I have a sister who is just two and a half years older than myself, and when we were younger—really, until college years—we were very jealous of one another. We were constantly looking for ways to get one another in trouble, ruin the other one’s fun, steal one another’s belongings, steal one another’s friends, dominate the attention of our parents, and prove that we were better than one another. Thank goodness that nonsense stopped as we got older because, today, my sister is one of my best friends. I don’t know what I’d do without her—nobody can replace a sibling. Nobody can understand you the way a sibling can. It’s a beautiful friendship. It’s just a shame it took us a couple of decades of life to get there. If you want your kids to share the beautiful friendship that can exist between siblings, take these steps to prevent jealousy among siblings.
Don’t leave the older one in the dust
Bringing home a newborn is, naturally, a very intense and all-consuming event. But if you already have a child at home, it’s very important that she feels included. Don’t put her in the hands of a babysitter, whose directives are to keep your older child away from you and the baby. This can be the root of serious jealousy issues, early on. Invite the older sibling to be near you, and your baby. Make her feel like she is a part of this event.
Have sharing time at dinner
When your kids become a bit older and go to school, have sharing time at dinner. Everyone can go around the table, and tell a bit about their day. Make sure each child has equal time to share, so they both feel their lives are important and interesting.
Give each child the same thing
This is a rather basic but important rule: if you give one child a stuffed bunny, give the other one, too. Nothing fosters jealousy like children feeling that one gets more gifts than the other. Keep in mind that little kids can’t keep track of things—they won’t realize they’ve gotten an equal amount of gifts in the last few months, if you gave them those gifts at different times. They’ll each just feel jealous when they aren’t the one getting a gift.
Don’t spoil your kids
Spoiled children always wind up jealous children. When expectations for presents and attention are set too high, it’s very hard to keep your children happy and they’re bound to be envious of everyone—including one another.
If one has a friend over, so too should the other
Play dates can cause a lot of jealousy. If one child has a friend over, and the other child doesn’t, the latter can feel left out. If you’re going to invite one child’s friend over for a play date, make sure your other child has a buddy over, too. You can ask one of the parents to hang out with you, if you feel supervising four kids is too much work.
Give them both plenty of hugs
It may be cliché that people say cold, difficult, and stubborn individuals weren’t hugged enough as kids but…clichés exist for a reason. Kids who get plenty of physical affection tend to be happy kids. So make sure to snuggle both of your kids, often. And when you snuggle one in front of the other, make sure to snuggle the latter right away after.
When you praise one, praise the other
When you give one child a compliment in front of her sibling, make sure to turn to her sibling and give her a compliment, as well. This will help both children feel like their attributes are recognized and appreciated.
Get your kids laughing together
Laughing is a wonderfully bonding thing. In fact, I think sharing some funny videos and developing a similar sense of humor is what finally got my sister and I to be closer in our early twenties. So get your kids laughing together whenever you can.
Give them tasks to do together
Creating a sense of teamwork around the house can really help bust jealousy. Rather than having your two kids do the exact same thing, side by side (like fold laundry), give them different parts of one, big task. That way, they will feel like they built something together, but can’t compare their skills in their tasks because they did different things.
Let them both have their time in the spotlight
If one child shows her new ballet moves to your friends, ask the other to show her painting from art class. Any time one gets to be the star, the other should, too.
Never compare them during discipline
If you don’t like the way a child is behaving, never, ever say, “Why can’t you be more like your sibling?” or “You should do this the way your brother/sister does.” Just tell the child how you’d like her to behave—don’t bring the sibling into it as an examp
Don’t use one as the leader for the other
Even if you aren’t disciplining your child, but are simply trying to teach her how to do something, don’t use the other sibling as a model. Even if the older sibling already knows how to work the dishwasher, you don’t want to create a dynamic where the younger one feels like her older one is the boss. So it’s best if you give the younger one a private tutorial.
Give them full and busy lives
If your kids have active lives, full of hobbies and friends, they won’t feel that you are their only chance at attention and friendship (aside from their sibling). Happy, social children are just less jealous of their siblings.
Don’t say, “Your sibling gets to do that because she’s older”
“Because she is older” is never a good answer to the question, “How come my sister gets to go to bed later/hang out with boys/watch this TV show?” Kids don’t really understand that the age thing isn’t personal—they still take it personally. Answer the question in a manner that focuses on the child asking the question, and not the sibling.
Ask them to comfort each other
Starting from a young age, ask your children to comfort one another. If one is crying about something and you’re busy, ask the other sibling to go comfort her sibling. These will act as important bonding moments that help them feel more like a team than competitors.