Why is my 8-year-old so sensitive?
My 8-year-old is super sensitive at the moment. And it’s stressing me out.
Although it can be stressful for parents, sensitivity is something we should be celebrating in boys. It shows they are feeling. And sensitivity often goes hand-in-hand with kindness, creativity and empathy – great qualities for any child to have.
But around the age of 8, this sensitivity often goes to a whole new level. This is panic, tantrums or tears over the tiniest thing. This is your beautiful son suddenly calling himself ‘stupid’ and ‘dumb’ and really beating himself up when he makes a mistake.
What is happening to our 8-year-old boys?
Boys do get hyper-emotional at 8
The hyper-emotional stage so many 8-year-old boys go through is one of the main reasons Steve Biddulph wrote a new version of his parenting handbook Raising Boys. This stage is called adrenarche and it is prep for the hormonal onslaught that is puberty.
Although both boys and girls go through adrenarche, it is more likely to cause emotional upheaval for boys than girls. It could result in more tears, but also more outbursts and aggression.
So what can you actually do to help support your son at this age?
- Let him cry
Never tell your son to stop crying, even if you think what he is wailing over doesn’t merit it. For little boys (because they are still little – a fact we sometimes forget), experiencing big emotions can be scary. If boys don’t cry, their emotions can come out in other ways, often as anger or violence. Biddulph advises standing beside or hugging your son when he is crying and affirming him by saying, ‘You really care, you are a great boy,’ or ‘It is really sad what has happened.’
- Give the right kind of boundaries
If your son does lash out, the message he needs to hear is that feeling is OK, but the behaviour is not. Tell your son that it is OK to get sad, frustrated or angry but not OK to call people names or hit them. Pick your moment carefully – never discuss his meltdown when he is still in it.
- Let him stay in his comfort zone
It may seem like he is becoming upset over nothing but to your son, these are real problems that cause him real stress. This is not the time to push him into uncomfortable situations. Let him stay in his comfort zone for a while – whether that is being with you, hanging out with a close friend, or spending time alone.
- Be his light
Laugh with him. See the good in him and tell him loudly and often. Shine a light on his talents and traits and celebrate them openly. By talking him up you’re making sure he knows you believe he’s got the goods to handle the tough stuff when life inevitably throws it at him.
- Make sure he is getting enough sleep
Sleep is vital for coping with emotional turmoil. According to the National Sleep Foundation, school-aged children (aged 6 to 13) should be getting around 9 to 11 hours a night. If your son is having problems falling asleep, try a guided meditation and a calming essential oil such as lavender in a diffuser or on his pillowcase.
Above all, be patient. When he’s in the sweaty, hairy throws of puberty, you might even miss your hypersensitive son… but that’s another post.
Bec Cavalôt is a Melbourne-based writer and editor, and mum of two beautiful, boisterous boys. You can find her at www.cavalotcopy.com. This article is about Parenting
YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY
Subscribe to Understanding Boys. It’s free!
Got boys? Sign up for tips and advice you'll actually use.