Veggies in My Meatloaf. Teachable Moments Courtesy of MTV’s Reality Program, Catfish: The TV Show.

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“It’s school vacation week. What better time to have a chat with your kids about relationships and values?” Said no one at all this week. Except me. I kinda dig this stuff.

A few of you may know I’m a big fan of suggesting that parents use media, especially reality shows to talk with their children about sexuality. It can be a safer, easier, and more relaxing method of sharing your sexual values and ideas with your children.

I feel watching tv with them is a great way to jump start these conversations. It’s like sneaking veggies into the meatloaf. It’s good for them even though they are resistant, yet we know they need them to grow up healthy so we make it palatable. Today I had a surprise opportunity to talk about healthy relationships with my kids and I snuck veggies into their meatloaf.

I first heard of Catfish: The TV Show, while teaching a class of 8th graders and have used it for classroom discussion around healthy relationships since. At home, I’ve been watching the reality-ish tv show with my kids. It’s been a great tool for discussing relationships, trust, and social media. This hour long show is based on the movie documentary by the same name minus “The TV Show”. A person has an online relationship with someone they have never met (usually haven’t spoken to or seen) and the result of their meeting at the end of each episode mirrors the documentary where shockingly, the person was not who they claimed to be on Facebook. The term “catfished,” has recently been in the news relating to the Notre Dame football star, Manti Te’o. Lots of opportunities to talk aboutCatfish.

Previous episodes we have watched opened up conversations relating to how hard it can be to struggle with your sexual identity, accepting your body, and why might someone pretend to be someone they aren’t? Questions like, what challenges do people face in online only relationships versus face to face relationships? Are there dangers to think about? We’ve discussed how life on the internet can be made into whatever someone wants you to believe. It can happen and does happen. So often that MTV can make a successful series about it.

Today we talked about identifying as transgender and how the couple Kya and Alyx continued their relationship in this surprise happy ending revel. That led to a repeated conversation about loving someone for who they are inside despite how they identify. I didn’t make excuses for the lying and deceit; rather have my kids brainstorm what may have led to someone not being truthful from the beginning.

Later, another episode (Catfish marathon!) dealt with an issue I didn’t think we’d be discussing when I woke up this morning… suicide.Kim and Matt have had a ten year online relationship and have never laid eyes on each other. Kim shared that Matt helped her though a painful event in her life. She broke up with her boyfriend Steven, in large part because he had a drug problem. He called her and begged her to take him back. When she refused he said he was going to kill himself. Two hours later he hung himself.

WOW. So not expecting to have this conversation but when teachable moments pop up, my brain (and mouth) automatically go into “we must discuss this” mode. Yeah, my kids love it too.

I paused the tv (and took a deep breath) Should Kim have responded differently on the phone? Could she have called someone to check in with Steven? Could Steven have done something differently after hanging up the phone upset (and possibly drugged)? What influence did drugs have on him? What influence did drugs have on their relationship? Was she smart to end it? Should you ever stay with someone if they are threatening to hurt themselves or someone else? There are so many teachable moments from just this one episode and we haven’t even gotten to discuss this episodes main focus, Kim & Matt. Yes I’m a joy to watch tv with.

I don’t know that I said all the right things, but my hope is just by talking about issues that come up in relationships with my kids, if/when they are faced with something similar in the future, they feel comfortable coming to me to discuss and process it.

I invite you during school vacation week (in addition to all the other cool stuff you’re doing) to sit with your children and watch an episode of their favorite show with an eye on sharing your values, any values. I hope many conversations are sparked because of it.

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