#childsafety | Lax playdate rules are a deal-breaker during pandemic: Ask Ellie

Q: It seems that the pandemic keeps sending more confusion and uncertainty to parents about keeping children safe.

My friend’s school-age child was invited to a classmate’s home. When my friend arrived for drop-off, a third child was there who attends a different school (i.e. different cohort).

But since she likes that child and the parents, she didn’t comment.

When she returned for pickup several hours later, she found the two other fathers were there, both drunk! The two mothers were sober.

My friend’s nervous about ever saying OK to a playdate with this family again.

A: No further confusion should exist. Despite that some parents may be nice people socially, if they’re not as concerned about pandemic restrictions as your friend believes is necessary, then she has to politely say “no thanks” to their playdate invitations.

I know it’s not easy … children need friends/sociability. But sticking to standards for keeping them safe takes precedence.

Dear Readers: When I’m asked what’s the most touching relationship issue that people write me about, the answer’s become too easy: Loneliness.

The pandemic’s heightened that feeling of imposed isolation or unresolvable aloneness, in too many people’s lives.

One self-described “older man” wrote (Nov. 2) that he’d never married, had no kids and no luck on dating sites, and got scammed by women who seem interested … then ask for money.

He’s turned to escorts — “someone to talk to, maybe make them smile, just the touch of a hand or hug.”

I responded: “Escorts don’t resolve your ongoing loneliness/depression.

“You were on the right track when you mentioned volunteering … food banks and other helping agencies (local YMCA, a church, etc.) need a hand, so long as you adhere to pandemic restrictions …

“Good people willing to give of time/energy for others, will always meet like-minded souls.”

Readers’ Commentary: Regarding whether the lonely older man’s turning to escorts was wrong:

“I’m Associate Faculty at the University of Washington School of Social Work. I appreciate what you wrote and also wanted to reach out about the Stopping Sexual Exploitation Program (SSE) which I lead, to share with the man who wrote you.

“I’ve met countless men like him whose feelings of loneliness and isolation are real.



“It’s important that men in our community also understand the power dynamics at stake when they choose to buy sex.

“It comes at the expense of the safety and well-being of most women he’s buying sex from.

“Most folks in prostitution are participating out of exploitation and survival, as you alluded to by mentioning the rise in online ads since COVID came on this year.

“The violence and desperation which they face this year is immense. That reality is no different in Canada.

“Sex under these conditions isn’t consensual. That man who wrote you has no way of knowing the lived experiences of the women from whom he’s buying sex.

“Or whether they’re of age, or whether they’ve been or currently are being trafficked.

“You wrote a gentle, compassionate response. I hope he internalizes your advice to not buy sex.

“There’s no judgment or shame in my message to men. Rather, there’s a responsibility that I impart to men who need to account for the disproportionate amount of power they carry.

“Buying sex is an expression of power over others, and our own loneliness doesn’t make buying sex OK.

“I appreciate your voice and the push (away from escorts) that you gave this letter-writer.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Pandemic-related considerations for parents of youngsters: Allow socializing only with “same cohort” friends, outdoors if possible, masked if indoors.

Ellie Tesher is an advice columnist for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: ellie@thestar.ca.

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