Arguing, snatching, hitting, yelling and crying…sound familiar? While some sibling rivalry is to be expected and developmentally appropriate, jealousy among siblings can be damaging to the sibling as well as the parent-child relationship. If jealousy is not dealt with during its early beginnings, the remnants of jealousy can follow your child into adulthood.
First things first – spot the jealousy:
- Your child is angry more often(seemingly without reason) when her siblings is around
- Your child is easily irritated by her sibling
- Acting out or being overly silly to gain parental attention
- Withdrawing from family events or situations in which the sibling is partaking
- More fighting between your children (instigated by the jealous child)
- Negative self-image by the jealous sibling. Statements to listen out for include things like “No one loves me”, “I’m not as good/clever/pretty as my sister”, etc.
Should you notice such behaviours or statements, it is most helpful to address these directly and as soon as possible. Research suggests that if the “Jealousy Monster” within your child is allowed to grow, that negative feelings can spill over into the family dynamics and affect the cohesion of the family. Therefore, helping your child face her “Jealousy Monster” is healthy for the overall family unit.
How to prevent the “Jealousy Monster” from growing out of control
Keeping the Jealousy Monster at bay is possible by:
- Avoiding comparisons between the children.
- Telling her that jealousy is normal and that you know how it feels as you have also felt jealousy in certain situations.
- Helping your child label her feelings (“I’m irritated with mei mei”) and express the reasons (“because you always buy her more toys”) of her jealousy. This way you can reframe this perspective (e.g., “Sweety, I love both of you the same way and bought her a new Teddy as you got your new dress yesterday.” Then end with an open-ended question to get a feel of how your child is feeling now (e.g., “What do you think? Was mommy fair?”).
- Acknowledging her feelings. Say “You seem upset that I picked mei mei up from tuition” – you will see that your child will be more open to explaining such feelings if you demonstrate that you are not angry that she has such feelings.
- Try to treat your children equally as much as possible.
- Make special time for all your children. This time does not need to be lengthy. A good 30 minutes of one-on-one time with mommy will be very special indeed!
Dr Vanessa von Auer
MA (Counseling), B.A. Psychology (hons.), EMDR
Dr. Vanessa von Auer is the Clinic Director/Psychologist of Von Auer Psychology Centre VAPC. She has spent her career helping parents learn effective parenting strategies, has helped children process their emotional difficulties in healthy ways and has helped families grower closer in their dynamics with one another. For more information, visit www.vapc.sg