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Guide to Family Conversations on Negative Media Messages

Updated on May 8, 2017
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MsDora -parent, grandparent, Christian counselor- offers suggestions on raising confident, conscientious, responsible, productive children.

They heard it on the NBC Nightly News (February 6, 2012), a regular evening broadcast in the homes of many traditional families.

Mimi Alford, author of Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath, alleged that at age nineteen (1962) she had been seduced by the president of the United States and lost her virginity to him. To a father and mother listening to the headline, and watching their children focus on the story, the details are not as important as the conversation which needs to follow.

Family Dinner and Conversation

Photo by NCC
Photo by NCC | Source

When scenarios in the news are contrary to the principled lifestyle maintained in the homes of responsible parents, the parents need to help the children decipher the contradiction. Stories featuring negative actions are good teaching opportunities to engage the children in discussion and decision making.

Using the Nightly News item mentioned above, we will explore the social and moral benefits of such a conversation between a father, a mother, a teenage son and a teenage daughter.

Photo by Rovdyr
Photo by Rovdyr | Source

The Daughter

Questions may arise about the possibility of the daughter finding herself in a similar situation--alone away from home, being seduced by a man of authority, deceived by the notion that he actually cares about her. It would be time to review the values she has set in place to help her withstand the temptation.

Questions for the daughter:

  • Why do you think the young woman, still a virgin at nineteen and obviously not promiscuous, gave in to the president?
  • Do you think that the satisfaction of being a virgin for her own husband crossed her mind that night?
  • How do you think you would react in a similar situation?

The aim is to help the young woman establish prepared responses, or at least consider the possibility of facing the situation. Having this face to face discussion is worth ten times more than a telephone conversation after she moves out. The memory of this conversation and the knowledge that her parents care will help influence her moral decisions in the future.

The Son

The son may listen more than talk in this conversation. Even if brothers hurt their sisters in sibling rivalry, they accept their roles to defend them from victimization by others. At first, he may be unwilling to share his thoughts since he may be thinking about hurting the offender, but he may disclose his anger when probed to voice his opinions.

Photo by John Mena
Photo by John Mena | Source

Questions for the son:

  • How would you react if the woman you marry reveals a secret like this after you are married?
  • How do you presently avoid disrespect and abuse toward women?
  • How would you deal with a woman trying to seduce you?

His answers may lead the discussion into the topics of deception, caution and self-control. The parents may gain an opportunity to tell some of their courtship stories, which may provide some laughter to lighten the mood. They may also use this time to tell their children how proud of they are of their intentions, and register their support to help them succeed.

How To Discuss A Media Event

The Father

The father might be asked to give his input on how young women can stand up to victimization from men who abuse the authority of their office. It could make a difference for the daughter to hear from her father, what he thinks is the best way to deal with such men.

Questions for the father:

  • What do you think would have been an appropriate response to the president when he initiated the affair?
  • Is there a way to gain a man’s respect after allowing him to use you?
  • Why should a young woman feel or not feel that she hurts the man she rejects?

Having permission from her father to stand up to men of any age and position will give her the confidence to do it. Meanwhile the son watches his father's example of leadership in the home and male appreciation for women. The young man learns that he is responsible for respecting and protecting females.

Media Help For The Early Talk

The Mother

Society forces women to measure their worth by their relationships, and the mother understands that for a young woman, the idea of a relationship with the president could be very compelling. She might be anxious to stress the importance of permanent self-worth over a transitory, secretive fling.

  • What would you do if your daughter succumbed in a situation like this?
  • Does this incident make you remember anything you forgot to teach her?
  • What will it take to make you comfortable about your daughter leaving home to live on her own?

The mother’s expression of concern or confidence will again pull at the children’s heartstrings and strengthen their resolve to conduct their lives in obedience to the principles which their parents teach.

At the same time, the parents have the opportunity to bless the children with permission to exercise their judgement and develop their individuality. Family support, no matter what, is the whole idea.

This entire conversation may last fifteen minutes around the dinner table, or around the television. It takes time and commitment to build this kind of forum in which the parents become the primary mentors for their children. It can happen if they take advantage of the small windows of opportunity here and there to make communication a habit. There is no shortage of topics in the media. Carpe diem!

Ten Reminders For Parents

There is no one-size-fits-all rule for the family conversation. However, there are some basic principles that all parents do well to remember.

  1. Begin the habit of family conversations in the children’s preschool years.
  2. Don’t force conversations; look for appropriate moments.
  3. Be available when they want to start the conversation.
  4. Listen as much as speak.
  5. Ask open-ended questions.
  6. Offer to do research if they ask a question you cannot answer.
  7. Follow-up whenever you promise.
  8. Build, not destroy, the children’s courage to deal with situations.
  9. Include touching, like a hug or pat on the back, to help you communicate love and concern.
  10. Teach the children that conversation with God, through prayer, is always available even when you are not.

© 2012 Dora Weithers


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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      YadiraE, I read your article and left a lengthy comment. You presented thought-provoking ideas for the reader's consideration. You did an excellent job. Thanks for sharing both your article and your comments on mine.

    • YadiraE profile image

      YadiraE 5 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Great article. This issue needs to be addressed more. Parental education on sex and virginity loss is so important for boys and girls. I also wrote an article on how Mimi Alford's confession romanticizes virginity loss. Check it out and let me know what you think!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Brinafrsh, you stated it very well. Thanks for your input.

    • Brinafr3sh profile image

      Brinafr3sh 6 years ago from West Coast, United States

      It's great for children to know their parents positive opinion about negative media messages. The media will benefit financially from it, but our families can benefit as well, by knowing the positive and negative motives of each story in the media; and turning it into positive family conversation. Thank you, voted up.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks, Melovy. You're right. The principle of turning negatives into positives is right for any situation. Thanks for the votes.

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 6 years ago from UK

      This is a great hub. I love how you’ve outlined ways that your example could be used for all members of the family to think about their own actions. I think it’s useful not just for those of us with families, but for anyone to think about how we can turn negative news into positive experiences. Voted up and U & I.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Deborah, thanks for your support in voting and sharing. I appreciate you.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Kristeen, you definitely captured the message I'm trying to share. Thanks for your input.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      this is very good I am going to share it on facebook with my friends with young children..

      voted way up


    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 6 years ago from The Caribbean

      CrazyGata, I hear you. I promise to get my own camera and improve on the number of black images. Yea, we do have similar thoughts. Thanks for your comment.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks NightFlower. Hope you like all of it when you come back to complete your read.

    • Kristeen profile image

      Christine 6 years ago from Michigan

      MsDora, These are great ways to reach out and grab opportunities to talk to our kids. We can't keep the news media from reaching our children's eyes and ears. I agree with your advice to use it as a learning opportunity for each family. Children have lots of questions, but don't always voice them. This brings things out in the open and allows them the knowledge to make good choices for their lives. Thanks for sharing!

    • CrazyGata profile image

      CrazyGata 6 years ago from Puerto Rico

      I would've love to see a black family watching TV there, but I guess that one is good too :) great subject! I do it myself is awesome to see we are not alone!

    • NightFlower profile image

      NightFlower 6 years ago

      I haven't completed my read but I like what i'm reading and will be back to finish it.