It is inevitable that in a household with multiple children, there will be fighting. Some of that fighting will be because of sibling jealousy. It is easy for a former “only” or an oldest to feel jealous over having to share mom and dad and a middle or youngest can easily feel left out. All kids, at one time or another, feel jealous over something their siblings have or are good at doing. It is the nature of growing up with brothers and sisters. However, that sibling jealousy doesn’t have to turn into major blow ups or long-term animosity. Here are 4 ways to help your kids deal with sibling jealousy.
Give them one-on-one time
Everyone has moments when they just need to know they are loved and someone thinks they are special. Spending a little one-on-one time with each of your children gives them your undivided attention. It builds a connection between the two of you. It is a great way to show them that they are each special and it can help ease jealousy between siblings. This can be especially helpful for firstborns after a new baby.
One-on-one time does not have to be elaborate or create more work for you as a parent. Build it into your routine. It can be 15 minutes over breakfast in the morning, 5 minutes while you’re brushing your daughter’s hair after a bath, or reading a book together before bed. For each child it can be a different routine or different thing that the two of you do together. As long as you spend alone time with them, they are seeing that they are a priority. That translates into knowing that they are special to you.
Be silly together
Laughter is supposed to be the best medicine, right? So make your children laugh. Have an inside joke or silly face you sometimes make when you randomly catch their eye throughout the day. Being silly and laughing can help ease your child’s anxieties or fears and it is another opportunity for one-on-one connection building.
A family joke or silly face or dance is also a great way to help siblings bond. If you are all laughing together while Dad tries to break out that floss dance move, they won’t be focused on being jealous or mad at their brothers or sisters. It creates a family bond and makes everyone feel included.
Lend an ear
In almost any situation, the most powerful things you can do for your child is to listen and show them that you are there for them. Dealing with sibling jealousy is no different. Acknowledge their feelings, which are often bound to be complicated, and help them talk through them. Your job is not to tell them not to feel this way, it is to acknowledge how they feel. Empathize with them, let them know these types of feelings are normal, and show them ways to deal with the things they are feeling. This is another opportunity to give some one-on-one attention and build a connection with your child. You can never do too much of that!
Teach them how to resolve sibling jealousy
Knowing how to handle conflicts is a valuable skill everyone should have. If you are dealing with some sibling jealousy, chances are you will have an opportunity to introduce this skill to your children. Break out this technique the next time your kids start yelling about who gets to use the iPad or who gets to control the remote.
Start off by being calm. It is important to model it for your kids. Ask them to take a breath and calm down. If they are so upset that it does not work, have them take a break from the situation. This could mean they each go to their bedrooms for a few minutes; sit down in separate places in the same room, closing their eyes and taking some deep breaths; lie down on the floor and stare at the ceiling; or they might want to read a few pages of their favorite book. Whatever works best for each child.
Once everyone’s calm, give one child the opportunity to express their point of view about the situation while the other child listens. Then have them switch so that the child who was previously the listener is now giving their point of view. Next, working together, come up with a number of possible solutions to the problem. If they both want to use the iPad the list might include things like setting a timer so that each child gets to use it for 20 minutes, playing a game or watching a video on the iPad together, no one using the iPad, etc. Have them decide together which solution works best for them and then try it.
You will have to step in and walk them through the process the first few (or dozen) times. The goal is for you to be able to step back and eventually have them resolve these issues on their own. The first solution they agree upon might not always work out, so you may have to step back in, ask them to calm back down, and then suggest they choose a different solution from the list. With time, they will realize which types of solutions work best for them. They will also gain a skill that can transfer to other areas of their lives, like with their peers.
Sibling jealousy is not the end of the world. Is it a pain sometimes? For sure. But it can managed in a way that can create a stronger bond between you and your kids, and between the entire family. It can offer a way to teach an important life skill that will hopefully allow your kids to manage some of their own conflicts – both with their siblings and with other kids.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on Teaching Children Self Control in a World of Immediacy.