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Jealousy in Families with Multiple Children

Jealousy among children in the family has ancient and tragic traditions.

It flashes when parents prefer one child to others, although it happens

involuntarily. Children like to read and to listen to the stories about

jealousy, punishment and revenge. It is interesting that their sympathies

are not on the side of the “victim.”


Not a very happy event


In contrast to their parents, children do not know how jealousy develops.

They do, however, know how jealousy feels. No matter how skillfully they

are prepared to meet a new member of the family, appearance of a new brother

or sister always leads to new sufferings and jealousy. Is there any explanation

available to reconcile the jealous child at the appearance of a new child?

Jealousy, envy, or rivalry of any type will be a real torment for the




The birth of a brother or sister is a paramount crisis in the life of

a child. His or her “orbit” changes and it is necessary to

help him or her weather the changes. Each parent should know their child

and his or her feelings in order to help him or her along the way.



When telling a child about the event, it is best to avoid long explanations

-- and don’t give false impressions. For example: “We love

you so much! You are a very good boy so your dad and I have decided to

have another son the same as you are. You will also love him. He will

be your brother. You’ll be proud of him. And he will always play

with you.”



This explanation isn’t so earnest and persuasive. From his parents’

words, the child will most likely form different conclusion: ”If

they really loved me, they wouldn’t have decided to give birth to

another child. I am probably disliked by them and that’s why they

want to change me for another child.”



It is a very bitter experience to share a mother’s love. From his

or her own experience, the child knows “share” means to get

“less” (for example, when sharing an apple or a piece of bubble-gum).

“Sharing” of the mother in every form isn’t to a child’s

liking, and we are expecting that he or she will be pleased by it! Alas,

it happens on the contrary.


A new member of the family

The information about the birth of a younger child is possible to be

said without special solemnity. It is enough to say, “we are going

to have another baby.” No matter what the immediate reaction of

the child has been, we know that he or she has a lot of unasked questions

and painful doubts. We should help him or her to cope with this crisis,

to overcome this sincere experience which is likely difficult for him

or her.



The appearance of a younger child is a threat to the calmness of an elder

child. However, we as parents can decrease the level of the “pressure”

of this unpleasant news on the spirit of the child. Everything depends

on our desire and skill. The following is an example when the news about

the birth of a second child made a really destructive action in the life

of a family (this is the recollection of a grown-up about his childhood).



”When Johny was born, my father made me approach his bed to look

at him. And, even today, I remember this red- faced child on my mother’s

arms and could hear my father saying to me, ‘Now you have to behave

in the best way and help us, because you have the brother. You are not

the only child. Now there always will be two of you; earlier you were

alone, but now there are two of you.’ After that, I devoted my life

to being better than my brother at everything in order to turn his life

into a real hell.”



On the contrary, the following example shows how parents should prepare

the appearance of the new family member by using a story.



“When 5-year-old Vera learned that her mother was going to have

a child, she was extremely happy. In the conversation with her mother,

she drew an ideal picture of life with her brother. But the mother did

not praise such a narrow view on the future. Instead she said, ‘Your

brother won’t bring only happiness to us, but will demand care.

He will cry, disturb everybody, and bore you. We will have to wash his

wet and dirty diapers often, we will have to feed him, dress him, and

look after him. You may think that I forgot about you and you may feel

jealous of your. It will seem to you that I love only your brother and

don’t love you anymore. If such thoughts appear in your head, please

tell me about it. You’ll see that I love you the same amount as

your brother and you won’t have to worry about it. You will understand

that I love you.’”



Some parents don’t like to speak with a child in a manner that

might seem unbelievable. It is necessary to notice that it is not news

for the child. Our words will be useful: they will show understanding

of the child’s feelings. The child will trust his parents and speak

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