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3 Ways to stop sibling playdate jealousy

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Fun, not frustration

The afternoon starts simply enough. One of your kids has a friend over for a playdate. Things are going fine for a little while and all the kids of all ages play together. But then your child with the guest would like a little one-on-one time with her friend without the (often younger)sibling. If not managed efficiently, the scene can turn difficult quickly.

Fun, not frustration

It's jealousy, plain and simple. One child is jealous of his or her sibling's playdate. Even if the child without the friend has plenty of his or her own playdates, even if - well, anything - there's always something so attractive about what one can't have. This kind of jealousy seems to be particularly acute in younger siblings yearning to be big; more than once I've watched my younger son stand forlornly at the door of the playroom, banned for interfering with his brother and the friend, watching, wishing....and sulking.

To us as adults, this situation - and the conflict and drama that arises from it - can seem illogical. We make such an effort to balance the needs of all our kids, making sure they have what they need individually and collectively, that we see one having a playdate as just that child's turn - not a cause for conflict. Each of your kids deserves to have time with just their friends and not be bothered by a jealous sibling. So what do you do?

Plan a special activity

When one child has a friend over, it can be a tremendous opportunity to have special time with another child or children. While one plays with modular plastic bricks with the friend, you can make cookies or do a craft with the other. While one plays on the swingset, you can plant flowers with the other. Positioning yourself so you have an appropriate eye on the child and the friend, create an opportunity to keep you other child occupied and engaged with you.

Double playdates

Another approach is the double-playdate approach: arrange a playdate for your younger child for the same time as the older child. Coordinating three families schedules with appropriate drop off and pick up may be challenging, but may be just what you need to keep everyone occupied.

The downside is that it may feel like much more work in supervision for you and may not necessarily remove the jealousy issue and resulting younger kids trying to interfere with the bigger kids. You have to choose the interpersonal dynamics carefully.

Separate geography

If occupying one of your children or doing double playdates isn't working, you may need to go to separating your kids by more significant geography. Try arranging to for playdates when you know the jealous won't be there, whether at their own playdate at someone else's house or a lesson or a relative's house or wherever. While, again, this can be a little challenging to coordinate, it may give you just the peace you need - literally and figuratively.

Playdates are supposed to be fun for kids and help them to learn about and build relationships with their peers; dealing with a jealous sibling is no fun for anyone.

For more playdate tips:

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