It is never easy for us – parents, to see our children argue and upset with each other. Rivalry between siblings can stress, frustrate or anger even the calmest of parents. But amidst all the fighting, they can be doing much more than learning to share toys. They can be dealing with the thought and feeling of having to share your affection with each other. Feelings of jealousy are somewhat innate and natural. However, if left unattended, these feelings can have debilitating consequences at a later stage in our child’s life.
Jealousy has a lot to do with the feeling of threat your children feel when they think that they can lose your parental affection. This lack of security can cause children to develop competitive and angry feelings towards their perceived opponent (in this case, their sibling). Unfortunately, when these complicated feelings come into play, the consequences generally tend to be dramatic (fighting with and hitting their siblings, discipline and being told off) which can lead to an increase sense of not being good enough and this can lead to even more frustration and jealousy.
As a parent, therefore, what can you do to ensure you minimise such feelings of jealousy?
- Avoid comparing your children to one another: Any form of comparison between siblings can fuel rivalry and jealousy. Each of your children wants to be unique and valuable in your eyes, no matter what. So, endeavour to praise each of them as equally as possible and don’t make one sibling look better than the other when they are together.
- Always emphasise their unique and individual talents, and promote them: If you have two daughters and one is amazing at ballet while the other is really good at singing, endeavour to promote each of them in what they are good at while allowing each one of them to thrive in what they do best.
- Take this opportunity to reassure them of your love: When episodes of jealousy arise between your children, try to speak with each of them separately. Make sure you reassure each of them of how loved they are. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t discipline your kids or encourage inappropriate Discipline them in the manner you see fit but do your best to let them know they are loved, always and equally.
- Help them to develop empathy: Speak with your children on a one-to-one basis. Once you have heard, understood and acknowledged their feelings, make them see and understand how their negative actions can hurt others.
- Listen carefully to every child’s concerns: Ensure they both get a chance to express their frustration and what is going on with them. Then, try to help them resolve these issues by getting them to work together.
- Create activities that will help them cooperate with each other: Your children need to start seeing each other as allies, not enemies. Giving them activities to do together and rewarding both of them nicely if they are able to collaborate and achieve the task is one way of making this happen.
- Be consistent: Ensure that the rules and chores are the same for each of them. Avoid making exceptions and do your best to treat them as equally as you possibly can.
Jealousy is not an easy situation to handle, and it can have painful consequences for those involved. Ensure you monitor yourself as a parent and continually assess how you feel when stressful situations happen. Being truthful to yourself and acknowledging your own emotions can help you process difficult moments that come as a result of dealing with this issue. This process will also help you to encourage vulnerability in your children, so they can learn more about themselves and others.