Jealousy is just one of many emotions your child will experience and, despite it being a very common one, parents often find it hard to accept and deal with. Like any emotion, the first and most important thing you need to do is accept that it is normal. You can help your child deal with it in a positive and constructive way by putting into words what they are feeling and helping them find solutions. Children often experience jealousy in the following situations: the arrival of a new baby sibling, at a sibling’s birthday, around friendships, or over someone else’s success (it may be academic, sporting or social). Camilla works with clients to help their children be resilient and develop emotional intelligence and sensitivity to others. Do get in contact if you'd like to learn more.
- Use reflective language: 'It is really hard to share. You don't like the fact that Mummy has less time now that the new baby is here.' 'You wish that you had won the trophy and you feel envious of Luke as he gets the glory and there isn't any for you.' 'I can see that you find it hard that Emily had a sleepover with Rachel because you want Emily to stay as just your friend and you find it hard to share her.' 'You really wanted a certificate this week and you feel jealous that your sister got one and you didn't.' 'You wish it was your birthday and that these presents were all for you.'
- Don't try to fix it or take their feelings away. Just showing that you understand and that your child isn't a bad person for having these feelings will boost them.
- Once their feelings have been heard, they might be in a better space to find a solution. Ask your child: 'Is there anything you could do or say to make you feel better or stronger?'
A client wrote to me with this story after we'd been discussing her daughter's difficulty with friendships. (The names have been changed.)
It was so interesting this past weekend: My daughter Laura found out that her best friend, Sophie, from school had gone on a sleepover with a great friend of Laura's from out of school, called Jasmin. Sophie and Jasmin had got to know each other at swimming class. It’s a fairly new acquaintance and Laura was really taken aback that they were socialising without her. Of course, we all know that the girls are perfectly entitled to spend time together and that there is nothing wrong with it. It was just so hard seeing how upset Laura was. She went to her room, hid under the duvet and told me to go away. In the past, I would have either walked off and left her to it or tried to 'make things better' by suggesting a treat. Instead, I put into words all those 'nasty' feelings I knew she was having. 'I expect you feel completely betrayed. Sophie is your best friend and you feel so left out that she's at Jasmin's house and you aren't there. You might be worried that they are inventing games you aren't part of or that they are going to like each other better than you. Maybe you feel that it will spoil things for you and Sophie at school?' Laura kept saying over and over, 'Why are they doing that, Mummy?' 'Why didn't Jasmin invite me, not her?' 'I hate them both now'. I just kept saying that I could see how hard it was for her and that I understood and that it was normal to feel like that.
The following afternoon, Jasmin rang up and invited Laura round. Laura couldn't go and she was really short with her on the phone. After she hung up I gently suggested that her tone wasn’t very kind with Jasmin and wondered if she might like to ring her back. She did so immediately and said in a much nicer voice, 'I’m sorry, I’m busy later on, but thanks for asking me.' She would never have done that in the past. She would have either gone into her shell for days or taken revenge on her friends.
Thank you so much for the advice you gave me, as I know I have helped Laura be stronger and bounce back much quicker from upsets. A great tool for life!
A mother called Sarah, who attends one of my classes, told this story the week after our group had discussed jealousy.
My sons are both keen on sport but James, the older one, isn't quite as quick on his feet and able – particularly at cricket, which they both love. Last Sunday, their uncle and a group of other children came with us to the park to play cricket. Shortly after they started, James was bowled out by Sam, his younger brother. James threw down his bat, shouted, 'You’re an idiot!' at his brother and stormed off. I was so embarrassed by this ugly behaviour, especially in front of their uncle, that I wanted to go over and give him a good telling off. Instead, I decided to try and understand the situation from James’s point of view. As the eldest child in my family, I remembered how frustrating it was when a younger sibling outshone me.
I took some deep breaths and went over to James who was red-faced and crying tears of fury. I sat down on the ground with him and said, 'It’s really tough to be bowled out by your brother, especially when he’s younger than you.' He started to rant about how it wasn't fair and that he wasn't ready when Sam bowled etc. I just nodded and said, 'I know you were really looking forward to Uncle Ted coming and maybe you felt embarrassed that you got bowled out so soon. I would feel that way too. You so wanted to show him how much your batting has improved and you didn't get your chance.’ He visibly calmed down; his breathing slowed and he started to look at me. I just sat quietly next to him and he let me put my arm around him. After a few minutes he said, 'Mum, shall I go and say sorry and do you think they’ll let me play again?' I said that everyone has a meltdown at some point in sport and the best way to move on is to apologise. We then had a happy afternoon playing, James's dignity was restored and he learnt the importance of saying sorry meaningfully.