Playdate Repercussions!

Updated on May 31, 2011
J.L. asks from Beverly Hills, CA
27 answers

A little while ago I asked a question here about playdate protocol. Thanks everyone who answered! But! Little did I know what trouble was a-brewing! My son went on his first ever playdate this weekend and had a great time. The family were respectable and lovely and very very kind to my son. It was also obvious that they are much wealthier than we are. Big house and surrounds, beautiful pool, extensive gardens and designer furniture and decorating. It was perfect. However, when I picked up my son, on the drive home he became very quiet and then started to cry like his heart was breaking. He wailed and wailed about how he wished we had a happy family (I thought we did!) and about his little brothers being naughty made us into a sad family (I didn't think we were!). He also said he wanted us to have a bigger house, and better furniture, and a garden he could plant things in (he does this every weekend at our family farm!). I think he's seen how the other half live, and he wants a piece of it. In relation to the issue about his little brothers, his friend has just one little sister, whom I would think would create a very different dynamic in a family compared to three little boisterous boys less than three years apart. We're not particularly poor, but we do have to watch our budget, and we certainly don't have all the beautiful homewards I'd like. My problem is that my son goes to a rather pricey private school, and the majority of his friend's parents are going to have a more luxurious lifestyle than us. My question is, what do I do about this? He's never noticed things like this before. FYI he's six years old.

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone. This has really knocked me sideways as I didn't ever think he was affected by material things that much. It has made me feel guilty that I haven't created a more beautiful home (all be it small), but I seriously am not talented in that area.
:(. I now have a compulsion to improve everything in our home, but I'm sure I would just make a mess of it. We actually live in a small house, in a very nice area, but we're time poor (and not as rich as others in this area), and honestly, I just feel like crying. It has shaken me up because I thought I was going along so well, having good times with the kids, and keeping a reasonably clean house. When things have settled down, I shall try some of the suggestions you have given me. I'll just go and have a weep now...

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answers from Los Angeles on

You may be reading too much into it. Sometimes kids that age just say things but it doesn't mean that they really mean it. My son can have a great play date then when it's over say, "It was the worst play date ever!" - He usually says this because he's tired or he didn't want the playdate to end. Don't stress too much about it and do the best you can! Good luck!

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answers from Springfield on

This topic was going to come up at some point, the playdate simply gave him the right opportunity to realize it. There are always going to be people in his life that have more than him and many, many people that have less. This is actually a blessing that this happened now. The sooner you begin this conversation with him, the more opportunities you will have to raise a grateful and compassionate young man!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Well it sounds like your son is getting an introduction to a very mature topic, but one that I think comes to the forefront around this age (say 6-9).

We have had this conversation - both sides of it - in our home. My kids have often asked, "Why is ____ house so small." Or "why does _____ get an iPod touch and I don't?"

We have had TWO main discussions on this topic:

1. How people spend money is a CHOICE. This goes along with spending/saving money, needs vs wants, etc. We have explained that it's important to spend on needs first, and then wants.

2. That everyone brings something different to the table of life, some people have cool toys, other people speak another language, other people play piano, etc. That it's who you are and how your treat people that REALLY matters.

I think it's completely normal to want all the toys and fun things that you don't have. This obviously gives you something to think about when it comes to the rest of his life, private schooling, etc. If you keep him in private schooling this may continue to be a "sore spot" as he gets older. There's nothing wrong with private schools, as long as you can continue helping your son deal with the "haves" and "have nots" issues...

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Orlando on

I have had some similar issues lately with my 7 year old. Its just the 2 of us so we don't have a very big house or a pool nor do we live on a lake. Well some of our friends do... I have had to really discuss with her the difference between wants & needs. I have also asked her whats more important, a big fancy house or the love of your family. I asked her, what if I lost my job & we had to live in a one bedroom apartment & we couldn't buy toys, but it was just the 2 of us & we had each other & our love & we had food to eat. Would you be ok? After thinking about it she realzed that it would be ok. I try to teach her to be thankful for what we do have because there are families out there with a lot less than what we have. Its hard because children that age don't really have a concept of how life works. They just see what other people have & what they don't. As an adult its hard sometimes. But when you really think about it the most important thing is each other...

