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My kids feel hurt that their aunts and uncles blow off important events

My kids are getting short shrift from my family. What can I do?

My children are five to 10 years younger than their cousins. As a family we’ve been present and generous about everything from school plays/concerts/sports to graduations and weddings until two or three years ago. When my kids graduated high school and college, a few of my siblings didn’t come (nor did their children, though my kids went to all of their celebrations) or send a gift. I feel like my kids are getting “ripped off,” partially about the money but also about how unimportant these events appear to be to their aunts and uncles. My kids feel hurt. I don’t know how to address this without sounding petty or money-focused. Do I let it go or say something?

K.M. / Wellesley


As is so often the case with intra-family questions: I don’t know. I don’t know if you should say something or what you should say if you do speak up. Every family (yes, all of them, Leo Tolstoy) has its own unique culture and folkways, and you are the expert. Like an anthropologist, though, I can offer some observations and questions from an outsider’s perspective.

First, who exactly is not showing up for your kids in the way you believe they should? Has it been different family members each time? If that’s the case, it’s probably random error. Surely not everyone attended and gave presents for everything, with no exceptions, up until it was your kids’ turn. You’re only noticing the no-shows now because you’re taking attendance and totaling up receipts for events that you have a stake in. Or is it the same few people every time? If so, what’s up with them? The past two to three years have taken it out of a lot of folks, if you haven’t noticed, both financially and cognitively. If people aren’t showing up the way they used to — at work, in relationships — it’s usually a sign that they’re struggling. If conversations do take place, they need to start from this point.


It also seems possible that your family was, frankly, doing too much pre-pandemic and have throttled back a bit. Personally, I would not expect a twenty- or thirtysomething to attend a cousin’s high school graduation. People that age are busy, fantastically busy trying to build a life for themselves in this crazy world. And to be blunt, your kids did not “attend” their cousins’ graduations — they were taken, and probably fidgeted their way through it.

Finally, your kids are old enough now to begin building their own, individual relationships with their relatives. If they want a closer connection with an aunt or uncle or cousin, they can reach out for that on their own. And that, by the way, is what any conversation needs to be about — ”how can we be closer,” not “you owe me.” And when an important event is coming up, there’s nothing wrong with telling someone that it would mean a lot for them to be there.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.