My 8 year old is going through something. She has always been an easygoing kid who was happy to hear about interesting stuff or try something new. But over the last year, she is becoming very quick to announce that anything new is "boring"-- before she even tries it, or knows anything about it. Whenever I suggest an activity, she rejects it in favor of playing online or imaginary play in her room. She's always been dramatic, but that's ramped up too. She cries over a change in the time of dinner, or having to sit quietly through something "boring" (which happens maybe once a month?)-- it can be incredibly rude. If she's disappointed on a bad day, she'll throw a temper tantrum! It's like suddenly having a 2 year old again.
Is the reluctance to try new things a normal phase for unschoolers? I'm half tempted to take her in to the pediatrician if the emotional stuff doesn't settle down, but I think at least part of it is that she's spending too much time in her own head.
My older daughter is only a year and a half older, and has always been fussed over by our extended family for her academic successes. I sometimes wonder if she's rejecting all things academic (including art and music which she's always loved) because she's comparing herself to her older sister, and feels like she can't compete. When I talk to her about the reluctance to try new things, she asks to start an activity she knows she can't do until the fall. If I try to talk to her about the emotional outbursts, she tells me she didn't get much sleep last night. I feel like she has set phrases she uses to get me to stop asking her.
I believe in the value of imaginary play, but there's a limit to how much time anyone should spend alone in their bedroom, KWIM? We do have regular activities out of the house, so it's not like she's up there 24/7, but it's a lot (and I'm an introvert-- I respect alone time). Any advice about how to draw her out?
I don't have any advice for you. I do want to say 8 was when my son started to get very upset about things, very emotional, very anxious . . and stopped finding anything very interesting. I do think these phases of development effect their interest level, their moods, you name it. We supported him as much as we could, continued to offer up ideas of activities when he felt 'bored', and saw the positive in his comfort of mainly building lego all day. Then he discovered online gaming at 9 and that filed all his unscheduled (classes he chose to attened) time, and it continued for over a year. We've decided to step in and gently guide him into other arenas, because we feel that he needed that time of uncertainty/boredom/seclusion for that moment in his development, but that now we're going to be more active in drawing him out. because we do feel the energy of gaming has such a hold on him, and he needs support in balancing his gaming with other interests. So we've talked about it, what we think, what our exp with gaming/boredom is, how it can be the catalyst for new ideas, how we need things (solitude, intense focus in one activity) in these lulls in our lives and then we move out of them . .. that we need to help him move out of it.
Can you find a way to be alright with her needing alot of solo time in her room? Is it more her moods that are a struggle for you? She sounds very much like my son, and his friends, who all found turning 8 to be a hard time and needed a lot of emotional support and alone time. When she's ready to move on, you can help her with it. My son was in this place for a year, and then we felt he needed us to step in and help. And it has been a good thing.
Thanks for your reply!
I am ok with her spending a lot of time alone, but I'm not convinced it's what she needs, because it seems to be making things worse. The things that bother me are the emotional outbursts, and her not wanting to do anything that isn't easy. The outbursts are NOT age appropriate-- at 8 you don't cry and scream and throw things because your sister won't do what you want. She does seem to be able to stop if I am stern-- I started by being more touchy-feely, and that only fed into it. I think when she does it, she's giving herself entirely to her emotion because she's got so little going on.
It's not unschooling I suppose, but I've taken to forcing her to get out of the house and do things. Even if she doesn't love every minute, she's experiencing something new. And it gets me off my tush too which is good for all of us.
I'm hoping that life will look better when Spring arrives. Too bad that's a month away. It snowed today, and after a week of melting, it felt like a kick in the gut.
Onatightrope, I could have written so much of what you wrote - dd is 7.75 and we have been having some very rough times over the past many months (as I have posted). It has actually calmed down a bit now. I actually think that it is partly resulting from being an only child, which breaks my heart as well. But everything you said about being very pleasant and "easygoing kid who was happy to hear about interesting stuff or try something new." -- exactly describes what I thought when suddenly my dd was expressing dislike for everything, even for life. It really alarmed me. I am saying this in the past tense but I am not really sure that it is over. The tantrums were quite alarming - and we actually never dealt with tantrums at age 2-3-4. She didn't have any! And all the tips that you read about handling tantrums are directed to that age, and not likely to work on a 7-8 year old.
Though I felt despair when she walked out of our first attempt to hold a family meeting, later she herself started calling family meetings and I think it has made a difference. Plus I keep telling her that if she gets upset for everything I say then I will hesitate to initiate or join in her conversations unless required. And, when she reacts with maturity to some adverse situation I note that as well.
I can't say we are out of the water but I don't feel like we are drowning ...
Just curious - when you get out of the house and do things, do you feel that she enjoys it - or are you just hoping that by experiencing more things something will spark her interest?
Sometimes she likes it, sometimes it's just ok. Its rare that she strongly dislikes an outing (I try to pick stuff that I think everyone will get something out of.) She complains A LOT about going to the library, and will even go hide when I mention the idea, but she doesn't seem to mind actually being there. I think she makes a big stink about the library because her sister inhales books, and she struggled to learn to read, so it's symbolic.
She doesn't love transitions, and that's part of the problem.
This too shall pass.
It's possible that she could be a bit more hormonal than she'd been in the past. I know it seems early, but eight is definitely old enough to feel the gradual onset of puberty. Every child is different. This sounds a lot like a lapse in impulse control that could be about natural physical/neuro changes. My thought is that, while loads more time spent alone is probably not ideal-looking to you, she may be craving it as a tool to cope. Maybe it's not always totally working to eliminate the undesirable behavior, but perhaps it isn't the damaging factor.
I really love the family meetings idea. Perhaps giving her a formalized space to voice her needs, where everyone is there to take her seriously, will help her to recognize that she has outlets. Could you have role playing times? Sometimes it helps to spend even just 30 minutes being in the other person's shoes. You get to grump about and throw things, and she gets to respond to herself as she expects you would, so you both get a new, more objective perspective on your behavior.
As far as getting her interested: Something I've seen done before is to just quietly hide things. You could try getting a fun book that she might be interested in and hide it under her pillow or tape it under a table/chair/desk. Who knows, maybe she'll read it in her room, away from prying eyes. Or hide little notes everywhere in the house. The sugar bowl! Her shoe! Perhaps give her a second-hand video camera and she if she'll use it during imaginary play?
Forest For The Trees Radical Family Support Consulting for Growing Families (ask me!)
10+ Years in Professional Holistic Childcare and Support / Alternative Education / Unschooling my Friend, Z (4)
Future Community-Dwelling, Stay-at-Home, Sole-Parent by Choice!