Module 3: How to intervene on a jealous child
video 6: 6 steps on help express feelings
To help your child feel truly understood by you and encourage him or her to talk about their strong feelings you can take the following 6 steps :
Step 1: Find a quiet moment where you know you will not be disturbed with your child, that has been showing jealousy towards a sibling. Sit down and ask your child how he or she feels about his or her brother or sister. You may want to start the conversation with a phrase like:» It’s not always easy to have a little sister/ a big brother…. » or « A little brother /a big sister can be very annoying…how do you feel about______(name of the sibling)? »
Step 2 : Show that you are ready to accept everything he or she will tell or show you. Don’t be afraid of the intensity of his or her pain or anger. You don’t need to do or say something at this point, your listening to him or her is a way for your child to be heard and to understand himself better and feel relief
→when your child has trouble talking about it, it’s maybe not the right moment,
→ when your child is too little to express with words (younger than 2 1/2 or 3 years old), invite him or her to show you with a baby doll how angry she or he is
→ you can also invite him to draw his feelings (« Can you draw me how angry you are ? I want to see it !» ) – good for ages 4 to 8 years (approximately)
→ when your child is older (nine years and older) you can also invite your child to write everything down and to read it to you or (to allow more easily to your child to express his aggressive feeling) to imagine what will happen to his brother or sister in a movie, so it is just fiction.
Step 3 : With all that done you can pronounce the words « Now I (mommy /daddy) know, I see how angry you are, next time you feel that way come and talk to me about it, I will be there for you. » This will have a huge soothing effect on your child, for he or she feels understood and accepted and knows he or she can call on you.
Step 4: Most children will know this but especially for little children it can be helpful to tell them that the behavior they showed you or what they imagined and would they would love to happen or do to their brother or sister, can be played, or imagined or thought of or talked about but in no way be done to the brother or sister for real. (These four first steps were inspired by the writings of psychologist Heim Ginott).
Step 5 : It might also be the moment to show your child that his hurtful feeling comes from a place of lack-thinking. They might have the thought that there is only a limited amount of love and that when the parents show their love to one child, he thinks that there would be less love left for him. Tell him that sharing does NOT mean that there will be less left for him: there is an abundance of love in your heart and the heart of others. You can name him all the people who love him and for whom he or she counts. Maybe you want to talk to him about the infinity of love there is and always will be in your heart and that there will always be more than enough for all of your children. In saying so, you envision for your child a new world or a new universe without fighting or struggle, without lack and he or she will feel great relief.
Step 6: Once having released all the « negative » emotions your child can hear how much love you have for him or her: « If you could read in my heart and in the heart of those who are around you, you would see how much you are loved. For us, you know, you will always be the only Susie/ Peter/ Jean-Louis that we will have and that makes you someone VERY special. The love we have for you we will NEVER have for someone else. » These words do have a healing effect on your child’s heart and will put him or her on a higher level, feeling valued for what he is and secured of your love and the place he or she has in your family.