Sibling jealousy and fighting are as common among kids as skinned knees and lost baby teeth. If emotions get out of control, however, long-term problems can develop. If not addressed appropriately, extreme jealousy between siblings can lead to difficulty getting along as adults and perhaps other significant threats to emotional health. This can be especially seen in adoptive families. Sibling jealousy and rivalry may not always end in childhood, but does that necessarily mean it’s a problem? Read on for more information to help determine if your children are going through a phase or if a cause for concern actually exists.
How Common is Sibling Jealousy?
Whether it is through adoption or with a newborn, children can adjust to a new sibling. However, it is unavoidable for the quantity or quality time with parents begin to decrease when a new child comes into the family. Older siblings often feel displaced within the family as a result, which sets up the new child as a rival for the parents’ attention. This is the foundation of sibling jealousy and rivalry, and it’s common. Fortunately, the challenge passes fairly quickly in most cases.
Early Signs of Sibling Jealousy
Parents should always be on the lookout for signs so they can be addressed as early as possible. Jealousy is often the root cause of fighting between siblings. Signs of jealousy in the older child include difficult and demanding behavior, mood swings or temper tantrums with irritability, dependent or clingy behaviors, attachment issues, and problems with eating and sleeping. Some children may even undergo changes in their toilet routines and habits. Parents must also be aware of a child’s hurtful behaviors toward younger siblings. An older sibling may taunt or say unkind things to the younger child, or display aggressive and physically harmful (pinching, poking, etc.) behaviors. Oftentimes these behaviors can escalate into much worse behaviors like fighting or shouting at one another. There are some troubled teenagers that may even resort to physical violence. By the time these behaviors manifest, parents should consider professional counseling to restore order in the home.
Preventing Sibling Jealousy
There are many things a parent can do to help prevent jealousy amongst siblings as a parent. One is to set alone time aside for each of them. Kids can sometimes see their parent’s love and attention as something that is scarce and that they have to compete against each other for it. Setting time aside for each of them to experience their moments with you can help. At Havenwood Academy, we work with many adopted teens that experience sibling jealousy in a very different way. An adopted child surrounded by siblings that are biologically related to their mom and dad is a very lonely feeling. It’s important to keep note on how an adopted child may feel towards their siblings at first, and knowing that is normal and something all adoptive parents have to work through.
When to Be Concerned
Some level of sibling conflict is normal. Sibling conflict that crosses the line into physical, emotional or sexual abuse, however, cannot go untreated. Sibling abuse is a serious concern that can have long-lasting effects on the victim. These include depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor self-image, and even suicidal thoughts. Parents who are concerned about fighting and jealousy between children should contact a child psychologist or treatment center to address the issue before the situation can escalate to abuse. If you notice extreme hostility or verbal, emotional or physical abuse, it’s critical to seek immediate intervention. Children who bully their siblings may suffer from behavior and emotional issues and require professional interventions and support. Likewise, the sibling who has been abused or bullied also needs to spend time with a psychologist or behavioral counselor to prevent the complications that may otherwise develop.
Havenwood Academy provides residential treatment for girls and young women who suffer from emotional and mental challenges. Residential treatment is shown to be exceptionally helpful for breaking the cycle of abuse. Find out today if Havenwood can help you by filling out our free Online Assessment.
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