Dear Amy: In 2020, my nephew, "TJ," graduated from high school. My husband and I are especially close to him.

Because of the pandemic, there was no graduation party for him. But I did send a card and enclosed money.

Later, I sent a personal, heartfelt letter to TJ, wanting him to know how much I enjoyed seeing him grow, recounting memories we shared, giving him unsolicited advice about college (that he could take or leave), etc. TJ called to thank me for the gift and the letter.

Months later my sister-in-law "Teri" mentioned to me that she was in TJ's room and the letter was open on his nightstand. She read it. She said she thought it was so nice and that it made her cry.

I was speechless. The issue for me is I feel the letter was private between TJ and myself. I was raised in a household where we never opened mail that was not addressed to us because the contents of any mail was considered the private information of the recipient.

Now, two years later, TJ's brother is graduating from high school, and I had planned to write a similar letter for him, but now I feel constrained on how much of my personal feelings I want to put into the letter.

Truth be told, the joy of doing another letter is gone for me because I know it may be read by others. I want to get your thoughts on whether I am overreacting.

Amy says: Yes, you are overreacting. By a mile-and-a-half.

When people receive letters and cards of congratulation to mark a happy occasion, they often leave the cards and letters out and share the content with family members.

According to your account, this letter was lying open in your nephew's room. It was not sealed, so your sister-in-law did not "open" it. She merely read it.

My point is that when a letter leaves the writer, it becomes the property of the person who receives it, and that person can leave it lying out for others to see, put it into a scrapbook, post a photo of it on social media, sell it at an auction or throw it away.

It is best to assume that others might see what you write, and to choose your words carefully.

Your sister-in-law was moved by the contents of the letter to the point of tears. She was thoughtful enough to tell you so, and your response is to consider denying your other nephew this gift of your time and wisdom. This seems an extremely unkind reaction.

Unwanted gifts?

Dear Amy: I am beginning to think that I'm in violation of some unwritten social code with respect to gift giving.

After a very acrimonious divorce, we experienced the typical "siding off" of our mutual acquaintances. This is understandable, as divorce puts friends in awkward positions.

Anyway, I have continued to send gifts as children of "our" friends marry, despite not being an invited guest. These gifts are not being acknowledged.

I'm trying to figure out if I just hit a streak of ungrateful young people or if my giving is so grossly out of place that it is being ignored. Any guidance is really appreciated.

Amy says: All gifts should be acknowledged, even if the gift bewilders the recipient.

You do not need to receive a wedding invitation in order to send a gift, but if you have never met the couple — or haven't seen the marrying person in many years — you might want to switch your generosity to a warmly worded card.

Send questions to Amy Dickinson at