The other day when my daughter came back from the school, instead of telling me all about her day, she was pretty upset about the fact that her best friend in the class had a very beautiful dress and I should get her one like that too.
Then a few days ago my five-year old niece asked me “why don’t we plan a family holiday?” When I told her that we all had just come back from an amazing family vacation she told me in a matter of fact tone. “Not that kind of holiday, why can’t we plan for a holiday in Hong Kong or Paris or America, like my best friend so and so”.
So these two incidents left me thinking whether the green-eyed monster called Jealousy was finding its way in our children’s head. As the kids grow older, apart from material possessions, it might be certain physical traits of another child, arrival of another baby in the family, sibling rivalry and other things that kids will feel jealous about.
Here’s how you can help your child in coping with Jealousy
Show them that you understand envy and it is normal
Listen to them and let them vent out their feelings without any inhibitions. Let them know that you empathize with them and having these feelings are perfectly normal. If appropriate you can even tell a story from your childhood where you felt jealous of another friend or your sibling. For example say, “You are disappointed because the teacher picked your friend for the part in the play instead of you”. If you don’t acknowledge the feelings of your child you will end up making them more resentful.
Discuss what caused the Jealousy
Sometimes things aren’t what they seem to be. Often coveting another child’s clothes or looks might indicate a lack of self-esteem or self-worth. They might feel that “if only I had long and straight hair I would be more popular with my friends”.
Other times it can be a case of “all or none” when kids find themselves a bit behind others in a sphere of life say dancing, drama, sports, art etc. and instead of focusing on themselves they start obsessing about the other kids. Kids can also be affected by peer pressure and feel that possessing a certain toy or accessory will make them equal to their peers. Coping with jealousy will require open communication and understanding emotions of the kids.
Emphasize your values
You need to let your children know what your family values are regarding finances,spending, appearances etc. Trust me kids understand much more than we give them credit for. They need to know that a loyal friendship is more valuable than possessing the latest gizmos and gadgets, that while beautiful hair and gorgeous clothes might make you popular it is inner beauty which will make you stand out from others. This will go a long way in learning how to stop jealousy due to material things.
Also make an effort to note positive traits about their friends like ” I like your friends’ politeness” without commenting on her pretty shoes, so that you can steer away their attention from materialistic qualities.
In case of Sibling rivalry
If you have two kids of different ages then “it is not fair mom!!” might be the most common phrase in your house. Often the elder child feels that the younger child gets away with everything and the younger child feels that the elder one has more freedom and fun.
Try to spend quality time with both the kids individually and make them feel ‘special’. Highlight the strengths of both the siblings without constantly comparing them to each other. For example tell them that “you are good at sports while your brother is good at craft”. To control jealousy among siblings, tell them specific qualities that you love about each of them like “I love how good your imagination is”.
Always help your kids deal with jealousy but stay faithful to your house rules and values. If you don’t intend to give a mobile phone to your eight year old then don’t waver when peer pressure makes your son whine about all his friends having a phone.
Similarly if your finances don’t allow you to buy an expensive toy for your daughter then don’t give in but explain why you can’t afford the toy at the moment. If you give in to your child’s complaining and feelings of jealousy then they will learn to manipulate you using this tactic in the future too.
Make it positive
If it is the skills of another child like school grades or singing skills then encourage your kid to work towards this goal. Focusing intentionally on improving their skills will help to take their attention away from the envy they feel.