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Ask Ellie: Car ride good time to have 'serious' chats with kids

In the car, they can’t walk away; you don’t have to look at each other; they have no choice but to listen.

Dear reader: As I noted in an earlier column, my daughter, Lisi, will be handling the writing duties a few times a week. Enjoy her take on today’s questions. – Ellie

Dear Lisi: My teenage daughter is leaving on a two-week trip with our church later this summer. They’re going camping and tree planting. It’s a team building group activity for youth in our community. The kids are all really good kids.

But there’s one boy, a few years older than my daughter, who has found trouble in his past. His parents keep pushing him to do these events in hopes that he’ll find redemption of sorts. I’ve known him for years and he is a good kid. He just likes to push the boundaries.

My concern is that my daughter has googly eyes for this boy, and right now, he’s not a good choice. I’m worried that she’ll do whatever he wants/asks when they’re out in the woods with little supervision, especially at night.

How can I talk to my daughter without her rolling her eyes and closing her ears?

Dedicated Dad

You’ve painted a very clear picture. I don’t envy you your position. Teenagers are a species unto their own and they’ll do what they want. They don’t yet have the capability to see even a few steps ahead, to recognize what the consequences of their actions will be and to make healthy, thoughtful decisions. In other words, they act before they think.

I’ve always found that having “serious” chats with kids when in the car is fairly successful. They can’t walk away; you don’t have to look at each other; they have no choice but to listen.

Tell her your concerns. Gauge her reaction. Drop it. Let it stew. Then mention it again and see what she says.

If you’re really worried, you may want to talk to the chaperones and find out what their plans are for monitoring the kids, especially at night. That may make you feel better depending on their response. Or not.

Dear Ellie: My father-in-law won’t speak to me, and my wife and I have no idea why. My wife’s mother died a few years ago, leaving her husband of 40+ years. We live an hour away from him, in the same city as my wife’s sister and her family. The sisters and their husbands are all quite close, so we’re in agreement when it comes to helping/spending time with their dad.

About six months ago, some things started to go wrong in his house. My brother-in-law and I went out together to have a look. We’re both pretty handy. We fixed what we could but agreed that the house needed some bigger maintenance, including waterproofing the basement.

We both got quotes and my brother-in-law found a guy who could do the work for less and sooner. We told our father-in-law together what we’d done work-wise and what we thought still needed to be done, and showed him the quote.

He turned to my brother-in-law, said thank you and asked us to leave — never once looking at me. We normally hug at the door, but he turned away and closed the door on both of us. Neither of us thought much of it at the time … he’s getting older.

It’s been a few months and he ignores me completely, won’t answer my calls and pretends my wife isn’t married. She’s asked him what’s going on, as have her sister and her husband. He changes the subject. What did I do and what can I do?

Dismissed son-in-law

Your father-in-law is clearly upset and has nowhere to let loose his thoughts/worries/concerns. His wife/partner is gone and you guys are helping him, but it sounds as though he feels you’re taking over.

Maybe he would have preferred being part of the conversation. Maybe he would have preferred doing the research himself.

Get your wife to talk to him. Have her ask the right questions and apologize. For whatever reason — maybe he feels closest to you — he’s targeting you. Apologize.

Reader’s Commentary regarding the lonely widower (June 17):

“I lost my wife of 52 years to a brain tumour that metastasized into her spine.

“Only difference between that gentleman and myself is that no one comes around, ever.

“Except for my daughter and her two kids, and my three-year-old Lab puppy, my days are unbelievably lonely.

“No advice needed. Just let him know he isn’t alone.”

Lisi – Thank you for writing in. I’m sorry that you’re feeling lonely. I’m not sure where you live, but in most locales there are bereavement groups that are easily accessible. And with your pup, you could meet people in dog parks, on walking trails or find walking groups online.

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email:

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