I know, we are weird, but we only have one television set in our home. It is kept in the main living room. No one has a set in his/her bedroom, and there is no den for TV. When we sit down together to watch programs, we all watch the same thing and yes, it is child appropriate. It is one of those things that we decided early on was very important to our family and we don’t plan to change it.
My daughter is almost 8 years old. She quite enjoys Disney Channel programming and we allow her to watch most of it. (Some of the shows are a little too teen-minded for her age, but most are okay.) When she is awake, the news does not come on at all. There are plenty of enjoyable, family appropriate networks and shows that can be watched together. We often flip between the History Channel, Food Network, The Science Channel, and sometimes Discovery. We are not huge sports fans, but during baseball season, games do come on. She may not love to watch that, but she has come to respect that we do things together and she has first choice most of the time. Also, the children’s programming has come a long way since I was a kid. There are so many options now that are educational and even entertaining for the adults as well!!
My friends sometimes think I am absurd. “How can you only have one TV?” “What do you do when you don’t care to watch what someone else is watching?” I love these questions, but I also feel kind snooty when I answer and I never mean to. Personally, I grew up in house with a television in every room. My family weekends were spent completely separated by doors and I could easily spend all weekend at home and never have any interaction with my parents or brother. The only time we ever gathered for a mutual viewing was when we were in the den waiting to play the video game console. (There was only one of those in the house.) Occasionally, in the evening, we would get together and watch whatever dad had on.
When my husband and I got married and decided to have children, we also chose to do as much as we could together. We are communicators and we don’t want to have anything in our home that puts extreme space between us. My daughter shares things with both of us, but often they are different things. Her daddy is good for certain topics, and I get to field other ones. I don’t like the thought of spending even one day so far removed from what my daughter is doing that I lose part of our connection. At her age, time is just too precious. She won’t be in the house forever and she won’t like me very much really soon!! Granted, we do all need out space, but you’d be amazed at how much personal space you can acquire for yourself while other people are in the same room.
I like to read my book while she watches a show sometimes and just knowing that I am sitting with her, helps her feel that we are getting together time. It isn’t very easy to get back into a story when she asks me to watch a part with her, but there’s time for that later too if it’s just too impossible right then. When you are together on the same couch, even with spaces between you, you learn small things about each other that helps keep communication open.
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The only real time I get with my family is when we are home and relaxed. I don’t see much point in always being in separate rooms doing our own things. We all need that sometimes, and we afford each other that. My husband and I apply the same logic to evening TV time. We watch together or we don’t watch at all. When you spend too much time in different spots of a shared home, you invite too many opportunities for secrets to be kept and trouble to invade. Do you really want to live in a house where you find that you don’t know the people in it at all??
If you can’t get everyone on board to share one set, at least minimize it to two. Be the first person to make concessions on what you want to see. You have to be willing to sacrifice if you want them to do the same. They will slowly follow suit. Find programs that everyone will enjoy. If you find that you are being forced to watch too much nonsense, then your kids are probably watching too much of it too. Find common ground with something that is age appropriate. Limit the TV time to together time. You have to make the first step in being willing to sit through things you may not love to set the example to your family that spending time with them is more important than your own entertainment. It’s important – and it’s very possible to do!!