Over the holidays many families gather around the dinner table, and then the television—and not just
to watch the game but often a movie.
What do you do when your cousin Earline doesn't share your values, and she whips out the latest R-rated movie,
assuring you there’s "just a few bad moments and maybe one cuss word" in it? "After all", she says, "you can’t
shield your kids from everything."
- Plan A: Boldly tell Cousin Earline that her taste in movies is inappropriate for your precious children
and you will have to leave early. (Your husband prods you. "Pick A! Pick A!")
- Plan B: Say nothing. After all, it’s Christmas, and the last thing you want is a scene.
- Plan C: Disconnect the cable while your husband distracts the relatives.
Welcome to the proverbial rock and a hard place.
How can you redirect that situation to protect your kids (and Cousin Earline's for the time being) and not
ruin the gathering with offense? Give a quick dissertation on whatever is honorable, just, pure, lovely,
and commendable (Phil. 4:8)? Relatives rarely respond to in-house sermons.
Instead, avoid escalating the tension and suggest an alternative activity such as:
- Pop some popcorn, pack the kids up in a van, and go hunting for way-out-there Christmas light displays.
Cousin Earline might even know some favorite spots.
- When you load the car up with presents, be sure to include the latest board games. Our family favorite
is Apples to Apples.
- Visit a homeless shelter as a family to spread some Christmas cheer.
- Check the Internet before you leave and see if there are any special events in town you might attend.
Alternatives to television have a new incentive. According to John Robinson, a professor of sociology at the
University of Maryland, happy people watch television far less than their unhappy counterparts. Imagine that!
Mr. Robinson authored a study which appeared in the journal, Social Indicators Research, and which tabulated
over 35 years of data through the University of Chicago. The New York Times quoted Mr. Robinson:
"We looked at 8 to 10 activities that happy people engage in, and for each one, the people who did the activities
more—visiting others, going to church, and all those things—were more happy," Dr. Robinson said.
"TV was the one activity that showed a negative relationship. Unhappy people did it more, and happy people did
If Cousin Earline isn’t impressed with research and still insists on couch potatoes activities, rent your own
selection of positive choices and have them ready when family members mosey toward the den.
Finally, if none of these alternatives grabs you—offer to host dinner at your house and plan to keep
your guests busy. Be in charge of your home. If desperate, you can always unplug the cable or hide the remote
when no one's looking.
What might seem like a difficult family dilemma may well turn into an opportunity. Your kids need to know how
to love relatives when you don’t like their behavior. With a little foresight and planning, this might be the
merriest visit ever.
Merry Christmas, Everyone.
–Editor’s note: Thank you to our guest columnist, Gaye Clark, for this light-hearted but practical look at
protecting our children from pornography during the holidays.