Dear Dr. Yael,
I read your column in the November 16 issue about a second marriage. The wife wrote that her daughter’s are not happy with their relationship, even though her sons were.
Dr. Respler, I want to tell that letter writer that she should be happy that most of her children are supportive and that at least her daughters treat her husband with respect.
I am a widow who has met a very nice man who is a widower. We are compatible and think we could have a nice marriage. However, all of our children have made their opposition clear. Why, you ask. Because we both have money and our families are concerned that we will spend it traveling and enjoying each other’s company.
Dr. Respler, this is not usual. Many of our married friends who are well off have issues with their children’s expectations of their money, while my friends who do not have money feel that their children treat them with great derech eretz. It is almost as if it is not good to have too much money.
Is it our fault? Did we spoil our children that badly? I know that our parents did not spoil us; we all grew up struggling. So, why do our children feel so entitled? Why does being generous with our children create a situation in which they feel like we don’t give them enough?
My widower friend and I plan to marry in spite of our family’s objections and we will write pre-nuptial agreements so that our children will inherit money from us after 120 years. We just plan on enjoying ourselves while we are married.
Dr. Respler, do you have any suggestions on how we can make our children understand?
Being affluent definitely comes with its own difficulties. When children have more advantages, it becomes even more important to set limits, something that is not easy to do. However, setting limits and letting them know you have expectations will not only keep your children from feeling less entitled, it will also give them more self-esteem and a foundation to become thoughtful people. That is because expectations will set a guide for how to do things for themselves – which makes them feel accomplished. And when you compliment them on a job well done, they will also feel good about themselves.
If children never do anything for themselves or they have an opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them, then they will likely feel very insecure, which in turn sets the stage for acting out.
Of course, we should support our children and always make them feel safe and loved; however, with that unconditional support and love should come expectations and healthy demands. Children feel safe when they have limits – even though they fight them to the bitter end.
I often have patients who will say, “My mother always wanted to be my friend; I wish I had a mother who was my mother!” Yes, some kids may think it’s fun to be allowed to do whatever they want, but those are the kids who generally end up having difficulties in adolescence and adulthood.
With regards to your children specifically, I cannot really comment as I do not know them, but I can give you some food for thought. Did you always give them money without limits or expectation? Did your children have jobs so they could earn money or points or did you just allow them to have whatever they wanted?
If you are answering yes to either of these questions, then your children are likely difficult because they never had to give to you, and if that is the case, why would today be any different? I am not criticizing you or the decisions you and your husband, a”h, made. I am just trying to help you understand the perspective your children are operating under.
It might be prudent to sit down with your children and tell them how much you love them, and then explain how much it hurts you that they don’t want to get married. Tell them that they will always be your priority, but that you deserve to have your own life and that you hope they will step up to the plate and support you in this new adventure. Validate their feelings – it may be hard for them to see you happy with someone who is not their father. Tell them you understand that it will be a difficult transition for them, that you are willing to be patient, but need to know that they will be there for you as you always were for them.
If need be, go for some family therapy to help them process this new change. Yes, even children with families of their own are still children and may need some help with this transition. Even if you didn’t have as many expectations of your children when they were younger as you feel you should have, you can build them up now and help them feel that they can do it!
Hatzlocha and may you have many years of health and happiness and a beautiful marriage!