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answers from Chicago on

I know this situation so well. My kids attend a private school and have seen how the other half lives many times. My 5 yr old son hasn't seemed to notice, but my 9 yr old daughter has cried about her friends huge bedrooms, huge playrooms, trips to Disney 2x a year..etc...etc..etc... It is hard to hear because I feel like my husband and I sacrifice so many of our own needs & wants to provide a nice life for our kids. I just remind my daughter that money doesn't buy happiness and to be thankful for what she has. I ask her how she would like to go daycare before school and after school until 6 PM and not get to do any of her activities/sports because that is how life would be if I were still working. I also remind her of all of the homeless kids who don't have shelter or food on a regular basis. That kind of puts it into perspective for her. We did a charity event with her Brownie troop at Feed My Starving Children. It was an eye-opener. She cried when they watched the video showing all of the starving kids. She felt so good doing something to help. We talked all the way home about how a minimal amount of money that she would spend on say, an outfit from Justice could feed a starving child for a year and how there is so much luxury and wealth in this country compared to other parts of the world. I just keep reinforcing that she's lucky to have a comfortable house with heat, food, clothing. She's lucky she can go to an expensive private school that we sacrifice to send her to, she's lucky she can play sports and take piano lessons. It's an on-going process of reinforcing. Hopefully one day she will realize how we sacrificed and appreciate it.

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answers from Dallas on

That's tough when they don't understand. My thought is that we need to show our children that we are blessed to have what we have, and that the most important things in life are those things you can't buy (like family). I wouldn't let his comments get you upset or question the way you live. Let him know you have everything you need to be healthy and happy.

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answers from Portland on

I like the idea of treating this as a teaching moment.

Me, myself, I think I would have answered my son's sadness with a lot of empathy. There's nothing unusual for a child to wish they had "more", and sometimes, what my son is wanting is not a 'logical explanation' of this sort of situation, but someone just to acknowledge his feelings. I think my questions to him would be along the line of "What would you do differently?What sort of things did you see that you thought were neat?" and then to just empathize "you know, sometimes it feels hard to want what another person has", because that's a universal feeling.

I like the idea of talking about what our own family uses money for, because necessities are important. I don't know, thought, that I would try to make such a young child "feel grateful" for what he had. I could ask him "What do you like doing with our family" and just be glad to get one thing out. However, I think that some children might feel emotionally yanked around if we aren't careful with this approach. Keeping the conversation grounded in empathy is important so that our kids don't feel guilty for wanting more or feel that their emotions are unacceptable to us. This can happen when we try too hard to change their perceptions when emotions are high.

That said, it is something to come back to when feelings are less intense. I think that what he experienced is similar to many little children's feelings. Little girls see that their friend has the cute doll with matching clothes and are green with envy. I would try more to make a game out of it, to make it something emotionally safe to talk about. On car trips,you could do an "alphabet game" of "If I could have/do anything I want" game, and just go around the car, sharing ideas. I don't think, though, that any long and involved explanations are going to helpful; I think that may become more problematic emotionally/cognitively for children. So often, kids just want their feelings validated. We can't fix everything; sometimes it's helpful to just say "Wow, yeah, I can see where you're coming from and I'm sorry you are hurting. I can't fix it, but I will be with you in this sad space." and then, when the opportunity presents itself, help them to refocus on something satisfying and unrelated, and let the child come to their own conclusions in their own time.

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answers from Jacksonville on

I think this was a good learning experience for your son. There is nothing wrong with your life and financial circumstances, nor is there anything wrong with the other family's. Don't make a big deal out of it or let him brood (to you) over it any more than he already has.

