One of the most unpleasant or difficult emotions a child may experience is jealousy. Unfortunately, it is common in children and can arise in many different situations. Jealousy can make children feel vulnerable and can cause them to display a range of unwanted behaviours.
It is essential to be aware that parental behaviour can trigger negative emotions in your child. For example, jealousy can develop if a child, eager to please, feels pushed aside or that attention is disproportionately given to another child.
Common triggers of jealousy in a child:
- The arrival of a younger sibling
- The feeling of being rejected
- Comparisons against others and being made to feel inadequate
- Unhealthy competition
- Imbalance of material possessions between siblings or peers
Signs of jealousy in childhood:
- Possessive behaviour
- Complaints about the child, or children, they feel jealous of
- Bullying other siblings or peers
If you notice your child showing signs of jealousy, you have several ways to help them navigate these negative emotions.
- Listen to them: Quite often, the behaviour that comes from feeling jealous comes from deep within. Talk to your child, discover why they feel envious of a particular person, and listen to what they say. For example, you may find it stems from a lack of self-esteem or low self-confidence.
- Offer love and compassion: A child with secure attachments to caregivers tend to have a more positive self-image and a greater sense of worthiness. These benefits continue into adulthood.
- Do not use comparisons amongst children: If you compare one child against another, it can make them feel devalued. This includes academic and athletic abilities. Rather than encouraging your child to improve, it is more likely to build up resentment in them and the belief that you care for another child more than them.
- Demonstrate positive emotions and connections with others: Modelling positive behaviour can teach your child about feelings of love, sharing and caring from a young age.
Jealousy is a common childhood emotion, even more so in children with siblings. Single children may be jealous of their friends or other family members. You may guide your child’s attention towards more positive feelings. You could also seek expert help if things have gotten out of hand. Ignoring and neglecting jealousy could negatively impact mental wellbeing in the future.