Dear Amy: I am a first-time mother-in-law.

We are a close family. We have always kept in touch with one another on a regular basis, even after the kids left home.

My son and new daughter-in-law live about 90 minutes away.

My daughter-in-law seems content to keep contact to a minimum. This includes discussing/celebrating important events — both happy and sad.

For example, I am going through a difficult separation from my husband. I have told my daughter-in-law that it would mean a lot to me to hear from her, to know that she is concerned about me.

When I expressed my feelings to her, she claimed I was telling her “how” to love me. I told her that a loving family should be able to express their needs to each other.

I was not allowed a mother/son dance at their wedding because she lost her father and I was told it would be too difficult for her to watch us dance.

I did dance with my son at the end of the evening, and she mumbled to me that she didn’t mean to be “an ass...” about the dance.

They are now expecting their first child, and my son called to tell me the baby will be born with a heart defect and will need surgery at some point.

He asked me to wait a day before calling her.

I called her and left a message. She didn’t return the call or text me.

I don’t understand why she keeps me at arm’s length.

She knows I hold them close to my heart. She is not close to her mother. They rarely speak, and she has said this is fine with both of them, but I am not that kind of mom! How can I bring her closer to me?

— Heartbroken Mom

Dear Heartbroken: First, you need to figure out how to be less heartbroken, and more patient and understanding toward a young woman who might not know how to be intimate in the way that you are intimate.

It is inappropriate for you to share details of your separation from your husband with this new family member, and to ask for (or expect) her emotional support. Presumably, the husband you are separated from is her new father-in-law. Your emotional needs feel like a demand; this puts a lot of pressure on her.

She has no father and a distant relationship with her mother.

You should not tell her how to love you. Instead, you should show her how a patient, compassionate, loving and good-humored mother behaves.

You should not expect a call back from an anxious, pregnant daughter-in-law with a frightening diagnosis who has already admitted that she doesn’t always know how to behave.

Approach her with the goal to build a friendship. Don’t pressure her to be a daughter to you. She’s not ready!

Your DIL needs to be able to trust that you won’t overreact or transfigure her dramas into yours. This requires that you both learn to behave differently.

Dear Amy: Is there an acceptable way to ask people on the plane or in a waiting room if they are contagious?

I’m not sure what I’d do if they said “yes,” but perhaps they would make more of an effort to cover up their coughs — or use cough drops!

— Rather Not Get Sick

Dear Rather Not: As of this writing, the coronavirus, which originated in China, is spreading.

Children are (quite appropriately) taught to cough and sneeze into their elbows. This technique is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov). The CDC also recommends coughing into a tissue and then throwing the tissue away.

If you are in a physician’s waiting room, you should assume that someone near you who is coughing is contagious.

This is from the CDC website: “Cough etiquette is especially important for infection control measures in healthcare settings, such as emergency departments, doctor’s offices, and clinics.”

A polite way to remind someone to cover their cough would be to say, “It seems that you are sick. Would you mind covering your cough?”

Dear Amy: In a previous column, you recommended “relocating” a trio of squirrels that were tormenting a new homeowner.

In many states, it is illegal to relocate wild animals. The squirrels were there before the homeowner. They get first dibs.

— Squirrel Lover

Dear Lover: Thank you. These squirrels were being fed by a neighbor. The U.S. Department of Agriculture strongly discourages feeding wild animals.

If these neighbors didn’t feed the squirrels, they might relocate themselves.

You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.

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