From the U.S.: I have severe asthma to dogs–no breeds are possible. My children grew up knowing this, my daughter has witnessed an anaphylactic episode that I had once. My ex-husband has history of downplaying this problem, has problems with true empathy or sympathy (possible Asperger’s, which my oldest son has been diagnosed with.) He freely communicates his disbelief that my problems with asthma aren’t as severe as they are.

I have encouraged all 3 of my children to be considerate of other people. I have encouraged and supported them in whatever they wanted to do. However, now, that includes that all 3 have chosen to have dogs in their houses, and I cannot go there to see them. They make very little effort to come see me.

I thought my daughter was the most understanding and sympathetic, and now that she is buying a house next month; I found out today, that she has a puppy coming in the fall from a breeder she has researched. She has kept this to herself and has never said anything to me, I don’t even know what breed it is.

I feel extremely sad and abandoned now. I always planned to respect their adult lives, but now am not able to attend any family functions with all the animals around. I have tried, I have ended up extremely ill for several weeks, on steroids and missed work. What do I do? I feel I’ve lost my whole family.

A: I’m terribly, terribly sorry you find yourself in this situation. I don’t know if your kids are completely thoughtless or hostile.

I do know that you won’t get very far talking to them about the dogs. What needs to be talked about is your relationship with each kid and what they imagine your role should be in their adult lives.

I hope you will consider making a “date” with each of your kids to talk about that. Deal with them separately, not as a group, so you can get to some depth in your discussion. Try to leave your upset and justifiable anger at the door. Instead, be curious and loving. Let them know that you are open to hearing what they have to say. Tell them how sad it makes you feel to be unable to go to their homes and to feel like they are disappearing from your life. See if they have any suggestions for what they and you can do differently to maintain a relationship.

If you are uncertain about how to manage such conversations, I urge you to see a therapist for a few sessions to help you know what to say and how to say it. The support a therapist can offer may also give you some additional strength.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Aug 2014

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). My Adult Kids Insist on Having Dogs that Make Me Sick. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/08/15/my-adult-kids-insist-on-having-dogs-that-make-me-sick/