How to Handle Sibling Jealousy

February 22, 2019
Although jealousy may manifest at specific times, a child raised with the love, respect, and contact they need will be better prepared for the arrival of a sibling.

Sibling jealousy is common and normal. After all, the arrival of a baby who will get all their parents’ and other adults’ attention can take a child by surprise.

While parents wonder if they’ll love their second baby as much as their first, children worry about if their parents will stop loving them. Young and old children and teenagers may feel distressed and worried.

The fact that sibling jealousy is natural doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t do anything about it. They also shouldn’t ignore the baby who just arrived. Thus, parents have to balance attention and share the love so all their children are well and happy.

Prepare Children for the Arrival of Their Sibling

Pregnant woman with her older daughter.

The job of managing sibling jealousy begins with the first child.

If you’ve raised your first child with all the love, time, contact and respect they needed, they’ll be more than prepared to share their parents with a new family member.

Once you give them the news that their mother is pregnant, the child has to become part of the process. Sibling love doesn’t come about on its own, isn’t inherited, nor is it attached to kinship. It’s up to parents to sow that seed so it germinates in the context of daily living.

Sibling love should be cultivated from gestation. Perhaps it would even be good for the child to attend medical checkups so they can see an ultrasound of their new brother or sister.

They can also participate in prenatal stimulation exercises or in choosing the baby’s name. It’s the parents’ responsibility to create a bond between siblings.

You should also read: Your Siblings, the Best Friends You Never Chose

When There’s Sibling Jealousy

Children should know that babies come to stay. Although they take all their parents’ attention during the first months, they’ll gradually become their siblings’ playmates as they grow.

Even if there’s a huge age difference between siblings, they can still share many things and bond. Sibling jealousy arises because children begin to ask themselves what’s their place in the family and in their parents’ hearts. Thus, the older sibling feels jealous of the younger sibling and vice versa.

It’s up to the parents to make all their children feel secure and confident. They should all be loved and their needs and particularities should be taken care of. This way, it’ll be less likely that sibling jealousy will arise.

Strategies to Manage Jealousy

sibling jealousy

Sibling jealousy manifests in many ways: tantrums or bad behavior, reversals to previously overcome stages, arguments, and fights. However, parents can minimize the likelihood of sibling jealousy.

Here are a few strategies that have proven to be helpful:

  1. Every child needs to be cared for and loved according to their personality and individual characteristics.
  2. Parents should create spaces that allow siblings to interact and bond.
  3. Boundaries and rules must exist between siblings. No matter how angry they are, siblings can’t stop speaking to each other nor go to bed or wake up without greeting each other. Also, they can’t insult or disrespect each other nor resort to physical violence to resolve their differences.
  4. The parents should personally meet the needs of each of their children.
  5. You have to explain to your children that you love all of them in the same way. However, saying it isn’t enough. You have to demonstrate it every day.
  6. Parents should avoid preferential treatment toward one child or another.
  7. Parents also shouldn’t make comparisons between their children.
  8. If children fight, parents should ensure they don’t resort to violence. They have to give them the tools they need to resolve their differences.
  9. When sibling jealousy transforms into rivalry or even physical confrontations, seek support from a therapist or psychologist. You should also seek help if one of your children becomes regressive, depressed, or aggressive.

Discover: What to do When Your Child Misbehaves

Final Reflection

Siblings holding hands.

Respecting the individuality of each of your children is essential to prevent sibling jealousy. Parents are also the ones who cultivate love and respect between their children.

A child who has received love, respect, time, and dedication from their parents will be a happy child. They learn to relate to their parents and will surely learn to do so with their siblings.

In turn, parents have to devote the same quality time, love, and respect to all of their children. That doesn’t guarantee that siblings won’t argue or fight. However, they’ll be able to settle their differences because they know they have a special place in their parents’ hearts.

  • Hodges, L. S., Gushiken, R. A., García, J., Ferrer, M., Croft, P., Cimiano Quintana, A., … Martín, J. L. (2008). Dealing with Jealousy/Que Hacer Con Los Celos. Aula de Infantil.

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  • Buunk, B. P. (1997). Personality, birth order and attachment styles as related to various types of jealousy. Personality and Individual Differences.

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  • Volling, B. L., McElwain, N. L., & Miller, A. L. (2002). Emotion regulation in context: The jealousy complex between young siblings and its relations with child and family characteristics. Child Development.

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