Most children become jealous or envious of their siblings at one time or another during childhood. Sometimes it is qualities such as being outgoing, athletic, or smart that children become jealous of. Other times it relates to feeling that they aren’t being treated fairly by their parents. While life isn’t always fair, here are a few ways to help curb sibling jealousy:
1) Determine what is the cause of the jealousy or envy (i.e. envying traits, feeling other child gets more attention).
2) If traits are the cause of envy, help your child to improve traits that they desire (i.e., to be more athletic, have them work with a trainer or participate in a skill building program) and help them to foster and focus on their own strengths (i.e, perhaps they are excellent at playing the guitar). In addition, help normalize the fact that sometimes people are better in certain areas than others, but each person has their own unique set of strengths.
3) If equality is the cause of jealousy/envy, look at how you are parenting and determine what ways you may be able to improve equality (i.e., if one sibling gets significantly more alone time with one parent, try to schedule alone time for the jealous child with the same parent at another time–perhaps a weekly outing for ice cream).
4) Help children to normalize that parents try to be fair, but in meeting each child’s needs, sometimes one child gets more attention or assistance at a given time. Sit down with your child and give them the opportunity to make suggestions on how fairness can be improved. Write down the list, and collaboratively determine if their suggestions are feasible.
5) Sometimes simply opening up the dialogue about fairness can go a long way in improving it if children feel that they are being listened to about their concerns.
I hope that these suggestions have been helpful. If sibling jealousy becomes severe, it is often indicative of more significant interpersonal issues (i.e., low self-esteem, depression, anxiety), and treatment may be highly beneficial.
Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist with The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. He specializes in work with children and adolescents and is happy to answer questions and provide consultations for parents who are considering pursuing treatment or an evaluation for their child or adolescent. Dr. Heller can be reached at (301)-385-2610 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship, and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*