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Television as a conversation starter

Sherri Kuhn writes about raising teenagers, the perils of a clean home, wistfulness over babies, and anything else that makes her laugh (or cry) in the years between changing diapers and wearing them. With a son just starting college and...

Watch TV with tweens and start talking!

When your children reach their tweens, finding the right way to initiate conversation can suddenly feel awkward.

Whether the topic is teen pregnancy, homosexuality, divorce or drug/alcohol abuse, there is a TV episode that covers it. Looking for some great shows to watch with your tweens that get conversation started? Keep reading for five shows that bring hot topics to the family room sofa.

What is the best way to discuss issues with your tweens, hopefully before they face them? Come on too strong, and your tween is likely to tune you out. Soft-pedal around an issue and your tween loses respect for you. Donna Fish, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, says "We often feel that we have to 'teach' our kids things. Try to listen without being judgmental. Our kids need to feel that we are their allies and understand their position. Validate their responses. You can always help them problem solve later."

Modern Family

Common themes: step-parenting, homosexuality, adoption and sibling rivalry

Recent episodes of Modern Family deal with stealing, jealousy, teen sex, taking risks, suicide (well, dog suicide) and foul language. Relationships are messy and complicated, but the underlying themes of support, communication and acceptance permeate each episode. Step-parenting, homosexuality, adoption and sibling rivalry are common themes.

The Amazing Race

Common themes: problem solving, conflict resolution and partnership

The show that brings conflict resolution and partnership to your family room each week is The Amazing Race. Watching teams work together to solve problems, even if they aren't particularly getting along, teaches your tween valuable lessons on teamwork and strategy. Watching the losing teams leave the show each week helps model for tweens that losing isn't the end.

The Biggest Loser

Common themes: strength, courage and healthier living

It may seem like an odd choice to watch with tweens, but the underlying messages of strength, courage and healthier living in The Biggest Loser are the takeaways. Contestants fight personal physical and mental battles each week. As they lose weight and feel stronger, their confidence grows. Acceptance is another big theme on The Biggest Loser. Tweens need to see people whose struggles are different, whether it's a weight issue or a cultural difference. Watch this show with your tween and watch them begin to see past these differences.

Suburgatory

Common themes: teen sexual activity, risky behaviors, confidence

Suburgatory was an awkward conversation starter from the very beginning, with a single-father finding a box of condoms in his 16-year-old daughter's drawer. They move to the suburbs, where the perfect life isn't always as it seems. She is confident and outspoken, and the way she handles herself is a great model for tweens.

Learn tips on talking about risky behaviors >>

The Middle

Common themes:
family dynamics, sibling rivalry and awkwardness

The family in The Middle has two teens in the cast of characters, plus a younger sibling. The middle child is an awkward high school girl struggling to find her niche. She is positive and perseverant. Family dynamics, sibling rivalry and awkwardness are all themes that are great conversation starters.

Read more on sibling rivalry >>

Pull up a chair, pop some popcorn and watch some television with your tween. Who knows what it might stir up?

More ideas for talking to your tweens and teens

How to talk to teenagers
How to help your child talk to you
Connecting with your kids: Strategies for tough conversations

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