mean, it is insane!!

And nothing, NOTHING, prepares you for it. Seriously! Dealing with a 6 year old, is probably the easiest phase of parenting I found. Just when you start to feel like you might have cracked this parenting gig, along comes the 7 year old phase, and you are completely blindsided, and reminded that in fact, you don’t know anything! And if you don’t think that, don’t worry, your 7 year old will tell you just that.

Wails of … “You don’t know what it’s like” or “you’ve never had to do that before in your life”, are weekly occurrences in our house.

I Was Blindsided, she’s only 7 years old.

It was during one of these breakdowns that floored me out of nowhere that the fuzzy recesses of my mom brain remembered the conversation I’d had with my friends and I began to look at her behaviour in a different light. It wasn’t just her. Maybe it was an emotional development stage she was going through.

Then I posted this picture on Instagram, and after all the comments on it, I knew it wasn’t just my child. There were many many parents out there all struggling to figure out what the hell was going on with my child.

Parenting Advice from Actual Parents

So I decided to ask some of the lovely people who had commiserated with me about the 7 and 8 year old phase that our children are going through. One of the best things about this discovery too was that it’s not just a 7 or 8 year old girl thing. It seems that 7 year old and 8 year old boys seem to be struggling just as much as girls. I’m not saying I’m happy that they are struggling, however I am excited to learn that at this age, there really is no difference between boys and girls.

Here’s what they had to say about it:

LeAndre from Spirited Mama

One of the original friends who warned me about this was LeAndre who blogs at Spirited Mama. Leandre is a South African mommy blogger who is one of the most honest, real and kind people I know. When I thought about who I could ask to contribute to this post, she was of course top of the list. Her advice is … just perfect.

So far, 8 must’ve been my most difficult year to navigate. With their ever changing bodies and minds, their emotions are all over the place. And so is yours Mama. As your child evolves, so too do you as the parent. What worked yesterday might be the worst thing for them today. You’ve just got to roll with the punches. Try keeping a positive attitude and mindset as this will set the tone and be an example for them. Remember they are only 8 years old. Suddenly they are no longer “babies” but they’re also not grown up either. It’s a grey area. 

As a parent, I expect my kid to be at a certain phase in his life and handle situations maturely but then I have to remind myself that although my child is no longer a baby; he is still only a child. Try to understand that the problems they are facing are a huge deal to them. Recognise that they have real issues, albeit unrealistic to you.

To them it is a big deal.

Be empathetic. Do not give them a solution. Rather coach them in finding a solution. It is in these trying times that they tend to lash out probably out of frustration. Be there and remind them that you are there for the. Love them in those moments as this IS when they NEED you the most!
I’m sending you love and strength as I know that this is no easy task. But remember that this too shall pass

Thank you LeAndre. This is so caring, and I love the reminder you give to coach them through it. That’s our parenting job right now, which is different to what it used to be when we were there to do it all for them. Now we need to guide them on how to do it themselves … even if they ‘know everything’ themselves already!

Benny from Daddy Poppins

Benny is a no nonsense, say it like he means it Daddy Blogger from Ireland with a brilliant sense of humour and an honest and appreciative outlook on parenting from a Stay-At-Home-Dad’s perspective!

My advice: Strap yourself in and brace yourself for impact. You’re about to deal with a ‘mini you’. All those times your parents called you difficult or commented on your behavior as a kid will genetically come home to roost. You may even pick up the phone and tell them you love them you are sorry for what you put them through and they’ll smile and nod, knowingly. They are witnessing ‘parental karma’.

Ok, now for the real advice: just be there. It’s difficult being 7/8 in today’s world. There’s all the worries you had at that age plus so much more. Technological advances and the fast pace of life has put additional stresses and strains on our preteens. Understand that you are the parent, but be their friend too. Be someone they can turn to and don’t fly off the handle (I know, sometimes it’s easier said than done). If you didn’t lose it over X then they’re more likely to come to you about Y. Be open and honest, even if it’s difficult at times. Communication is key! Make sure they know that the line is always open and life will be so much easier in the future.

