Handling Holiday Jealousy
In the movies, holidays are about love, giving, kindness and caring. In the world of real life parenting, that isn’t always the case. No matter what‘s in your child’s specially-wrapped package, her sister’s present will be better. Santa leaves way more presents at your neighbour’s house, of course, and while the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, the envy seems greener right in your own home. Holiday jealousy between siblings is totally a thing.
Many siblings spend their lives comparing themselves to each other, vying for Mom and Dad’s attention. When it comes to gifts, the comparisons continue. Rather than hoping that jealousy won’t happen, we can let our kids know that it just might show up during the holidays, when shopping at the mall or when a playmate gets the exact toy they were hoping for.
With young children, the old ‘distract and re-direct’ move may be your best bet. However, if your kids have graduated to the ‘You-can’t-fool-me-with-that’ stage, you need a new plan. Read stories about jealousy (such as When I Feel Jealous by Cornelia Spelman) so that your kids can tell you if and when they’re feeling jealous, and need some help. Acknowledge the feeling rather than telling them not to feel jealous.
How to Handle Holiday Jealousy
It may seem like buying each child a matching gift or distracting one child while the other is opening presents would be the best way to get kids past jealousy. The truth is, it’s protecting them from ever experiencing the emotion AND from the opportunity to learn how to deal with it. If jealousy appears the moments the gifts are opened, try these scripts:
- I hear jealousy. I bet you wish you had a toy just like that. It’s ok to feel sad, so let’s move away so we can get your sadness out together.
- Perhaps when your brother has had a chance to use his new toy, he’ll show you how it works.
- You sound a bit sad. That’s ok. The feeling will pass. Let me know when you are ready to open your own presents and show me what you have.
Some families have a two-hour no-share policy with new gifts, allowing the recipient a chance to try it out without having to share it with the jealous sibling. Let your kids know what your policy is upfront so that when you refer to it, they take comfort from the family’s plan.