November 2008 - Divorce and the Media
If you have children ages eight and up, they probably see a lot about divorce
on TV. And frankly most of it is not good. TV shows, movies, and news reports
frequently focus on the dark side of divorce - after all there isn’t much
of a story when two people part in a reasonable way and make adult decisions
together about their family and their assets.
Protect Your Children from Divorce in the Media
The best thing you can do is insulate your children from the gleeful media reports
about this marriage or that falling apart, or this couple or that couple fighting
to death over money or custody. Turn the channel. It’s harder to control
what your tweens and teens watch of course. Instead of changing the channel,
just be aware of what they are watching so that you can address it.
Encourage Appropriate Shows
Not all portrayals of divorce on TV are bad. In fact, there are a lot of shows
that do a very good job of treating things fairly. 7th Heaven, although in rerun
land now, is one show that often was able to deal with this topic in a fair
and reasonable way. Drake and Josh is a show about two stepbrothers whose parents
each got divorced. It can help kids to watch shows that have storylines about
other kids who are going through the same things they are.
Talk about It
If your child sees media reports or reads online about a celebrity divorce or
custody case, don’t ignore it. Bring the subject up. First, ask your child
what he thinks about. Find out if it has made him worried about anything and
address his fears. Remind him that what you see on tv isn’t always true,
and only the people involved in the situation really know what is happening.
Tell him that sometimes tv exaggerates things that are happening to make them
seem more exciting and interesting.
Even when he watches a show that treats divorce in a reasonable way, engage
him in conversation about what happened and why it happened that way. Be prepared
to admit when things on TV have gone better than things in your own life! You’re
not perfect and neither is your ex.
Point out to your child that what happened or is happening in your family is
completely different from the cases or shows he sees on TV. If your divorce
is in progress, reiterate what the plan is and what is going to happen with
living arrangements, custody, and so on. When the Alec Baldwin situation (where
he left his daughter a voicemail calling her a pig because he couldn’t
reach her due in part to the custody dispute) hit the news, it made a lot of
kids feel especially uncomfortable, wondering if their parents thought that
way about them. Reassure your child that both parents love him and want what
is best for him.