Thanks Benny. That’s not exactly what I wanted to hear, because she’s been called a mini-me from the day she was born, except for her tantrums. But maybe the over-emotional, fly off the handle acorn didn’t fall too far from this proverbial tree.

Sonia from Mamma’s School.

Sonia is a British expat raising her three children in Sweden. She has an older daughter, and then twins. Sonia’s blog is all about getting outdoors with your kids, no matter the weather. If you are considering heading to Sweden on holiday you must check out her blog, and her Instagram is amazing!!

I feel there is an intensity of emotion that kicks in around this time, but they do not have the rationality to deal with it.  It is almost like their hormones and bodies are taking over and their brain can not keep up.  The despair end of the scale is raw and distraught, and our usually calm and kind little lady has been known to slam the door in my face saying I can never possibly understand.

I was not prepared for this at 8 years old, more 13 or 14 years old.  Now she is 11 I am getting used to the fact it is here to stay for a while.  Also she started becoming so self conscious. Again I was surprised at how early this happened.  Anything from sheep poop on her winter boots and then not wanting to take them to school (what will the others think), to her brown hair on her arms (all the girls in her class are blonde so she feels she sticks out more).  

She does not have a phone or an iPad, we rarely have the tv on, and she is not exposed to social media. So all those potential influences are off the table.  This has come completely from inside her, somewhere deep down. I feel desperately sad that her carefree days of chucking on a swim suit and leaping in the sea without first getting rid of leg and arm hair seem to be over . At such an early age to lose that sense of carefreeness is very sad.  

Last summer was 25-30 degrees everyday for four months (yes even in Sweden!) and I could find her in leggings and a jumper if it was a school day.  When we went to Spain for 2 weeks I omitted to pack those items and she was fine…..it was just us and strangers and people she’d never met and wouldn’t meet again. It was so lovely to see her carefree for those two weeks again.

Thanks Sonia. I agree. My daughter seems to have also lost her carefree attitude especially when it comes to the way she looks. She refuses to wear anything ‘pretty’ because she doesn’t want people to pay too much attention to her, opting instead for basic jeans and a black hoodie. I wish she would realise just how beautiful she is. I wish she wouldn’t worry so much about what other people think of her.

Lauren From Calm Family

Lauren is a South African mom who has lived in the UK for many years. She runs amazing parenting classes and programs in York all about Gentle Parenting and calm families. We recently met in person and it was so lovely to meet someone who I instantly felt comfortable around. What’s even better is that our kids all got on so well too. Especially the older two, my daughter and her son are both 7. It was really great to be able to talk to someone about all these issues. It was this conversation that made me want to get this post written down. Because it’s not just us. It’s all of them. So many of the things we were saying applied to both the 7 year old girl and the 7 year old boy.

I expected raising children to get easier as they got older. I was wrong. It isn’t! I’ve found raising a 7 year old most challenging of all. Maybe it’s their increasing need for independence (and the associated ‘spirited’ behaviour) or their newfound ability to show off in the most mortifying of ways. Those things are pretty tough to deal with but, secretly, the thing I think I find the most difficult is the lack of control I have as they get older. My son will be 8 in a month and I cannot control him. Sometimes he acts in ways that completely stress me out. He is smart, outspoken, passionate, strong willed and driven – things I’ve proudly taught him and encouraged in him.

There’s the back chat, the moodiness, the refusal to do things you ask. As well as the emotional outbursts, the dramatics and the moaning. Oh, the moaning! I sometimes feel like nothing I ever do is good enough. The simplest of tasks involve an argument. And I’m talking to him about his behaviour far more than I do his little sister.

Then I remind myself that he’s still only a child. He is learning and growing. His behaviour always tells me something. Either that he’s lacking in a skill and needs some guidance or that something is up. Often, that ‘something’ is that he’s feeling disconnected from me and needs some extra empathy and time. Children at this age are capable of sensible, caring behaviour. However, that doesn’t mean we can expect it from them ALL THE TIME. Things like hunger, tiredness, earlier emotional upset, insecurity and so much more can impact their behaviour massively.

