Read Related: Celebrating National Siblings DayAVOIDING COMPARISONS When Little Sister always seems to get better grades, excel in every after-school activity she tries, and hangs out with the most popular kids in class, it can be hard for Big Sister not to feel that she can never possibly measure up. “When I was in college, I would call home to tell my parents about an exam I did well on or a term paper I was working on,” says Lana. “And my Dad would immediately say, ‘Well, your little sister just got 100 on her math test.’ And she was in middle school! I felt like he was so much prouder of her.” The result was not just that Lana felt inferior to her younger sister. “I didn’t feel like I could be happy for her when she accomplished something. I just felt jealous, and like, Well, our parents are happy enough for you. You don’t need my support.”
It’s been the subject of books, comedies, tragedies, and countless movies. It can be real or imagined; it can cause arguments over dinner or a lifetime of damaged relationships. It’s that feeling one child has about a sibling—that their brother or sister is, in fact, loved more by their parents or grandparents. It’s called favoritism, and it routinely causes jealousy and conflict—sometimes well into adulthood and over the course of a lifetime. Parents don’t mean for one child to feel more loved than another, but sometimes even just the perception of bias can prevail. Here are some ways Mom and Dad can avoid favoritism, smooth over hurt feelings, and make sure their kids feel that there’s more than enough love to go around.