Family Video Chats Test Patience: Finding Balance and Boundaries

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – A concerned stepfather seeks advice about his daughter-in-law’s overwhelming video calls in an advice column published by the San Francisco Chronicle. The stepfather described the close relationship he and his wife share with their son, daughter-in-law, and their 3-year-old granddaughter, who reside in Hawaii. While he cherishes the moments spent with his family, he expressed frustration with his daughter-in-law’s habit of multiple unscheduled video calls throughout the day, often at inconvenient times.

The stepfather explained that these video calls, lasting as long as 20 minutes, disrupt meals, leisure activities, and even sleep. Although he discussed his annoyance with his wife, she hesitated to establish boundaries out of fear of hurting their daughter-in-law’s feelings. However, the stepfather realized that repeatedly bringing up the issue hurt his wife’s feelings.

To address the situation, the advice columnist suggested considering the daughter-in-law’s potential feelings of loneliness. The columnist urged the stepfather’s wife to have a conversation with their son to better understand his wife’s circumstances and whether she may be seeking additional connections. The columnist suggested that the daughter-in-law’s frequent video calls could be a way for her to combat isolation and recommended that the stepfather’s wife encourage her to join playgroups or engage in activities with other families.

The advice columnist also offered practical suggestions for establishing boundaries during inconvenient times. Instead of showing annoyance or disinterest, the stepfather could politely mention that they are busy and suggest talking the next day. The columnist proposed occasionally dialing into the video calls briefly to acknowledge the daughter-in-law’s presence before excusing themselves. Initiating shorter calls when the stepfather has limited time was also suggested as a way to alter the dynamic.

In another letter, a parent sought advice after being excluded from their child’s upcoming wedding due to alienation by their ex. The columnist recommended sending a warm and congratulatory letter to their child while avoiding mention of past conflicts. The parent was encouraged to express heartfelt well wishes for the couple’s happiness on their special day.