I am a “Gleek.” I admit it.
A Gleek is a self-described lover of Fox’s show, Glee. The show features a diverse group of teens who are in the school’s show choir. Glee focuses on the lives of these teens, in and out of school, while emphasizing certain storyline elements with entertaining Broadway musical-type performances.
The show itself, however, is not the point of this post. Last week was an unexpected episode whose value could go beyond entertainment. It was a great example of how simply watching TV with your kids could start a conversation about real issues that they are facing everyday. Glee was a “teachable moment.”
Before I continue, I should certainly mention that Glee is not for every family. This show has mature themes including social issues, sexuality, and relationships. If you have not seen it before and are interested in checking it out, you may want to do a private screening before family viewing is allowed.
A recent episode was set during the high school’s Alcohol Awareness week. The main storyline included one of the glee club members, Rachel, choosing to host a party at her home while her parents were away. At the same time, the glee club director, Mr. Schuester, was going out on the town with a fellow teacher to “blow off steam.” Both story-lines graphically showed the immediate consequences of alcohol intoxication. And, more importantly, followed through with the clumsy and awkward “next day.”
The show certainly wasn’t perfect. It failed to address certain consequences of the character’s choices. And, some could argue it glamorized alcohol. I agree. However, my argument for watching TV with your kids is that regardless of the topic and regardless of the specific program, starting difficult conversations with your kids is much easier when you are using popular media as the catalyst. Using a popular show like Glee, that your teen may already like, allows parents opportunity to throw out questions or comments to reveal what your kids may be thinking about an otherwise awkward topic.
The goal of these conversations is not necessarily to find an “answer,” but to get your kids to talk about real stuff that they are dealing with at school or with friends. Focusing your efforts to find these opportune moments can allow any parent to start unexpected, unscripted, genuine conversations. Talking about drugs and alcohol (and other sensitive subjects) is not a “talk.” It’s a continuing, evolving conversation. Actively creating teachable moments will show your children how much you love them, by frequently talking to them about what matters.
So, while I was watching Glee, here are some questions I thought might stimulate conversation with pre-teens and teens.
- They look like they are having a lot of fun at that party. Have your heard of parties like this at your school?
- Have you seen any of your friends drunk? What did they do?
- What do you think Rachel’s parents would say if they found out she had this party while they were away?
- How are these kids going to get back to their house? Do you think they can drive?
- If you saw your friend acting like her, what would you do?
- Do you talk about drinking with your friends?
- Did you see how Mr. Schuester made a bad decision while he was drinking alcohol? What could he have done to prevent that from happening?
- That looks really embarrassing. Do you think that would happen if they were not drinking?
- What could Rachel have said to her friends if she was not interested in drinking?
- If someone offered you a drink, what would you say?
As parents struggling with the challenge of hard conversations, keeping your eyes open for these teachable moments can ease the process.
Talk a little bit. Listen more. Learn. Teach.
Most importantly, enjoy the moment.
Natasha Burgert is a pediatrician who blogs at KC Kids Doc.