Monday, March 1, 2010

Media Monday-Relationships and Media Exposure

This week's MM post is pretty general and not about any particular entertainment medium. And no, it has nothing to do with how relationships are portrayed on TV (as might be assumed from the title).

So often, parents worry about whether their children are interested in subjects that are age appropriate or things that have redeeming value. Of course, every parent means something a little different when we voice those concerns, as "age appropriate" and "redeeming value" are defined by our own personal value system, but we often forget one extremely important factor in our children's interests: us!

The children I know who are the most productive with their time, the most considerate, and the most intelligent have involved parents. We all know how important the parental relationship is, but when it comes to interests, that relationship is important in a very specific way: Is the parent demonstrating to the child the values s/he wants the child to hold? And demonstrating an interest isn't enough. You have to foster that interest in the child. Do you want your child to love books? How often do you read them yourself? Does your child ever see you reading them? Do you read to your child or talk about books you are currently reading? Do you spend time demonstrating and explaining why reading is a worthwhile form of entertainment?

Likewise, if you think your child is a little too into the Survivor reality show, do you demonstrate more positive interests in your own pursuits? Or are you obsessed with some other reality show? One of the major draws of reality TV is the nature of the relationships the contestants form with each other. Is there a reason your child would be drawn to that kind of relationship?

As a student of psychology, I can tell you that, while not everything has a hidden Freudian meaning, many behaviors (both functional and dysfunctional) actually reflect the state of the individual's interpersonal relationships. If your child seems glued to his computer game and roles his eyes (or worse) when you want him to come eat dinner with the family, is there anything about the family dynamic or how he fits into it that would curb his enthusiasm about the dinner table?

I'm not saying that every fault a child exhibits should be blamed on the parent. That would be ridiculous. What I am saying is that children thrive on consistency, especially in their most important relationships. And that's especially true of our Aspies. However, Aspies tend to be pretty forthright, even more so than most kids, so if you sit down and have a serious, honest, non-threatening conversation about these issues, you might actually get some useful answers.

Our kids don't live in a vacuum, even if it may seem that way sometimes.

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