TURN ON THE TELEVISION…TO TALK
5 TV Families that can open a dialogue between divorced parents and their children
By Laura Dave
Author of The Divorce Party: A Novel
The famous television personality David Frost has a quote about television that I love. Frost says: Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your living room. While I find Frost’s words amusing, I think there are exceptions—that certain television programs can broaden our understanding of the world and allow us to touch on issues that ordinarily might be hard to touch in another way.
While working on my new novel The Divorce Party—in which a grown son brings his fiancé home to meet his parents the weekend they announce they are separating after 35 years of marriage—I spoke with divorced parents about the trickiness of talking with their children about divorce. I learned, over the course of these conversations, about constructive ways to broach the topic—many of which stem from an important reminder to children: you are not alone in this. Certain television shows that offer positive images of divorced families can serve as a jumping off point to get there. Here are five that are particularly useful.
Once and Again is a family dramedy from the people who created Thirtysomething. It focuses on a divorced father and a soon-to-be divorced mother who are in the challenging position of navigating their new relationship while trying to blend their families. The beautifully written show often feels more like a novel than a television program, offering deep and thoughtful explorations into the complexity of divorce and how to best parent while also beginning a life with someone new. What defines this show most of all—and what makes it a good dialogue opener for divorced parents and their children—is the strong messages of love, and commitment to family on the other side of divorce.
Gary UnMarried is a funny and bright comedy that focuses on Gary Brooks, a contractor, who is newly divorced after fifteen years of marriage. Gary is struggling to help raise his children while maintaining a good relationship with his ex-wife. Humorous and candid, Gary UnMarried touches on some of the more confusing issues of marriage (loyalty to each parent, reorganizing family rules) in an easy, and non-threatening manner. It also presents an image of a divorced father, who puts the well-being of his children above all else.
3. Gilmore Girls
While Lorelai Gilmore—the character at the center of Gilmore Girls—isn’t technically divorced, she is a young, single mother of a teenage daughter, trying to handle the tribulations of raising a child on her own. Her story and the story of her daughter can be incredibly useful to all parents who are in the position of being a child’s sole support system. As viewers follow Lorelai and Rory into a better and stronger life, you can see the possibilities of all types of families coming into their own and striving.
4. Brothers and Sisters
For divorced parents who have teenage or grown children, Brothers And Sisters can provide a good basis for discussing many issues surrounding the complications of divorce, family, and marriage. The show focuses on the Walker family, with Sally Field as the matriarch of five grown children and their respective broods. The Walkers face everything from divorce to death to new marriages, and, with an elegant twist, the show reminds the viewers that at the heart of all family difficulty can also be understanding and enlightenment.
5. How I Met Your Mother
Sometimes the best way to open a conversation about difficult topics is to first have a conversation about an easy one. The warm and wonderful How I Met Your Mother focuses on a group of New York friends trying to find love and begin their adult lives. The inventive part of the show is that the main character is telling the friends’ travails to his children many years later, once he finds his partner and his family. It is a charming device, and opens itself up to all types of discussions about marriage and family. Most importantly, it serves as a hopeful reminder that, at the end of the day, each of us can get to a place where we are sitting across from our children, helping them to understand where they come from and where they can go.
©2009 Laura Dave, author of The Divorce Party: A Novel
Laura Dave is the author of the acclaimed novels The Divorce Party and London Is the Best City in America. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Glamour, Self, Redbook, ESPN the Magazine, and The New York Observer. Dave graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. In August, Cosmopolitan magazine named her as one of the eight “Fun and Fearless Phenoms” of 2008. She lives in California.
For more information, please visit http://lauradave.com/