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Thursday, 14 September 2000

Ungrateful In-Laws

Written by  Dr. Louise Klein

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QDear WholeFamily Counselor,

My husband and I have been married for four years. Our five children and their families live thousands of miles away. We send presents, equal in value and sentiment, to all of our children and grandchildren. My husband's youngest and his wife never send us a card or present for birthdays or Christmas, which I guess shouldn't bother me, but it does. Usually, we have to ask if they've received their gifts.

This year there was one acknowledgment, for the doll we sent for our granddaughter -- the fact that she liked it. No mention of the birthday present or other Christmas presents that were in the package. I'm getting very upset by this and my husband doesn't want to talk about it. What should I do?

Thank you,

Upset In-Law

ADear "Upset In-Law",

I can understand why their lack of acknowledgement upsets you. It's frustrating to put time and effort into choosing a suitable gift and then not feel appreciated. Here are some suggestions for dealing with this couple.

First, continue to buy presents for your grandchildren. Just accept that you probably won't receive a thank-you from your youngest step-son and his wife. And I think that you'll also have to accept that they won't send you a card or gift anytime soon. Let that go.

Second, why don't you make a donation to a charity instead of buying gifts for this couple? There are plenty of worthy causes. Perhaps you could make a donation to a favorite organization that they support. Or make a donation to their children's school, sports or church group. The charity will send a letter to the couple telling them that a donation has been made in their name.

You will also receive a letter from the charity thanking you for your gift and telling you how much you can claim as a charitable deduction on your income tax.

It's a "win-win" situation. You can continue to spend as much on this couple as you do on their siblings, and you know that the money will go to a good cause and be appreciated.

In the unlikely event that the couple should ask you why you're making a donation instead of buying them a gift, here's what you might say. Tell them that you weren't sure that they were receiving the gifts so you decided to send something where you would get a confirmation letter. They might get the hint, they might not. It doesn't matter.

It's always a good idea to teach children how to share. You can discuss where they would like to make a donation with your older grandchildren. Some places, like a zoo, send a packet of information to the child and include a pass to the zoo. This is a nice benefit and increases the child's sense of involvement.

If your husband doesn't want to talk about this then let it go. Only he can know the dynamics of his relationship with his youngest son. You sound like a thoughtful stepmom, mom, and grandma. Continue to enjoy the acknowledgments from your other family members. They sound like they appreciate you.

Dr. Louise Klein

Last modified on Monday, 16 January 2012 18:35
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Dr. Louise Klein

Dr. Louise Klein

Louise Klein was born on the West Coast of Canada but lived for many years in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology from Widener University in Pennsylvania. Dr. Louise Klein is an experienced therapist in insight-oriented talk therapy. She has worked with individuals, couples and groups for many years. Her experience with families includes stepfamilies, adoptive families, nuclear families and families dealing with illness or death. Dr Klein is also trained in thought field therapy and regression therapy and has taught and worked internationally. Louise Klein lives in a rural community with her husband and St. Bernard and has a stepdaughter in college in New England.

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