May 30, 2024

I have three grandchildren in their 20s who never visit me. Should I stop sending them money? Money psychotherapist VICKY REYNAL replies

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Dear Vicky

I have three grandchildren in their twenties who I never see as they do not visit. Every birthday I send them a card with money included but I never receive a thank you message from them.

Should I now stop sending money or would it cause an upset?

Anonymous grandfather

Dear Anon,

You need to think about what it is that you would like to communicate to your grandchildren in order for you to decide what to do.

First of all, have a think about why you are sending money in the first place. There may be more than one answer: you might want to show your love to them. You might do it because you feel it’s what is expected. 

Or because that’s what your own grandfather used to do. Try to articulate what underlies this habit and, if there are several reasons, your sense of how important each of them feels.

Next, acknowledge and unpack your feelings about their non-response.

How does it feel to give your money generously and not receive any response? Has it left you feeling sad? Angry? Disappointed? Resentful? Lonely? There may be a number of feelings in the mix.

Vicky Reynal suggests 'acknowledging and unpacking feelings about their non-response'

Vicky Reynal suggests ‘acknowledging and unpacking feelings about their non-response’

Try to think about these in the wider context of your relationship with your grandchildren. Is this just about the money or is it compounding on feelings built up over time. Is this just another sign of how little you feel they consider you / value you / invest in the relationship with you?

You see, having this broader view of what these ignored money-gifts mean to you helps you take the next step.

Doing more of the same just out of fear that it will cause an upset isn’t helping anyone: you might be avoiding an upset, but what message are you sending to your grandchildren about relationships and the importance of expressing gratitude? There are better ways to handle this which might involve giving feedback but still with respect and empathy.

You might choose to keep sending money: is it because you want to express love and a desire for closeness with your grandchildren? Is it because you had a lovely relationship with your own grandfather and you wish to build the same with them? 

Then I would invite you to say this more directly: let them know you wish they’d be in touch more often and that a ‘thank you’ would go a long way. It doesn’t have to be a judgemental confrontation. 

Getting the tone and language right can help in many ways: it can give you the relief of offloading some of the feelings that you’ve been carrying; it can be a lesson for them that their choices (in this case their inaction) have an impact on the other person; but most importantly it opens up a space for a conversation.

The response you might get could be anything from a shrug and a ‘I didn’t think of it, I was busy,’ to an apology ‘sorry, I didn’t know it made you feel this way’ or even an unexpected ‘I thought you sent money and a card so you didn’t have to speak to me’. 

Sometimes people make very wrong assumptions, and we can stop that by putting into words what we mean, rather than leaving it up for interpretation. You just don’t know until you start the conversation.

The risk is that you may not get the answer you hoped for or an answer at all, which is painful, but so is the current situation. Also, bear in mind that teenagers sometimes shrug things off, but the message might still have been received.

If you are looking to improve these relationships think also about what you could be doing differently for these relationships to flourish. You say they don’t come to visit you, but is it possible for you to visit them? Have you tried calling them after a few days to check that they received the card and ask them how their birthday was? 

What about a more personal gift rather than money? What about a video call once in a while? You see, sometimes, we behave like the parents/grandparents we had, and are reluctant to try new things.

Back to your question: to send or not to send?

To stop posting a gift with no explanation has its risks: what message are you sending? It’s unclear. Is grandpa angry or does he not care? Did he forget or is he struggling financially? What if you get more of the same, ie: no reaction? Will the money you saved compensate for feeling now even more lonely/ignored? 

My suggestion is that if you decide to stop sending a gift, explain your reasons, otherwise you might be misinterpreted and you’ll miss an opportunity to send the message that you really want to send to your grandchildren.

Do you have a question for Vicky Reynal? Email her at

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