Once upon a time, (which didn’t seem so long ago), my husband and I snuggled and watched “our” shows together after putting the kids to bed.
Truthfully, we watched about a half an hour of shows before we feel asleep too.
There was a pretty clear line between the content of the shows that our kids found entertaining and what we enjoyed. Dora, Diego, Wordgirl are fascinating….to a preschooler. But growing older, non animated characters and talking animals no longer hold our attention. (although, I still find my self belting out “We Did It!” at unexpected moments of conquest).
Our kids were not just plopped in front of a tv as a babysitter (most of the time..). I would usually try to fold laundry or accomplish some other small task while watching television with them. The goal was 1) to know the actual content before their eyes and ears and 2) find ways to engage them in conversation from the subject. I’m sure you are familiar with the subject matter-kindness, respect, friendship, wonder of nature, understanding your emotions. These topics are core values for most families-they are tenets of our society. And they reflect basic characteristics which, we as image bears, “wear” as God’s children.
The infusion of God’s word into our hearts and minds comes about both through intentional discussion as well as those teaching moments that occur in the daily moments of life as a family. One way to engage your older kids/teens in conversation about the intersection of faith and choices? Watching tv together.
The idea really isn’t as unrealistic as you may think. Because, there isn’t just a one size (or show) fits all method.
So what to do?
There are three questions that you may be asking:
1)How do you decide what’s appropriate? What you choose to watch is a decision based on your family’s dynamics.. What we feel comfortable letting our kids watch may not suit your family’s comfort level. There are so many factors that affect your decision. I trust that you are seeking discernment from the Holy Spirit in your parenting journey.
2) How would I ever get my teen to watch tv with me? Getting teens to watch a show with you may be like pulling teeth. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t need to be planned. Teaching moments often come through unexpected moments. We are fortunate because our one tv is in the living room- the gathering space where our kids hang out with their electronic devices. Yes, they do watch some shows on their laptops but they prefer the big screen. I know their favorites. Become familiar with a few. Catch a couple episodes with them. (It’s a great time to “pay bills” or “fold laundry” in front of the screen). When I notice that they are engaged in a segment of a show, I can utilize a few bytes for discussion at the time or later.
3)What could I say to my child that will elicit an actual response (not an eyeroll)? Sometimes nothing. Stories can speak for themselves. One of the shows my kids like is “The Middle.” The plots speak lessons for themselves. Who hasn’t wanted to crawl in a hole after experiencing something thoroughly embarrassing at school? Yet, everyone must face the choice in how to respond to those moments. Another one that my daughter and I used to enjoy is “Girl Meets World.” Yes, it can be a bit cheesy but the lessons are significant and address character in a way that hits home.
Take advantage of historical presentations
For our family, the miniseries “Roots” provided a visual account of slavery in a way that no verbal description could match. Admittedly, the graphic events were difficult to watch. But this is history and the events were real. The discussions that took place were initiated through my kids’ observations. Furthermore, we could engage them in identifying the effects of those events today.
The show “Timeless” (NBC) provides a fantastic opportunity for interaction. Set within the context of time-travel, the characters go back in time to various events in order to alter details which are seen as “destructive.” The twist is that the characters’ present lives are unknowingly affected by the outcomes as they are changed-and sometimes the tragedy still happens but differently. In the midst of it all, they are fighting against an antagonist who is seeking to destroy America by showing up at the same events and bringing about greater catastrophe. Not only does the show give you a real life glimpse into the complexities surrounding the events but the viewer is challenged to wrestle with the ways history impacts the present.
Though the values portrayed on some shows differ from those that we have instilled in our now older children, there is a point where kids must realize values, struggles, injustices, tragedies and consequences of choices in the world around them. The characters and stories emulate real life. Relationships are complicated, we all make choices we regret, tragedy can occur at any moment. How do you respond?
Engaging with our kids about these “glimpses” of the world around us offers opportunity to reinforce where hope is found, why following Christ impacts our choices, and how God’s Word navigates us through the wind-y paths of life.
It’s a modern context of the conversations between parents and kids that took place long ago:
” 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7
What conversations popped up as a result of your recent viewing?