My husband, 8-year-old son and I live in a city that has become a Covid-19 hot spot. From the beginning of the pandemic, even when infections were low in our area, my son was fearful of the virus. He’s a little withdrawn (though happy to play with friends on Zoom) and worries that precautions like masks and social distancing are not enough to keep us safe. The problem: My husband just tested positive for the virus, but he has no symptoms; my son and I tested negative. Should we tell our son the truth or fib and say his dad is traveling for work while he quarantines at his parents’ house?


Don’t lie to your son. I get trying to spare him from worry, but he sounds worried already and sensitive to the dangers of the virus. He would likely be skeptical of a two-week business trip during a pandemic. (He’s a child, not an idiot.) And if he discovers he can’t trust you, he may become even more apprehensive.

Use this opportunity to explore his feelings. Help your son find the words to express his fears. And don’t be too quick to reassure him. Ask questions. Let him get it all out! Then validate his concerns, tell him your top job is keeping him healthy and, together, make a safety plan. Be patient if you have to repeat this drill.

As for telling your son about his father, stick with the facts and reasonable optimism. “Daddy has the virus, but he feels great. He’s going to stay in his room (or at Grandma’s house) for two weeks, and we won’t go in there, to make sure he gets better and we don’t get sick.” If your son needs more assurance, let him speak to his pediatrician or a therapist. And make sure he sees his dad as much as he wants on Zoom.

Credit…Christoph Niemann

When my mother died, she divided her estate equally between my brother and me. She specifically assigned valuable items but didn’t mention my father’s journals. (He died 25 years ago.) I took them with me before I sold my share of the house to my brother. They convey how anxiety-ridden and depressed he was. Now, my brother has asked to see them, but I am reluctant to hand them over. My brother has struggled with depression, and I fear his reaction to them. He is also disorganized. His house is a shambles, and he often forgets to pay bills. I would be crushed if the journals disappeared. What should I do?


I applaud your protective instinct, but not your controlling one. You and your brother likely share ownership of the journals. So, he has every right to see them. People with depression are not generally restricted to cheerful reading material. Better understanding your family history of mental illness may even be useful to your brother.

Warn him that the journals are upsetting and reflect your father’s anxiety and depression. It’s your brother’s call whether to read them. And his lousy housekeeping and possibly poor credit score do not give you special rights here. Just ask him to be careful with the journals.

I recently graduated from college. I’m living with my parents and working from home. I’ve decided to move back to New York, where I went to school, because I’m craving independence and the rents are relatively cheap. But now, when I ask my parents to wear masks in stores or not to invite friends inside their home, they say “You’re one to talk!” because I’m moving to a supposedly dangerous city instead of staying with them. Do they have a point?


No. If your parents reject wearing masks in public and invite friends into their home during a worsening pandemic, I suspect you may be better off in an apartment where all of the occupants observe sensible safety precautions — indoors and out.

What’s more, using New York, which is keeping its infection rate low, as a boogeyman to rationalize their reckless behavior is a terrible argument. Remind them patiently about masks, social distancing and hand washing. Then pack your bags and move!

I am a 70-year-old woman. I date men when I can find one who works out, which isn’t often. So women friends are important to me. But I never seem to have enough of them. When I meet an interesting woman and invite her to do something, I would like to clarify that I’m looking for friendship, not romance. Would that be odd?


Extremely odd! In just a few lines, you suggest that women friends are like consolation prizes for not having a man in your life. (Not true, in my experience!) I hope the reason you need more friends is not because you drop the ones you have as soon as a man comes knocking.

And establishing preemptively that you’re looking for friendship, not sex, when you first invite a relative stranger to lunch or for a walk in the park, may be awkward and off-putting, not to mention homophobic. Don’t do it. Just let your friendly invitation speak for itself.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.