It's the facts of life; there will always be people with more and less than you or me or anyone else, and it is our choice how we react to that - jealousy, bitterness, resentment, OR learning to be happy for others' fortunes in life, contentment and being a good friend.

You might tell him that if it is too upsetting for him, then he could just not play with his friend any more. Hopefully he would learn to be gracious and grateful that he has a nice friend from a nice family who like him well enough to include him in their fun.

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answers from Williamsport on

CHANGE SCHOOLS! Joking. This is actually a great opportunity for him to start to accept things as they are. It is SO normal for little kids to covet things that are bigger and cooler, and sometimes things that aren't bigger and cooler-the grass is always greener! His heart break isn't genuine at this age about his siblings etc. It's nice he's talking to you.

We were super poor and grew up way rural in Colorado in the 70's. Most of the other kids lived in trailers and had biker parents. But ONE girl had this MANSION (probably if I saw it as an adult it was a normal 2 story :) with a (gasp) PIANO and LOTS OF BARBIES, not just one with hacked off hair and ink stained face, like me. I would go ON and ON about how grandiose and amazing her house was blah blah I wish we had that blah. And then there were our cousins with a HUGE POOL in Minnesota (smallest suburban house and yard ever but we lived in the woods so it seemed FANCY).

I think what was really cool about my parents, was they never got annoyed with the comparisons. We were brought up in church with the selfless giving thing, my mom was always volunteering and donating and helping others even though we didn't have much, but they never railed against materialism to us.

To this day, I teach my kids there is nothing wrong with having a lot just like there is nothing wrong with having a little. Being thankful for what you have counts. When they tell me about everyone else's nice stuff in other towns or on TV, I just say, "Wow, that IS REALLY NICE, if you work really hard one day, and you want that, you could HAVE IT!" So far, they're not jealous of it, they love it, and don't feel threatened.

I would just be supportive of him and agree with him and keep it light. Remind him he can have all that one day if he wants, but it's not nice to say he's unhappy with his own family (not harshly, but you get it)because you guys are fortunate and blessed. If he gets nasty or starts to really dwell on other people being richer, you may want to vary his routine a bit and get some poorer friends as well, but this outburst was OK (maybe, the sadness and crying could be an alarm though -good thing you're on it) but the basic competing is normal. As long as you are happy and thankful for what you guys have, modeling that, and not letting him turn mean.

There's a down side to everything, and for all the perks of his great expensive school, he'll have these issues to conquer. We live in a really down to earth setting where our humble house is the norm, so we won't have those issues so much, but our local public school sucks and is the only option and I'd switch problems with you in a heart beat! :)

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answers from Kansas City on

This is pretty similar to my husband's upbringing and he still tells me stories about the differences in upbringing and material goods from his youth! He's not bitter by any means, but he does remember the differences that affected him so as a kid. His advice is to just be honest and start telling your kids like it is. Tell them that this is what you have and this is what they have and it's all okay. He also said let him do as much as possible with those rich kids and have them pay his way!! (LOL!...that was a joke, just in case you weren't sure!!:)

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answers from Washington DC on

i went to a ritzy school with a lot of really wealthy girls, and sleepovers at their houses always showed me a life very different from our distinctively middle class noisy kid-filled little home! but i never really noticed it until i was older because my parents were very matter-of-fact about it, and never apologized for our more modest lifestyle or acted as if i was living a life that was 'less' in any way.
and i wasn't.
i would be briskly sympathetic with this, ie acknowledge his sadness and wishes for things to be different, but not portray your own good life and happy family as some sort of compromise. for example, when he says how his family is sad due to naughty little brothers, you can say something like 'yes, sometimes it would be nice if it were quieter, wouldn't it? but listen to baby bobby laughing when you play ball with him. i'll bet you'd miss that if you didn't have him!'
or 'yes, i wish we had a pool too. but boy, do we know how to have fun with a sprinkler!!'
don't be too heavy-handed about it, but gently provide him with the other side of the picture too, then let him balance it out in his mind and trust that your love and your good family will weigh out over all.
and it will.
:) khairete

