How Children can navigate through jealousy in their interpersonal relationships

How Children can navigate through jealousy in their interpersonal relationships

Children love their limelight. And when it is shifted to another person/sibling, jealousy lifts it’s ugly head. Being jealous is a defence mechanism by a child to cover anxiety, fear of loss of attention, comparison, and helplessness. Children as young as 3-4 display jealousy when a sibling comes into the family. At school when a friend talks to another, when they are compared with a peer or cousin. Children may have frequent disagreements or fights if they are jealous of a sibling or a friend. A jealous child might hit the other child and act like it is just a game or complain about the other. Let us look at ways these jealousy pangs can be handled:

1. Hugs and Love: If the need for acknowledgement needs to be met, a display of love is needed. Hugs, cuddles by parents/trusted adults helps for a child to feel cared for as well as build up ‘oxytocin’ the love hormone which calms the internal irritations.

2. Being an active Listener: Many times children wish to be heard and listened to. They do not always need a problem to be solved, but when feeling are vent out, they need an response.

3. Physical comfort: A young toddler could sit on the parent’s lap and speak of their concerns, and an older child could sit alongside and release their emotional turmoil.

4. Calm diversions: After the child has been reminded of all their strengths and calmed. A warm bath, a bedtime tale, a snuggle blanket works wonders.

5. Cause and effect: Every behaviour is due to a trigger or root cause, reasoning logically with your child supports the child. Keeping a watch on the causes and being prepared with remedies keeps the peace in the household.

6. Gratitude: if a child is jealous of another due to material possessions, then, reminding the child of all that e/she has and can be grateful for works to dissipate the initial anger and pent-up emotions.

7. Social stories and personal narratives: spoken by parents and trusted adults and ways they handled jealousy a sa child gives a different context. Stories also help children to realise that they are not the only ones facing this and there is a solution.

Jealousy often comes from insecurity in ourselves like a feeling like we are doomed or hurt. Self-esteem needs a building up, which can be done slowly by the parents. A parent’s “voice” becomes their child’s “voice” later in life. If a parent name calls a child as being useless, no-good, then that is what the child believes to be true, but if a child is shown his/her positives and motivated to reach his/her potential with motivation and thereafter shown that the parent loves the child, is proud of them then that’s what the child believes himself/herself to be. Uncertainty is just a way of life because we can’t control everything. The only thing we can control is ourselves.

Building on self-awareness and self-management are two life skills that can change a jealous child to be a goal-setter. A child who is resilient, learning from his/her mistakes and has a growth-mindset to achieve his/her set goals. Envy can be a great motivator for setting goals and pushing capability boundaries. A parent can support a child to navigate this transition with personal examples, consistency in discipline and celebration of a behavioural modification.

Dr. Aarti Bakshi

Developmental Psychologist and SEL Consultant at SAAR Education. Catch her on

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