We Told Our Son Not to Protest. He Did Anyway. Now What?

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Our 16-year-old son asked us if he could attend a Black Lives Matter protest march in our city, a Covid-19 hot spot. We said no. We decided it was too dangerous in terms of coronavirus risk and possible violence. He sneaked out of the apartment and went anyway. He claims he wore a mask and was socially distant the whole time, but we’re not sure whether to believe him or how to punish him. Any advice?

DAD

This is a hard one! Your son is approaching adulthood, but until then you are responsible for his safety. Still, he didn’t sneak out to an opium den. He defied you to take part in one of the most pressing issues facing our nation: racist policing and criminal justice reform.

I wish he’d worked harder to get your permission. And I hope you engaged him on the substance of the cause, even as you refused him. The fact that protesters are bravely risking both bodily harm and Covid-19 underscores the urgent need for change.

Quiz your son about how he managed social distance in the jostle of a protest march and decide whether quarantine is appropriate. As for punishment, marry the necessity of respecting your house rules with the objectives of the rally. How about 50 hours of community service, volunteering for a group dedicated to economic or restorative justice?

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Credit…Christoph Niemann

They Weren’t Supposed to Be in Our Quarantine Pod

I have a good relationship with my ex-husband as we continue raising our two teenagers. We divorced six years ago and share custody. I just learned he started seeing a new girlfriend in early March and that he stopped social distancing with her and her kids in May. He didn’t tell me! I believed our safety net was intact. I feel betrayed by my ex and my kids, whose father asked them not to tell me (to spare my feelings). But I’m upset about the virus and my elderly parents, not his love life. And as quickly as I learned of the betrayal, he asked me to include his girlfriend, her kids, her ex and whole world into mine. Thoughts?

E.

First, let yourself be angry! Your ex-husband sounds like a fiasco of a co-parent based on this episode. He lied to you; he asked your children to lie to you. And at a time when physical and emotional safety is precarious, he made a unilateral call that put you all in harm’s way.

Our Covid-19 bubbles, the people we see without masks or social distancing, are bound to grow eventually. But expansion requires discussion and the agreement of everyone involved. No exceptions! And especially not one as lame as sparing your feelings over his new girlfriend after you’ve been divorced for six years. Isn’t it more likely your ex simply wanted his way?

Now, onto cleanup: Use your good relationship to hash out his lapse in judgment calmly. Explain that transparency is vital. And work out exactly who makes up his and his girlfriend’s bubbles and what safety precautions they take.

Then, all the adults can begin discussing logistics and possible isolation until everyone feels safe. Overlapping circles may make this process complex, but lives are at stake. (And steer clear of your elderly parents for a couple of weeks.)

Estate Planning

Years ago, I was a Sunday school helper. I was especially fond of one little girl. I doted on her. Her mother gave me a framed scripture verse with the girl’s picture in it. I think she’s married now, but I lost track of her after we moved. On my death, I expect my children will throw away this gift. Still, it seems rude to return it to the girl’s mother. What should I do?

M.A.T.

The hard truth is that many possessions with sentimental value will be tossed out by our heirs when we die. That’s life! And I agree it would be odd to return the photo now, in anticipation of your future death. I might feel differently if the gift was unique, but the mother likely has a copy of this photo. Think of her gift as a gesture of thanks for your kindness, which you appreciated but may eventually discard.

Maybe Cool It on the Pool Pics?

One of my friends moved to a new house with a beautiful backyard pool. I am truly happy for her. But she posts pictures of her kids in the pool every day on Facebook and Instagram. My wife thinks these posts are insensitive during the pandemic when public pools are closed and many of us are struggling to occupy our kids. She thinks I should tell my friend that her followers may be reacting negatively. You?

B.

I’m surprised that you and your wife are old enough to have kids, but still haven’t worked out how to deal with friends whose harmless social media posts make you seethe with jealousy. Where have you been hiding? And who does your wife think she is? Just unfollow your friend on Facebook and mute her on Instagram. You won’t see her posts, your friend won’t know a thing and you can move on with your landlocked life.


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