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answers from Redding on

I agree with V.M. I think a lot of it had to do with playing and having fun and getting worn out.
My son always got kind of quiet and moody, even cried, after being at my sister's or having a friend spend the night. He said he missed them and things just felt too quiet. He's 15 and still gets like that after spending time with his cousin or spending the night at my daughter's house.
It's just kind of a way of decompressing. My son has described it that it feels like a let-down when the fun is over. He would get excited, have a great time, not want it to end, then tired and worn out it felt like a let-down from the fun.
I think lots of little kids go through that. You also have to keep in mind that this was your son's very first play date. He's not accustomed to that build up and then let-down feeling. I can just about promise you, that if the play date was at another farm, doing nothing but chasing around barnyard animals and getting dirty with another kid, having a blast, he wouldn't have wanted it to end.
I don't think it's so much a matter of seeing how the "other half" live and wanting a piece of it. I wouldn't take it that personally, I really wouldn't. The more he has play dates, he will come to understand that things are different at EVERYONE'S houses. Even if he gets sad when it's over, like my son, there's no place like home and kids know that.
When I was little, my teacher sent me to take a special test. Next thing I knew, I was sent to a different school, in a completely different district. It was the only school that had a gifted program and it was on the ritzy side of town. I made friends very quickly and soon realized I was the only kid without a swimming pool and didn't live in a huge rambling house. I loved spending time with my friends, believe me. They had stuff I wasn't used to being around all the time, but you know what? My friends always wanted to come to MY house. I didn't have a pool in the backyard, but I had an orchard. I had things they didn't have.
It's all relative.
I would encourage more play dates. Invite kids to your house too.
As an adult, don't get caught up in "keeping up with the Jones's" because your son was processing his first play date.
No one is a lesser or better person based on what they have and that's something all children learn the more they are exposed to different things.

Best wishes.

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answers from Minneapolis on

If my daughter would have talked like this after a playdate at six, I would have known she was TIRED. She would have forgotten all about it after a nap or rest time. I would not over analyze or over-react to these statements from your son.

I've taken my daughter to gatherings a homes small and large, inexpensive and high-end. I point out what is nice about them all, especially that we got to go visiting and have fun! We live in a small condo in a very nice neighborhood with multi-million dollar homes on our street. We talk about how it would be fun to live in one of them, and how much work it would be, and how lucky we are to live in a nice area, etc.

These are all teaching moments, as other responders have noted!

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answers from Kansas City on

As an adult I recently had a conversation with a co-worker. This co-worker grew up on the trust fund side of things. I on the other hand grew up with little to no money. We had a home, a family and the things with needed and sometimes even the things we wanted.

I was shocked during this conversation to find out some of the things he was saying i.e. "our house manager...". I guess shocked really isn't the word, I just couldn't believe that in today's day and age this really still exists. I jokingly said "so you don't even do your own laundry, cooking?" He took offense to it.

My husband and I both have good careers, but we are on a tight budget. Our kids have more than either one of us had growing up. It's going to come up all throughout his life. You can't change that, and him not having more playdates with the "wealthier" kids isn't going to shelter him from these experiences. Heck I never thought as an adult with a happy life I would have reacted to my situation above the way I did. But it happens and you/me just have to use it as a learning tool.
I like Mom on the Go's discussion topics below.

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answers from Norfolk on

Your son is just starting to notice the Joneses and feel a desire to keep up with them.
More stuff does not mean more happiness.
Most of the time it just means more debt and the constant fear the repo man will be taking it away from you.
Someone will always have more than you do, but then someone will always have less, too.
Perhaps some volunteering (you and him together) can give him a more balanced perspective about being grateful for what you have and less envious about what you don't have.

