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Competing with TV on media’s influence

QUESTION: How do we, as families, compete with the media’s influence on our children and their thinking about love and sex?


ANSWER: There is an African proverb that’s getting repeated a lot these days: “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” It brings to mind starry nights, family clusters of all ages around glowing fires, grandparents and parents telling the stories and singing the songs of life’s experiences.

Society’s norms, the standards and the expectations, are passed along from generation to generation by what’s done and what’s shared. Storytelling can be done around the fire, or, as it is in America, in front of the TV screen or the computer. If we don’t like the stories of the TV screen or the computer, we need to tell our kids the life stories we do want them to hear.

In my own growing up years, I greatly enjoyed hearing the beginning of my parents’ love story. My mom, a freshman at Hamline College in St. Paul in the 1930s, had gone on a triple date to a roadhouse in Stillwater and gotten back after midnight. The dorm doors were locked, but roommates had left a second floor dorm window open. Taking off her good navy dress so as not to tear it, my mom climbed up the drain pipe to the second floor in her slip. The episode got told around the campus. It was a couple days later that my dad, a junior in the same biology class, asked her out, saying he thought she needed to date someone older who would offer her some needed protection.

In the same decade, my husband’s parents were falling in love. Money was in very short supply, so dating often occurred at the St. Paul Union Railway Station where the young couple would group with the crowd waiting to board the train, pretending one of them was leaving. They’d kiss good-bye, and then go to another platform and find another departing train. Trains left every four or five minutes. The kids in our family know that both those marriages lasted more than 50 years.

Our families need to tell our real life stories, what turned out well and what caused heartaches. Children will sift and sort and make their own decisions; it can help, though, to have the details of their family history to think about in the process.


If you would like to talk about the challenges of raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out www.familiesandcommunities.org.