Sage Advice: Father Fears Being a Christmas Grinch

By Amy Dickinson | December 19th, 2018

What do you do when adult children are taking advantage of the holidays


Dear Amy: My husband’s adult children do not celebrate Christmas. They are vocally against it, and against Christianity.

However, they do send us their Christmas lists for expensive items, such as large home appliances and electronics.

We’ve never asked for such a list and have never received as much as a card from them.

I admit I am starting to feel resentful. Their entitled attitude worries me.

We love gift-giving but this is starting to feel more like fulfilling a demand than giving a gift from the heart.

We provide trips, gifts and money generously throughout the year.

I have suggested we let the kids know we will be buying more modest gifts for Christmas. My husband is afraid to rock the boat since his adult kids are accustomed to receiving expensive Christmas gifts from us.

Is there a way we can reset expectations and boundaries, without looking like the Grinch?

– Mrs. Claus

Dear Mrs. Claus: As long as he is afraid of his children, your husband can’t change the equation during the holiday season.

You should encourage him to start to see himself as worthy of adult attention and respect. He seems to feel that he must literally purchase love from his children – and, guess what? He could be wrong! But he will never know the core value of his relationship with his kids until he is brave enough to have these relationships in a more organic way.

If his kids don’t “believe” in Christmas, then don’t do Christmas.

If he is determined to give gifts – this year, he should recognize each of his kids in a new way: by contacting them to say that he has made a donation in their honor to a worthwhile charity.

His kids are not a worthwhile charity, but there are plenty out there, and (unlike his children) these organizations would be grateful for his support. He should steel himself for some blowback from this approach. Change is hard.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2018 by Amy Dickinson

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