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answers from Washington DC on

My stepkids went to a private school for a time and SS once asked DH if they were poor. DH was taken aback. They were certainly not rolling in the dough because he was a single dad at the time, but they just got a house and DH thought they were doing alright. Turns out, SS was comparing himself to the kids with the full court soccer field in their backyard, pool, etc. He thought if you didn't have a pool you were poor. DH talked to him a bit and also encouraged the kids to hang out with kids in the new neighborhood so they got to see all sorts of families and homes and get a better perspective. SS realized over time that some kids live in apartments and some kids have big backyards and some don't and some share rooms with siblings and some don't but the size of your house doesn't mean you're a better or worse person.

I'd talk to him not so much about dollars an cents, but how to appreciate what you have. Maybe take a moment to play with the dog (random example) and say, "Wow, aren't we lucky to have a dog that no one is allergic to." Or remind him when at the farm, "Isn't it nice to have a family farm to plant things and run around?" It's hard to give a 6 yr old perspective, but I'd try to give him opportunities to see the bigger picture.

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answers from Houston on

Good opportunity to discuss the benefits of working hard in school to be able to have the kind of lifestyle he would like to have.

In the mean time explain that his friends are not wealthy, their parents are. They might have more material things but they don't have more of what really counts like love and family. Talk about what it means to be friendly and welcoming versus snobbish and aloof.

This is actually a great teaching moment to instill more of your family's values. Take advantage of it.

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answers from Cleveland on

honestly, i think i would have chalked alot of it up to being a little overstimulated and worn out from the playdate. I would also ask if he watched any tv, movies or video games where he woudl ahve heard that you had an unhappy family. that seems odd for him to have come up iwth on his own.
Obviously treat his sadness with compassion but i also wouldn't read too much into it or project your own feelings about the situation. it just shoulds like he was acclimating to something very different.

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answers from Modesto on

We lived a pretty modest lifestyle while raising my boys.
My younger one began at an earlier age to notice the "finer" things in life.
Best thing you can do is let him know that there are all kinds of people with different living situations and if he wants that BIG house, pool, horses, boat or whatever, his education is his most important tool to help him get there.
Help him start planning his career course for adulthood now, it's never too early to get their minds set on college and career.
I remember in high school the kids that had a plan and were going to college vs those of us that didnt really have a plan and just wanted to get out of school and find a job and get our own place (me, one of those).
The ones with the firm plan are the ones in my class that are quite successful for the most part----that meaning if you think success is found in THINGS.
Definitely don't skew the issue, materialism can be a trap as well, and you don't want to set your child up for disappointment either.
Home is where the HEART is and it shouldnt matter if it's a beat up ol' trailer house or a mansion when it all boils down.
I remember taking a "field trip" with my kids, showing them the ghetto area vs the big houses on the edge of town. We also drove by the parks in both of those areas. It was interesting that in the more modest neighborhoods more kids were playing in the parks having fun, the expensive areas--the park was virtually empty. If the expensive stuff turns your kid on it's a carrot dangling. Both of my boys have turned out very successful and now own real estate and nice cars, etc. I'm very proud of what they've done, but I don't let them forget where they came from either.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Even though my family only consists of my husband and 2 children (plus 2 cats and 2 dogs) - we're in the same situation. In fact the mother of one of my daughter's close friends won't allow her child to come to our house because she doesn't like the suburb we live in! My daughter, however, is welcome at their house any time!! The way to "deal" with it is to be honest with your child and explain to him that "money doesn't buy happiness"! Even at age 6 they can start to distinguish between "wants" and "needs". My kids are now perfectly well-adjusted teens. We're rich in love and all their needs are catered for. They appreciate the value of money. I wouldn't trade my life for that of "rich" people because I feel blessed to have everything that's really important in life! :)

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answers from Chicago on

That's a tough lesson in life isn't it? Even many adults struggle with the issue that no matter how much you have someone else will come along with more.
I think this is a great time to start pointing out the good and happiness in your life. Especially since you said you feel you have a happy family and good life so it's not like he's picking up on your depression. Point out things to him that make you happy that aren't material. Point out the advantages to having all multiple siblings and siblings of the same sex. Many boys with just a sister would love a brother. Life and happiness is not about money, sure we all need it, but show him how much there is to be thankful for. Pretty furniture doesn't make a happy home. Sometimes loud silly dinner times are the best memories, not stuffy perfectly mannered dinners where everyone says please and thank you. Maybe start making a scrapbook of sorts with him of fun times and he will have something tangible to remember those good times with.
Don't let your son make you feel bad about what you have and where you are in society. I'm sure you are a great family and he'll get over this phase with a little help.

