How often have you seen a family where one sibling excels at everything he touches – in and out of the classroom, on and off the sports field, while the other struggles just to get by? This is a potential recipe for major sibling jealousy. But sibling rivalry can also be caused by something as innocent as a new baby arriving in the family. And if a new pet is demanding much attention from mom or dad, or mom or dad’s new job is taking up much of your time then jealousy will still be the strong emotion at hand.
But the core of sibling jealousy is almost always the same: the child feels his sibling is receiving more attention than him and so the competition for mom and dad’s attention starts. And this can take on many forms.
Time is love
For many children, they need to -see love to feel it before they have learnt just to trust that it’s there. And they -see love by the attention, good or bad, that they receive. Splitting it still further, many children mistakenly believe that the more time their parents spend with them, the more they are loved, so time equals love in their minds.
So when one child, for whatever reason, is receiving more attention, the other sibling may become confused and think his parents love his sibling more than they love him.
Sibling jealousy can bring out the worst in your child’s behaviour. The most common ways your child may act out is:
- He may take it a tad bit too seriously and slip into a kind of depressive cloud, becoming quiet and withdrawn and not wanting to play with anyone, or
- He may just pretend to be in this state until someone notices him, or
- He may try to be the perfect child, almost sugar-sweet, by being good and helping out in order to win his parents’ affection back, or
- He could make family life all round impossible with his bad behaviour.
Whatever way your child chooses to act out, don’t be tempted to take the bait, but rather start gently evening out your attention and time. It goes without saying, however, that you always need to reaffirm your love for all your children and convince them all that you love each of them unconditionally.
If the situation allows it, involve him in his sibling’s big moment or his achievements but all the while remembering to acknowledge his, too.
Involve him with baby
If it’s a new addition to the family that is causing your older child stress, try to involve him in bathing the baby, preparing bottles, feeding him, dressing him and the like. Confirm to your eldest that he is big and responsible enough to help. Be sure, though, never to get him to do the running around and -dirty work for this baby as he could feel a little like a slave to your new arrival and this could make him resentful towards his new sister or brother.
Keep doing the special things the two of you used to do alone. The things you both had fun doing and laughing over. This will boost his self-esteem again and reassure him of your love.