How to explain jealousy to a child

Jealousy can arise in children as young as 3 months, that is, since they are babies. Jealousy is an emotion that is easy to feel and is often expressed through expressions or behaviors, for example when a child sees his mother hugging another baby and the little one starts to cry or when a preschooler throws a tantrum when a sibling receives a prize.

The concept of jealousy is sometimes difficult when trying to explain it to a young child. One approach to explaining jealousy is to use a quiet, neutral time to do so, for example at snack time. At this point we can start a conversation with the children about how they are feeling and what is going on.

Search for the moment

Invite your child to enjoy a piece of cake with you , or any other snack that you like and that is in portions. Cut a generous portion for yourself and a very small portion for your child. If your child mentions the difference or seems like he’s upset about the size, ask him how he feels. Help him find the right words so that he can express how he feels and also understand what is happening to him.

Acknowledge their feelings

It is very important that when your child has been able to explain -with or without help- how they feel, you acknowledge their feelings and explain to them that what you feel is called jealousy. Jealousy usually occurs when someone has something that he/she does not have.

You are not the only one feeling jealous

You need to make sure your child knows they are not alone. Everybody gets jealous sometimes, even mom and dad get jealous from time to time, especially when someone has a better car than yours or when someone gets a good haircut. You can offer examples of jealousy in his life, like when a friend gets a new toy but doesn’t give it to anyone. Make sure he understands that these feelings are perfectly normal.

Children's jealousy

It doesn’t have to be a long emotion

Explain to your child that while jealousy is normal, it shouldn’t be if it lasts a long time. Just as you explain that jealousy is something that everyone can feel at some point in their lives, do not rule out the option of overcoming it. You can tell your son that whenever he is jealous you can go looking for you because you will help him and guide him whenever he feels jealous, since it is something that we all experience over and over again, but we must be able to overcome it and that it does not affect us in the least.

Catalogue of emotions

It is a good idea to create a catalog of emotions together by drawing a picture on each page and writing the matching words on they. The catalog does not have to be perfect, but it will help the child to acquire the emotional vocabulary that he needs to deal with difficult emotions. You can include words like happy, sad, angry, scared, jealous, or silly… Ask your child to share their emotion pages with you whenever necessary using the appropriate emotion each day. Whenever feel one way or another, help him discover what his emotion is, why he feels that way, and if he needs to act in any particular way to make him feel better.

A list of thanks

Another way to help your child overcome jealousy after understanding it is to create a thank you list. It consists of creating a list of everything for which he is grateful, such as a new toy, a sibling’s good behavior or having wonderful parents.