Jealousy among siblings is common in many families. When you have a child with celiac disease (CeD), additional challenges may arise for each sibling.

Children with CeD: Children may feel left out or lonely within the family system. They have to eat a gluten-free diet all the time, they may have to pack special food, and they miss out on certain activities while siblings may have more freedom.

Children without CeD: Parents must provide extra support and accommodations for the child with CeD in order to keep them safe. These acts may look like special attention in the eyes of a sibling, thus causing jealousy. Siblings without CeD may also feel resentment. Resentment can develop as the sibling continues to witness others making accommodations for the child with CeD by checking labels, buying particular foods, or eating at certain restaurants.

With each child, it is important to do two things:

  1. Validate feelings
  2. Provide support

Validate feelings: Let your child know that it is okay to feel jealous, and that it is important to talk about his or her feelings instead of suppressing them. They are not “bad” or “wrong” to have these feelings. Provide a safe and loving environment for your child to openly talk about how they feel.

Provide support: Listen and try to problem solve with your child. You may not be able to change or fix a situation, but you can take steps to ease tough circumstances.

Following are a few examples:

Validate: “It can be tricky to have celiac disease, can’t it?”

Support: “It is hard when your sister gets to eat the soccer treat and you can’t. Would you like to pick one of your special gluten free treats to bring?”

Validate: “Sometimes it’s hard to eat gluten free”

Support: “Let’s think! What can we do to make this party better for you?”

Validate: “You wish we could eat at any restaurant we want. I hear you. We have to find a restaurant where everyone can eat safely”

Support: “Here are two restaurant choices, which one would you like?”

Another useful tool to teach is fair vs. equal. Everyone in the family gets what they need; it may not be equal or exactly the same, but it is fair. This can be a difficult concept, especially for young children, but can aid in understanding that, as parents, it is our responsibility to make sure everyone in our family receives what they need.

For instance, one child gets a gluten containing cookie with his/her meal at a restaurant and the child with CeD gets a cup of ice cream after dinner instead. They both get a sweet treat but they are not exactly the same. This is fair but not equal.