1. Joanna

    Is there any “good” way to respond to the news of a teenager’s pregnancy? I was recently startled, upon bumping into an acquaintance in a store and going through the usual “so what’s new since we last spoke” routine, of learning that her 16-year-old daughter is expecting. I think I may have just given a generic congratulations, as I do admit that wasn’t at all what I was expecting to hear. My acquaintance thanked me, and she quickly moved onto another topic.

    Later, when I had a moment to process, I wondered if there was a “better” means of responding to such news. Of course, when I say congratulations, I mean that a new life should always be welcomed, regardless of how or when it arrives, etc. But obviously, 16 is not exactly the ideal age to support a child by one’s own self, my acquaintance is very religious, etc.

    Any suggestions?

    • I think you did fine. Additionally, allowing your friend to quickly transition to another topic was another graceful way of dealing with the unexpected.

      • I think the best thing to say would be, “please give your daughter my congratulations” and leave it at that. Allowing your friend to change the subject was a wise move!

    • Elizabeth

      I also think you handled it well. If this person is a very good friend who may want to confide in you, you can open things up after you’ve given your congratulations by saying something like “Wow, that must have been unexpected for you. How are you feeling about things?” Just be sure to keep your own opinions out of it and let your friend talk about her feelings. I think that would also be very kind if you have that kind of relationship with your friend.

  2. guin

    i received what can best be described as a ‘back handed thank you” in response to a congratulatory note and monetary gift sent to a graduate. the parent responded that the size of the gift indicated that i must be in financial hardship. the person went on to inform me that they started to return the gift but decided to send a note thanking me for the thought. the person is not ignorant of manners and social graces. this was unexpectantly hurtful. would you respond to this and if so, how? thank you for your thoughts.

    • Don’t make the same mistake in the future.

      That is to say, don’t trouble them with your money. Obviously it causes them too much stress to receive it gracefully. You may, instead, send it to me. I will thank you profusely. 😉

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      Wow! That is rude in many ways! If you would like, you can say “in the future I won’t burden you with gifts.” Or you could not respond and reconsider your relationship with the person.

    • I’m very much going to hope that this person IS ignorant of manners and social graces, because otherwise they purposely did quite a few rude things! First of all, the graduate should have been thanking you, not the parent, and second, whether your gift was big or small, they have no right questioning your financial ability to give what you did. Fortunately for you, thank you never require a response. I suggest just letting it go, responding with anything will only lead to more awkwardness.

  3. From what I understand, and infer, you were notified of a friend or family member’s child graduating and sent a congratulatory card and gift cheque. The parents of the graduate then contacted you to say they thought the gift you sent was insufficient and/or in some way weird? This is genuinely bizarre. Perhaps there are details you omit that might shed light on the situation?

    If it’s as I describe, they were wrong to use the opportunity of their child receiving a gift to comment on your financial situation (whatever it may be!). If they bring it up, divert their insult by again congratulating the child on the accomplishment, and asking questions about his/her postgrad plans.

    • Perhaps there are details the OP is omitting; however, I’ve heard (more than once, sadly) about people who were unhappy with presents who chose to instead be “polite” and make a reference to “husband losing job” or “tough financial times” to excuse the person who gave the “insufficient gift”… they actually believe that the amount was too small and therefore rude. Most of us here are not like that, but I have met a few in the real world who believe that some people “owe” them certain amounts. Very, very sad.

  4. Leslie Snipes

    I brought my son home after a stroke 2 weeks ago and have been startled about how poorly people behave toward him in public. I read this article this morning and popped over to emilypost.com hoping to find something more extensive on this topic.
    I was terribly disappointed to see that the only reference to the disabled in Emily Post was a single mention for Groomsmen at weddings. Personally, I’ve always found the general rules of etiquette mostly covered how to interact with the disabled but a bit more would be nice too.

    • Elizabeth

      I’m sorry to hear about your son. I think you bring up a really important point. Is there anything in particular that you feel people should be aware of, or that they should handle in a different way?

    • As a person who works with students with disabilities in college, I agree with you (and particularly like #9 on the list).

      I’ve had to explain to people that those using a wheelchair don’t necessarily have diminished mental capacity – if you have a questions, ask them, not the person standing next to them. My Deaf friends don’t need Braille menus, and PLEASE DON’T TOUCH the service dog belonging to my friend who is blind! Another thing which irks me is the term “wheelchair bound.” They use the wheelchair as we use our cars or bicycles – as a mode of transportation. We don’t describe a person with a broken leg as being crutch-bound. “Wheelchair user” or “my friend who uses a chair” is much better. Many using chairs still drive cars, go kayaking, and participate in other activities. They are not bound to their chair.

      A question I received recently from a professor is a good example.
      Professor: I have a student in a wheelchair, and we’re taking a field trip. Do you think she’d like to go?
      Me: Did you ask her?
      Professor: Well, no. I thought I’d check with you first.
      Me: I have no idea what she might want. I suggest asking her.

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