When relatives play favorites

"My husband is from a family in which most of his relatives, grandma and parents have all boys. In December we had a beautiful baby boy. Our problem is that my husband's family treats our two nieces (ages four and eight months) different than our son. The girls are held and played with and told how nice they are, then they look at our son and say `Oh, but boys are nice too'. Our son is too young to understand their preference yet, but we are hurt by their behavior, and soon our son will begin to notice. We're desperate for suggestions. Thank you."

"I wish your relatives would realize that some families are `starved' for boys, and how lucky they are to have offspring of both sexes. But other than being extra-supportive of your son yourself, I wouldn't expect the relatives to change."

"I think you should ignore the comments of your relatives and just make sure that your child knows that you love and care for him/her. It would also be nice for your child to spend time with his/her grandparents without other children around to steal attention away from your child. By seeing that your child gets this special time with the grandparents, you won't have to bring up the subject and created hurt feelings that may effect you, your husband and especially your child."

"Try giving your son lots of attention during these visits so he doesn't feel completely left out. As he gets older he may need more reassurance. Also, as he ages and shows everyone what a wonderful child he is, the family may come to appreciated him more. Seldom in families are all things absolutely equal, and this one may just be one of those times."

"Try to schedule some time with relatives so that your boy will be the only baby there so they can get to know him. You also might try to tactfully mention something like, `I know how thrilling it must be to finally have some granddaughters to cuddle, but let's make sure all the babies get attention'."

"Honesty! I felt when my in-law's were here for Christmas they left our daughter out. All the grandchildren were present. She cried because she couldn't sit with her NaNa - they kept telling her to `grow up'. It broke my heart. The grandparents bought gifts for all the children and gave our daughter a check. I could tell she was upset when all the others opened their

gifts. I took them aside and said `I can see she's really upset' and a I felt left out for her. They said they were sorry and we have had no problems since."

"The girls came first. They are more responsive. I'd wait and see if the problem persists. In the mean time, speak for your son. Tell his grandparents how much he loves them. Write letters or notes to his grandparents from him. You tell (in first person) about the daily routine, the adventures and mishaps, always drawing the grandparents into the scenario. For example: `Today it was cool, so I wore the jacket you gave me. If fits me perfectly and I especially like the soft lining. I think about you whenever I put it on."

"I grew up with grandparents who did the very same thing. Unfortunately my parents tried to ignore it and I grew up feeling unloved and disliked by my grandparents. The best thing to do is to talk to them and explain that boys are just as precious as girls and need just as much love as girls. If they do not understand then tell them when they get older they will not see them because it is very painful to be treated different just because you're a boy."

"I would say the only solution, and the best solution, is to confront your husband's family. But I would let him discuss the situation with them first. that way, they won't feel embarrassed, or as embarrassed if you were there - and you won't either. Even though you are married, they are still his parents, and he knows them better. They might be able to discuss the problem more openly, with you not there, so as not to hurt your feelings. They might not even realize they are acting this way. If they are reasonable people, I'm sure this will work. If not, then you must confront them, too."

"Talk to family members directly, stating how the behavior makes you feel and that you fear it will hurt your son and set up unnecessary rivalry between the children. You may not have a `talking' family, but it's worth the effort."

"Talk to your in-laws about your feelings. They probably don't realize that they are treating the children differently and almost certainly don't realize that it is upsetting you. Show them how you play with and cuddle your son and how much he enjoys it. Once they discover what a joy it is to have him laugh and `talk' to them in their arms, they'll be hooked."

"Unfortunately, you can't pick all your relatives. Your messages will be most important to him. (Dobson has a book called YOUR CHILD'S SELF-ESTEEM). Make sure to watch and `read' his feelings as he grows and explain the things he doesn't understand and reaffirm what a wonderful child he is, just as his cousins are. Don't wait too long to explain, perhaps right in front of these relatives. It may point out their obvious oversight in a subtle manner. The important thing is not to try changing them, but first protect your child's self-esteem."

"Unfortunately, we cannot control other's feelings or behavior. It sounds like this preference of the nieces is at large family get togethers. I'd encourage you to have smaller family gatherings so that the grandchildren aren't competing for the same attention of the older relatives."

"Dear Abby would probably say to tell them your feelings. Maybe you'll have to say, `But boys need hugs and cuddles too, to stay nice."

"It's a very touchy subject dealing with relatives behavior. We tend to ignore their behavior since you won't change them but will only create a tense relationship. Your son will notice the difference later and with your positive affirmations - he will have positive reinforcements but not be ruled by other behavior."

"You could find ways for the grandma and any others to whom you want your son to be close to spend time alone with him or in a setting where he is the only child. Please keep in mind that the favoritism as you describe it will not matter to your son for quite some time (if ever) and by the time it does matter to him those relatives may treat him the same warm attentive way they treat his girl cousins."

"A talk with them would be best but a carefully written letter to the most sympathetic person could work well also. One person could help change the tone. Validate their feelings - it would be easy to dote on the only two girls in a large family of male children - but help them realize your family's need for their affection and attention. Perhaps you can enlist the aid of your nieces' parents at family gatherings to shift the spotlight onto all the babies in turn (maybe you'd try that before the direct approach and see how the adults respond). Rehearse some non-confrontational statements to help get your point across. If all this fails, make sure your son gets his due from other sources. If you act hurt and upset about the situation it compounds the problem so try to live it lightly."

"Share your feelings with your husband's family. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Use `I' statements. Don't blame them. Tell them what you see, feel, think, and want. If they can't comply, then the ball is in your court. If you use `You' statements, you will probably get defensive answers and hurt feelings. Good luck!"

"Tell everyone - how you feel!"

"Discuss your feelings with your in-laws. We have a similar situation where my mother-in-law favors girls. My son, now 5, notices it, comments on it and is very hurt by it. As a result, he is not as fond of this grandma as his other. My mother-in-law, I feel, loses out on a wonderful relationship she could have."

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