I would like to tell you the story of a mother with two very young children who, out of the blue, finds herself locked down in the house with them until a date to be set. "Locked down in the house" means: without kindergarten, without grandparents, without parks, without visits from relatives or friends, without even being able to walk near their home. Without the possibility to let them run and let off steam in the open air, as before.
The husband is at home, but he spends many hours a day working in the attic. He is perched there, like on the top of a tower, to escape from the noise of the children (who, let's admit it, at certain times, do not even allow you to think). He would like to help his wife, but he's the only one who has a "steady job" at home, he's lucky enough to be able to continue with telecommuting... and someone has to keep things going.
Television: ally and enemy
So this woman, as we have said, is alone. We are in the middle of a pandemic and she certainly cannot complain about having to "just stay indoors", but she still has a lot of things to do and the two little ones don't always want to collaborate: sometimes they sit on the couch and leaf through their little books; sometimes - unfortunately more frequently - if not supervised, they risk killing each other, they flood the bathroom, empty drawers, damage walls.
Next to this woman there is only a great friend and enemy: the television.
It is there, on top of that rectangular piece of furniture in the living room, constantly trying to tempt the woman: "Give them to me, I'll take care of them...". It has a giant mouth and hands like tentacles that catch and never let go whoever is around.
The secret is the right measure
That mother is me, but it could be you: many of us have had the experience of having to manage children for 24 hours a day and at the same time doing everything we did before: working, doing laundry, cooking, tidying up, vacuuming, answering to the accountant, the bank, solving problems with the electricity supplier, paying the plumber etc., without being able to call a grandfather or a babysitter even for a couple of hours.
And let's face it - honestly, television has been a great ally.
Let's make it clear right now - if it doesn't become the main activity of the day, it's not wrong to allow children to watch some cartoons, as long as they are appropriate for their age and have appropriate values to convey. My oldest son - 3 years old - learns a lot from the cartoons that my husband and I select beforehand: he finds new ideas to play, motivations to overcome his fears, sometimes even the strength to resist a whim, because before him the protagonist of the cartoon found it.
In short, TV is fine, but only if it’s used in the right way and at the right time.
Those times we crossed the line...
But now I dare you, dear readers, to raise your hands if in two months of complete lockdown you have allowed your children to watch TV only one hour a day.
If children entertainment channels have reached the budget for the next five years in two months, there must be a reason. And the reason is that the TV has been very convenient for us.
The TV hypnotizes them, soothes them and entertains them for hours. It makes them tamer than ever before and we can finally keep the house from going to rack and ruin, for example.
And yet, seeing what effect the screens have on them, I was almost frightened: I could see that if we didn't say "enough", the children would be able to stay there even for a whole day. As soon as you turn it off, they are crying and complaining. What they always say when I say that the cartoons are over is: "No, not yet".
If we've lost it, let's regain our ability to make decisions...
It is you, parent, who must be strong, who must decide. Decide to give you and give them a break. Even if you haven't finished hanging the laundry and the table is still a mess. Is it easy? No. And there are days when a mom or dad struggles not to give in, but eventually they lose. And they "use the TV card" more than they have to.
It has happened to me sometimes, I'm sure it has happened to all of us.
The important thing, however, is to recognize when we abused the remote control and to promise to be stronger in the future. Like when you commit a sin and promise not to commit it anymore. Every day is a new day and we can, actually, we have to start our struggle with TV again, we have to strive to always find balance. We must do our best so that it remains one of the activities of the day, instead of becoming a sedative that keeps them good all day long.
As we have already recommended in another article, TV cannot become a babysitter.
The fight against TV requires an effort
It's not easy, sometimes, to say no to that "sucking octopus" that apparently solves all the problems. And, I admit it, in the middle of a whim (which at that moment I didn't have the patience or the time to manage), I just had to press a button, to "fix everything". It feels like magic, really.
Just a click and the problem is gone. But the consequences of this way of solving difficulties are not good: TV sets aside problems, it doesn't solve them. The child stops making a whim just because he is distracted, not because he has understood the mistake or has learned to calm himself down (which is definitely more desirable). And I do mea culpa, for the times in which I delegated to the TV an educational function that was up to me.
The satisfaction of victory
But there were also days when, I'm proud to say, so as not to make them slaves to TV, I programmed things, when they could be quiet on the couch with their books or dancing to the notes of their favorite songs. There were days when the kitchen was not very presentable until the evening and I finished an article or a chapter at midnight, but on the other hand we painted, made figures with modeling clay, played hide and seek.
The TV is an ally, I admit, but also a great seducer. It seduces us, even before our children. And the consequences of an exaggerated use of the screens are deleterious, so, even if we have been wrong sometimes, even if we have been wrong many times, let's not give up and start over.
It will always be there, in that living room, saying "Give them to me, I'll take care of them". But the remote control and the mental health of our children are in our hands.