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“It’s just not fair!” “You only take care of the little kid and not me.” “Mom, tell us whom you love more between us?” Have you come across such questions from your kids lately? If so, you are struggling with sibling jealousy and we can feel your pain.
Jealousy between children can be because of a new sibling in the family or can occur at any point of time due to several factors. But being a mother seeing your kids getting jealous of each other or fighting all the time can be really overwhelming. Sometimes, jealousy is normal among kids but the problem is when this jealousy does not end even after a long time.
Handling toddler jealousy with each other can be different because toddlers aren’t exactly known for their understanding nature. So, when they get jealous or feel uncomfortable with any situation, it’s common for them to act out and fight for your attention. So what exactly does toddler jealousy entail and how should you handle it?
Humans are social by nature and family is an integral part of our upbringing. Family relationships have a deep influence on our cognition and behaviour.
Dr Sonal Anand, Psychiatrist, Wockhardt Hospital, Mira Road, tells HealthShots, “Many a times, sibling proximity is more intense than parent-child proximity, leading to easy sharing of emotions and feelings. So many times, it is easier to open up to a sibling rather than a parent. But it’s really important that this sibling relationship be healthy and comfortable.”
“Negativity from sibling relationships can have a lasting effect on the psyche and confidence levels as well. Bullying by the elder sibling or abuse in any form can have a devastating effect on young minds. Younger ones usually copy the behaviour of elder siblings.”
Healthy sibling relationships are important for developing compassion, the right attitude towards struggles and social behaviours. Having a sibling helps younger children to stay away from negative notions regarding self and stay away from isolation.
You should prepare yourself in advance to deal with some possible sibling jealousy. Even if your older kids aren’t outwardly expressing signs of jealousy, it is good to help them feel loved and supported while they adjust to the new family dynamic with the baby.
The following tips will help you handle jealousy in a way that encourages trust and respect rather than resentment. No parent is perfect, but planning for jealousy in advance improves your chances of succeeding. Follow these tips suggested by Dr Anand:
1. Stay calm
Start by remaining calm and positive when your kids display signs of jealousy. Remaining positive means that you don’t scold and criticize the jealous child. You need to handle this situation with your love and kindness.
2. Each child is important
Parents must remember that each child is special and different in their own way. Comparing children with each other must be avoided.
3. Spend some time with your kids separately
Giving each child individual time (even if it is short) can make a difference on the way the child perceives the sibling.
Some individual activities should be planned in the week along with family activities.
5. Listen to complaints and respond
Sometimes, one child may require more attention than the other. This can be a difficult situation and must be dealt with patience and warmth. But never ignore what your kid is saying, always listen and respond patiently.
6. Make special efforts
It is important to make the other kid realise the situation and make up for it by giving some special time to him/ her.
7. Get help from your family
Extended family/ trusted friends can help here.
8. Don’t push your child to express their feelings
The mother needs to keep emphasising that all her children are important even though one may require more attention at some particular point to express themselves. Simply create a safe place and then talk.
Family games where the siblings pair up as one team can help in establishing a special bond between them.
10. Spend time together
Having collective reading time or music time also helps .
11. Reward when they adjust
If you shouldn’t penalize your child’s jealousy, turn it around by rewarding your child for showing love and care for the younger one. Praise them for being a good big brother or sister.
Don’t get insane over sibling jealousy. This is a phase of life that most of the parents experience. The best part is, you can help your child to overcome this with your love and attention.