Jealous children, what to do: the psychologist explains how to manage jealousy in children. Children jealous of their little brother, their mother, their own things
Jealous children, what to do
There jealousy in children it is a phenomenon to be considered normal within the family because every child wants to be loved and appreciated by their parents to a greater extent than brothers or sisters. But what happens when jealousy is unmotivated and the child’s envy and resentment do not spontaneously regress and instead intensify and worsen? The doctor Elisa Simeoni di Guidapsicologi.it helps us to recognize, manage and prevent jealousy in children and explains us what to do.
In this article
What is jealousy in children
Childhood jealousy can manifest itself at different ages and is always attributable to the sense of frustration felt when the child perceives a change in attention from one or both parents in favor of a third party. It’s important to distinguish there normal jealousy from pathological jealousy.
- There normal jealousy it usually appears concurrently with specific events of family life (for example a new birth or the illness of a little brother that require more attention and care from the parents) and is therefore motivated by an effective change in the family structure.
- There unmotivated jealousyinstead, it occurs in the absence of specific causes. Pathological jealousy can be defined as such when the child’s envy and resentment do not spontaneously regress but intensify and worsen, continuing over time with the manifestation of any other symptoms both from an emotional and behavioral point of view. In milder cases the regression is it spontaneous or can produce one healthy competition, especially if the parents are able to provide adequate explanations for what is happening.
Jealousy of brothers
In most cases, the jealousy is directed towards a brother (or sister) who appears to be the privileged and the recipient of the greatest attention from parents. There is a frequent case of the birth of a little brother that causes jealousy especially in the child with a few years of difference (usually between 18 months and 3 years). This happens due to the easy overlapping of the care and nurturing needs that both require.
The expression of such discomfort could manifest itself through:
- regression behaviors that are more childish than their age (a 7-year-old child, for example, may no longer be able to sleep alone or urinate in bed),
- explicit requests for attention (“mom look at me, please”), frequent comparisons (“you gave him a kiss and not me”),
- manifestations of anger and hostile attitudes towards the younger brother (quarrels, throwing objects, shoving), or other negative behaviors of various kinds (such as disobedience, excessive dependence or denial of one’s mistakes),
- unmotivated mood swings, crying, or other signs of unhappiness.
Another case is the reaction of a older brother (of 4 years or more), since the needs felt by him differ more than those of a child with a few months of life. There jealousy it will be less frequent and more likely will be the tendency of the older brother to take care of the little brother, placing himself in the guise of the “second parent”. Even the gender difference between brothers it could protect against the risk of jealousy, since, male and female, belonging to two different worlds with different ways of interacting, could have less competition towards each other.
Jealousy of a parent
In the case of only children, instead, it is possible that jealousy refers to one of the two parents because of what Freud defines as a complex of Oedipus (in the case of the male) or of Electra (in the case of the female): a phase that occurs around the fifth-sixth year of age in the form of unconscious love towards the parent of the opposite sex and hostility and competition towards the parent of their own sex.
This phase, necessary for the child’s emotional development, is resolved when the child understands that he will not be able to take the place of the parent of his own sex but will be able to find, in adulthood, a peer able to satisfy this need.
How to prevent jealousy in children
Some tips to prevent the onset of jealousy in children:
- Explain, foresee and reassure about what will happen, in order to increase the feeling of security
- Preserve the uniqueness of each child, make him understand that the exclusivity he sees in his little brother was once his
- Sense of inclusion, encouraging common activities and assigning tasks that strengthen everyone’s responsibility
- Positively reinforce the successes achieved by each child, highlighting their skills, so as to strengthen self-esteem and not create unnecessary envy
- Respond to the needs of each child, so that everyone can feel fully loved and understood. This does not mean the same gifts or the same attention, but rather to grasp what they really need
- Establish consistent and equal rules for each child, dividing the spaces within the house.
5 ways to deal with childhood jealousy
We must not forget that the infantile jealousy it does not depend only on the children but also on the parents, who play a fundamental role in reducing or increasing it. It is therefore essential:
- Verbalizing the experiences of …