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answers from Richmond on

i have done housecleaning for 20 years and let me tell you, being around the well heeled is not all condos and gigantic pools, its also alot of spending just so the neighbors will be impressed. point out to your son that yes, they seem to have alot of pretty things but, it comes with an awful lot of upkeep. somebody has to keep up and maintain the house, yard and pool, it doesnt just happen, somebody has to do it, or be willing to pay for someone else to come in and do it for them. you might also point out to him that the more siblings he has the more the blame ( when things get mysteriously broken or damaged), can be spread. if you only have one sibling, its either your siblings fault, or yours, take your pick.would he really want to live in a museum??
K. h.

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answers from Saginaw on

my kids have noticed things like that before and wanted to know why we didnt have this or that and other people do. i just told em that mommy does the best she can do to provide us with everything we need and we dont go without(which we dont) and that someday when she grows up and she makes her own money she can buy all the things she wants. i also tell her if she wants a certain toy now that she has to save her money now. my girls are 4, 5, 6 and 7 so they dont get much money unless a birthday comes or the tooth fairy does and they each have a piggy bank to put it in. obviously they dont do much with it but to buy a new movie or video game but they learn how much things cost and that we work for it!

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answers from Tampa on

WHEW!! My almost 6 y/o is in a similar situation where we get grants and financial aid to have her go to a very pricey private school - in which 9 out of 10 students are from very wealthy families with huge homes, some right on the beach. We've gone to a few birthday parties at these homes and thankfully my daughter hasn't said she wants a home like theirs. She does mention from time to time she wants a really expensive toy they may have, but I'm able to tell her that Mommy doesn't think it's right to spend so much money on a single toy.

So far so good. She only has to go until end of 1st grade, since FL has a very strict (and stupid) rule rule of Kindergartners must be 5 by Sept 1st and 1st graders must be 6 by Sept 1st. Raven's birthday is Sept 3rd and they refused to offer any testing in or exemptions. SO we had to do the private school route.

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answers from Los Angeles on

my son says the same things, he's 9 but started at that age.
we are student living near newport beach, and his friends all have big houses and way too many toys, lol. and i flat out told him that even if we did have lot s of money we wouldn't waste it on that kind of stuff!! (easier said than done right?)

anyway, i did decide to decorate a little, make our tiny apartment more homey.
so i would shop at ross, or tj max, and find stuff on clearance in home goods stores. then for a couple saturdays in made a project out of it. i got a girl friends help and now i feel happier sitting in my living room.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My sister and her husband are much better off than we are, and after they babysit my daughter always tells me how she wishes we can move to a bigger house. Granted, she doesn't tell me in tears, so usually I tell her this is the house my husband and I bought, maybe when she grows up she can choose her house just like she wants it.
It appears to me your son is more emotional about this and sensitivity to his feelings should not be put aside. This maybe a good time to reassure him that material things don't mean happiness and tell him how much he is loved. When he isn't as emotional, you can tell him that everyone lives differently and some people have less than your family. Good luck and hope he accepts that everyone has differences and it doesn't mean that makes them a better family.

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answers from Los Angeles on

You sound like a kind, attentive, loving mother... your son is rich beyond measure. Explain to him the difference between families, because there will always be people around him in the world who have "different" means. There will always be others with more and others with less! How we feel internally is what matters, and how much we love one another.
He will be fine, I suggest you talk about all of it! And it's okay to "desire", that's a normal feeling. Just help him feel full and not less than.
Good luck!

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