The thing that I find works really well in parenting a 7 year old (and children of all ages for that matter) is connection. The best way to discipline a child is to teach them, NOT to punish them. Children who feel a strong bond with you will WANT to behave (if they can). So working on the relationship is key. One to one time every day with them is a great way to start. Read, chat, play a game, go for a walk, giggle (rough and tumble play is a fantastic way to get laughter in). All of these things are a great way to strengthen the bond.

The other thing that is simple, but magic is validating and empathising with their feelings. Listen to what they’re feeling and offer them comfort. You don’t need to agree with the behaviour or their feelings, for that matter, but you can let them know that you understand how they’re feeling and allow them to feel it. Empathy and connection are always parenting winners in my book.

Thank Lauren. I am definitely going to take this advice on board. The reminder that they are struggling to process their emotions is also one that I need to remind myself of. And yes, they are always willing to please so if we can make them want to make us happy, that’s part of the struggle simplified. In the meantime, the mortification continues. lol

Kirsty from Navigating Baby

Kirsty is a mom of four kids. Like me, her eldest is due to turn 8 soon, and whilst a lot of people think these emotions are more for 8 year olds, we are both experiencing them at the earlier age of 7.

My eldest son will turn 8 in May and for the past month or so there has been a change …  it is like living with Jekyll and Hyde. I never know if I am going to get my kind, funny, loving little boy or this other imposter who rapidly swings from being angry, to frustrated, to sad and then equally as quickly back again. It’s exhausting for us all; him included!  And the emotionality is at an 11 most of the time.  

Last Saturday he sobbed (not a little tear a full on chest heaving sob) because I said it was time to put on his shoes and go out!!! I was entirely confused… What had I said? Did he mishear me? No he was genuinely just that upset by leaving the house when he didn’t want to.  I find the tears easier to deal with as a cuddle often sorts that out.  

The really tough bit for me is when he gets aggressive with his brother and sisters or is just plain rude and horrible to me.  I am approaching it from a position of understanding or at least trying to understand, but house rules still apply; hormones or no hormones!!! So he has been losing privileges such as time on Minecraft.

We have been spending lots of time talking about feelings and trying to get him to express his feelings through words. We also use children’s meditation tracks from iTunes to help give him some relaxation and time out when needed, but wow if this is just the beginning of the hormonal impact I have much more learning to do to ensure I can cope with four of them growing through this!

Thanks Kirsty. I can definitely relate to the whole Jekyll and Hyde, and the extreme crying over the most basic of requests. May we all survive this phase, including the kids!

Charlene from High Heels & Fairy Tales

Charlene is also one of the original mums who warned me of what to come. She has written her own post on the topic so I strongly urge you to hop on over to her blog and read her thoughts on the subject of life with an 8 year old. Zee, her daughter, is a beautiful child, and you’d never guess that all these emotions are happening behind the scenes.

I think that something that we can all relate to. All these emotions seem to happen at home, in the safety of their home and family environment. This says a lot about this 7 & 8 year phase, the fact that they know they can’t really behave like that in public, but home is their safe place, the place where they can allow their conflicting emotions to come out.

Tips On How To Survive The 7 & 8 Year Old Phase

Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed. I hope that you found this post helpful. The main takeaways that I got from asking for advice from other parents who are also going through this phase with their children is:

  • Be calm in the face of their rage.
  • Just be there for them. Allow them to try to process their emotions.
  • Give validation to the emotions they are feeling, even when it is completely irrational.
  • Let them come to you, be there for them.
  • Try to understand their point of view, don’t dismiss what they are trying to articulate to you.
  • Consider mindfulness for children as an approach to helping them deal with their big emotions.

If you know someone who has a child experiencing the 7 & 8-year-old phase of emotions, and would benefit from this post, please share it with them. And if you’re not quite there yet, pin it for when you are. Hopefully, it will come in use, if for no other reason than to realise that it is just a phase. I really hope the advice helps too.