MIAMI -- When he peeks out his front door, demonstrators applaud and chant his name. When he climbs on his backyard swing, the image is broadcast worldwide. His entourage limits his outings, wary of abduction.

Such is daily life for Elian Gonzalez, caught in the global spotlight like no 6-year-old before him. Even Britain's royal princes didn't have their every move recorded by TV crews each time they ventured out to play.Elian's life has seesawed during the four months since his rescue from an inner tube after his mother and 10 other Cubans drowned while trying to flee to Florida.

He was an instant celebrity among Cuban-Americans in the Miami area and has been elevated to an almost saintlike status in the eyes of some anti-Castro militants. But his Miami relatives, fearing for his safety, take him on fewer outings these days, and he is tutored at home now rather than at public school.

"He must be very flattered and enjoying the special attention, but on the other hand he must experience it as a tremendous burden," said Dr. Jon Shaw, a child psychiatrist at the University of Miami. "It must feel very good in some ways but very traumatic in other ways."

Family spokesman Armando Gutierrez said the security precautions were taken because of fears that Fidel Castro might send commandos to abduct Elian -- an allegation the Cuban government has dismissed.

"The family has taken it very seriously," Gutierrez said.

Elian is aware that his case is at a crucial stage, with his father in the United States to reclaim custody.

"He knows how big this thing is," Gutierrez said. "He looks outside, he sees 200 people with cameras. He senses that because there is more media, something is happening."

The boy's Miami relatives say Elian has tearfully pleaded not to be sent away with his father, and they have asked U.S. officials to delay any reunion until the boy can be evaluated by independent psychologists.

Despite the circumstances, Elian usually appears cheerful during his playtime in the back yard. Young cousins often play with him, and he has been seen with a dog and a couple of rabbits.

Cartoons, especially "Batman," are his favorite TV fare and are helping him make steady progress learning English, Gutierrez said.

"He's like a regular kid," Gutierrez said. "He'll tell you when he wants to go out, what he wants to do."

But the stress has taken its toll on the household. The cousin who has been closest to him, 21-year-old Marisleysis Gonzalez, was hospitalized this week, suffering from exhaustion, while her father, Lazaro, has been openly frustrated by the attention focused on Elian.

"What celebrity status does to someone is confuse their ability to understand their root feelings and who they are deep down -- adults and especially children," said M. Gary Neuman, a Miami psychotherapist who specializes in divorce and child-related cases.

"Hopefully, the family is saying, 'It isn't your battle -- It's OK to be a kid.' "

Dr. Lynn Ponton, a psychiatry professor at the University of California at San Francisco who made a two-week working visit to Cuba last year, said Elian may be coping with the media spotlight as well as an adult would.

"When children become celebrities not by their own choice, generally it's upsetting to them," Ponton said. "But a child's world is smaller, and he's concerned with life in that household -- the loss of his mother, his toys, his cousin. Even though he walks out of that house and all those cameras flash, kids are able to set that aside better than adults."