Here is November’s installment of “Ask Shelby” from Chester County’s own Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Shelby Riley.
I have two daughters, one is six and the other is two. My two-year-old is incredibly cute and charming and gets a lot of attention from friends, family and strangers. My six-year-old often acts hurt and jealous when her sister gets attention. I’m not sure how to handle this. Any ideas?
Signed, Mom to Two
Dear Mom to Two,
It’s hard for a lot of older siblings when their younger sibling gets lots of attention. You might talk with her alone after a time like that and tell her stories about how people made a big fuss over her when she was little. You can explain that people aren’t trying to leave her out, but that people like to make a big deal over little kids and don’t notice that they are being rude or hurtful. You can remind her of the qualities she has that you admire. You can also help her develop compassion and decrease jealousy by creating a game where you notice and are thankful for your blessings. People being kind and complimentary is a blessing for the whole family to enjoy and maybe you two wink at each other whenever someone in the family gets a compliment to mark the blessing. You can wink whenever you see a blessing. So finding a penny in the street, a cough going away, a basket of cookies left by a friend, all get the wink just like when someone gets a compliment.
It can be hard as a mom to try and make sure your kids both feel loved all the time. Part of the solution is letting go of that responsibility. When your oldest acts hurt by the attention given her sister, validate her feelings instead of always trying to change them. Saying something like, “I know, it’s no fun when Sadie gets all the attention. It’s sad that people don’t make a fuss over older kids, too.” This approach, coupled with the suggestions above, allows your oldest to have permission to feel slighted, which is appropriate given the circumstances, and gives her the tools to move through those feelings and cope well when she feels bad.
Good luck, Mom. I have a feeling you will give both your kids exactly what they need.
Shelby Riley, LMFT is the owner of Shelby Riley, LMFT and Associates, LLC, a group family therapy practice in Chester Springs. She is the Past President of the Pennsylvania Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (PAMFT). Remember to check out Shelby’s website www.shelbyrileymft.com for useful information about therapy for individuals, couples, and families. And check out her books on Amazon.