There are many things in life which you look after with great care. Your laptop, your car and your camera, for example. But there’s something that outweighs all these things a thousand times over and is completely irreplaceable – your daughter.

You’ve raised your children and been by their sides through thick and thin for years. You’ve witnessed their growth from baby-grows through to GCSE blues, doing your best to protect them from the real world all the way. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but when your kids start to become independent you have to learn to let go of the reins.

This is much easier with lads. They’re tough and at least pretend to be able to handle themselves. (Not to mention that they’re bigger than you.) But waving goodbye to your daughter for even one night can be an agonising experience. All of a sudden, this person called ‘boyfriend’ is driving off with your pride and joy in his passenger seat – and you’re supposed to be relaxed about it.

Secret weapon

Well, the good news here is that you now have a secret weapon to investigate whether this potential suitor is good enough for your little princess. Car talk.

Starting a conversation with an 18 to 20-year-old lad can seem like squeezing blood from a stone. You don’t know anything about football or the music he likes, and your attempts to converse about fashion just cause awkward grunts. But one thing he’ll love to tell you about is his car.

Is he responsible?

Little does he know that talking about his car is actually a measure of his worthiness as a boyfriend for your wonderful daughter. Ask him why he chose it, what size engine it has and what he does to it in the way of maintenance. Not only will he think you’re a borderline ‘cool parent’ but he’ll reveal how responsible he is as a motorist. This might, in turn, say a lot about how well he’ll look after your daughter.

Then crack out the car insurance questions – what kind of cover does he have, how much does it cost, how did he choose his policy, etc. He’ll either enjoy showing off his knowledge or he’ll reveal that he hasn’t got a clue. In the case of the latter, maybe his parents sorted out his policy. But in the worst case scenario, he might not have car insurance at all.

A bit of detective work should make this obvious – greet him outside when he arrives and check his tax disc – you can’t tax a car without insurance!

There are many other ways to establish whether your daughter is going out with a ‘keeper’ or not, but conversation with adolescent lads is a minefield. You could spend time and effort ‘getting to know him’ over cups of tea and Sunday lunches. This would undoubtedly be a painful and unrewarding process, so the car insurance shortcut is worth a go. You never know, he might turn out to be your son-in-law!