It’s your child’s big day — time to celebrate! The only hang-up? His preschool-age brother is jealous. It can be difficult for a preschooler to watch a sibling receive present after present when he’s not getting any. He may react to the situation by crying, throwing tantrums, name-calling, or hitting.
A big struggle for threes and fours is fairness. Since they are still rather egocentric, they may struggle to accept that a sibling is getting all the attention. Fours, especially, closely watch how their parents treat their siblings and are often certain it is not fair. This is often heightened during a special event like a birthday celebration.
Children of this age also lack patience and have a limited concept of time. It’s tough for them to grasp why it’s not their own birthday yet. You may be tempted to say, “In just another month, it’ll be your birthday.” But for preschoolers, especially 3-year-olds, waiting weeks or months seems like forever.
Although you likely won’t be able to assuage these emotions completely, you can help keep them at bay. The key is to be proactive against feelings of jealousy. Perhaps ask a cousin or aunt to be your preschooler's “buddy” during the party so he gets special attention.
The good news is that as 4-year-olds begin to develop moral reasoning, they become excited for the birthdays of people they love. Next year, your child may look forward to giving a gift to his brother!
TIP: Read sibling stories. In A Birthday for Frances by R. Hoban, Frances doesn’t want to be part of a birthday party that’s not for her. Borrow the book from the library and talk with your child about how Frances finally relates to her sister’s celebration activities. Use sock puppets to work through the various issues fairly.
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