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Dear Dr. Yael,

Most children are in competition with their siblings, often with a younger brother or sister. I am very close with one of my nephews, but the minute he sees me speaking with his younger brother he says that he doesn’t like me. If I give his brother a lollipop, he begins to act up, then the almost two-year-old gets in on the act and it usually causes mayhem.

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Why are kids so jealous of their siblings? Why can’t they just be happy that someone else is getting things? I want to give all of my nephews attention, but I can’t split myself into a million pieces. I try to focus on one of my nephews each time I see them, but then the others always act out and I don’t end up getting to enjoy them. What can I do to make them all happy?

A Bewildered Aunt

 

Dear Bewildered Aunt,

It is very natural for kids to want attention and to be jealous of each other, especially when there is a new baby. A good analogy: Imagine your husband brings home a younger woman. This new wife does nothing while you run around cooking, cleaning, and keeping things running smoothly. In fact, your husband asks you to get things for this new wife and to help him take care of her. Everyone comes by with presents for her and talks about how cute she is, even though she actually does nothing all day. Any one of us would feel jealous and frustrated in this situation. We would probably be more irritable and act out as well. While the analogy is an exaggeration, it helps adults understand why siblings get jealous of each other and have a hard time when one gets attention and they don’t.

Perhaps if you tried to spend time with all your nephews at once, they wouldn’t be jealous of each other. This will be tricky, but with a little preparation, you may be able to work it out. Pick up a game that you could play with the older ones and some items from the dollar store to keep the little ones busy with, and then switch off.

If you can better understand how they are feeling, it will be easier for you to navigate the situation in the moment. Thank you for your letter and hatzlocha!

***

Dear Dr. Yael,

I’m very offended by the comments about the “less than desirable nebachs” used by letter-writer “angry at CW” to describe the people her husband brings home impromptu on Shabbat. You see, I am one of them. I’m not successful. I do not have a wife. I do not have children. I really have nothing in my life other than an occasional piece of chocolate cake. The joy and warmth that comes into my heart when a wonderful person like your husband extends a Shabbat invite to me is indescribable. A simple Shabbat Shalom or acknowledgment of my existence makes me melt faster than butter on a hot summer day.

It’s bad enough that I already knew what the “normal, desirable non-nebach” people think and say about me and the rest of my underground nebach sewer-dweller brothers and sisters, but it really hurts to read about it in a Jewish paper. I know you weren’t trying to insult or offend anyone, but I would appreciate it if in the future you would think before saying something.

Nebuch’adnezer

P.S. Any chance you have any openings at the table this Shabbos? I don’t have anywhere to

 

Dear Nebuch’adnezer,

Thank you very much for pointing out this horrendous error. You are correct that this should never have been worded that way and you are not a nebach. I do think it’s amazing that you can look at this with humor – it’s a great asset for anyone looking to get married. You don’t make it clear that it’s something you desire, but if you are, a sense of humor will help you through the challenges.

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.