Got an 8-year-old? Your child’s becoming increasingly independent in many areas of life—which also means a little more independence for you.
Around this age, your not-so-little one is probably starting to develop their own unique interests, whether they're obsessed with horses or football. It’s a fun time!
We’ve spoken to experts for some of the highlights, challenges and opportunities that come with parenting an 8-year old.
By the time your little one turns 8, they've probably reached the following developmental milestones:
Demonstrates a growing vocabulary
Capable of reading on their own
Strong enough fine motor skills to tie their own shoes and get themselves dressed in the morning (hurray!)
Able to help with simple chores like putting dishes in the dishwasher and folding and putting away laundry
“They’re probably drawing pictures with more details, and coordinating scissors enough to cut out things with multiple curves,” says occupational therapist Keri Ann Wilmot. “They’ve mastered the skills to do basic things and now tend to start paying attention to details for precision and creativity.”
By age 8, your kid is decidedly in the “sweet spot” of childhood: that precious pause between the intense first years of child-rearing and the teen years. Enjoy this time of increasing autonomy. They sure will.
Harness your child’s emerging independence as an opportunity to convey key money lessons. Erica Sandberg, consumer finance expert and author of Expecting Money, says, “When you’re at a café or a store, hand your kid some cash and let them pay.”
This is an easy way for your child to become familiar with financial transactions. “Have them count the change. This helps kids feel empowered, and these transactions are part of everybody’s life,” she says.
At 8, children often begin to exhibit unique interests and talents, whether it’s hip-hop dance, guitar or robotics. Another way to start teaching your child about budgeting, comparison shopping and cost-benefit trade-offs is to open up about the costs of their favorite activity—such as sports equipment or other gear.
Approach this matter-of-factly, and be sure not to turn it into a guilt session. “Even if you can afford their equipment, it’s a good lesson about frugality to shop secondhand,” suggests Sandberg.
In addition to saving money, taking this approach teaches your kids about delayed gratification. “It teaches your kids how to be smart about money. You’re teaching them the power of the pause,” she notes.
Check out Craigslist, used sporting equipment stores like Play It Again Sports and Freecycle, or see if your community has a group for families looking to sell, swap or give away gently used sports gear.
Even with their budding interests, 8-year-olds are still decidedly children who need adequate play and downtime, Wilmot reminds. Overscheduling is rampant these days, so make sure to carve out time for play and relaxation into your family’s schedule.
Some families carve out particular evenings or weekend days to simply be together, play games and catch up on housework. To help your kid—and you—unwind, consider anything from family yoga to a meditation app or a dance party.
Do you dread taking your 8-year-old shopping because of the inevitable whining for more toys? Sandberg suggests a solid solution: “My mom would tell us that we’re going to the shoe store and she was buying each of us a pair of shoes—and that was all.”
By setting the expectation ahead of time, you and your child have an established boundary to fall back on. This also models the positive behavior of planning out purchases and avoiding impulse shopping (and spares your wallet, too).
As the parent of an 8-year-old, the idea that you only have about a decade to save for college can be panic-inducing. Especially if you feel like your own financial house isn’t in order.
“Take care of your own nest first,” urges Sandberg. If you have credit card or other consumer debt, focus on paying that down before you start building a college nest egg for your child. “Debt erodes your ability to give to your child,” she says.
If your financial situation isn’t ideal but saving for college is important to you, start taking steps to improve your finances. With about ten years to go, you still have time to save, but now’s the time to get going. Consider meeting with a financial advisor to craft a plan to pay down debt, decide on a college savings goal and free up money for your child’s future.
If you haven’t recently reviewed your last will and testament, take a look and see if it needs any revisions.
Specifically, you may be due for an update if you’ve experienced any major life changes since creating your will. This could include adding another child to your family, changing your mind about your child’s guardian or shifting your marital status.
Haven’t made a will yet? You can create one with Fabric’s free online will kit.
Same goes for your life insurance policy, if you haven’t looked at it in a while. You might want to change the beneficiary you’ve chosen if something in your life has changed. You might also want to update your coverage amount if your family’s needs have changed.
If you don’t have life insurance, Fabric can help with that, too. You can apply for term life insurance online in about 10 minutes.
Even if you loathe your job, Sandberg suggests putting a positive spin on it so your kids learn to see working for a paycheck as a natural part of life. “Instead of saying that work sucks, you could say, ‘I’m off to work because it’s important for me to be able to pay the bills,’” she says. “Speaking about work in a positive way is one of the easiest ways to teach your kids about money.”
Of course, if your job is truly making you miserable, it’s OK to be open with your child and let them know you’re looking into other options.
If you love your gig, let your child know that, too. In fact, this is the ideal age to get involved with the National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, recommended for kids ages 8 to 18. The program was designed to break down gender limitations, expose children to the working world, and spark conversations about work between kids and parents.
When it comes down to it, 8 is pretty darned great. You’re no longer changing diapers but your kid might still be willing to hold your hand at the grocery store. We can attest from experience: Life doesn’t get much better than that.
What new developments will next year hold for you? 9 things to know about 9-year-olds.
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