Certain childhood milestones I anticipated virtually the moment I saw two lines on the pregnancy test – the first smile, learning to walk, the first day of school. But recently my teen hit a new kind of milestone that was unanticipated, is highly underrated, and draws us closer even as she grows more independent: The rite of binge watching our first TV series together.
It’s not that my kids are strangers to screen time. If left to their own devices, they would probably binge 24-7 on “Peppa Pig,” “Frozen” or basically anything flickering on a screen.
But we all know why excessive TV is a bad idea for kids of any age. And as far as binge watching together, there isn’t all that much common ground between parent and child in the early years. I, for one, would rather scrape creamed spinach off of the 2-year-old’s high chair than hear Peppa Pig snort one more time.
But with the 13-year-old, it’s a different story. Now that she’s older, the stories we find compelling overlap more and more.
Win-Win: Chilling and Stealing Cuddles with the Big Kid
It might seem I’m leading her down a thorny path – a mother lovingly offering her daughter her first puff of the Netflix crack pipe. But when a kid turns 13, parental bonding can take different forms than in the early years. Constant attachment is no longer our default state. It’s awesome to use the bathroom without her trying to bust in, but when she slips past us these days to hang out in her room, I miss my baby and want to hang on to every second with her.
Our screen splurges bring us together – even when the lifeblood has been sucked out of me by the evening, or when she doesn’t feel like talking. We wait for her little siblings to conk out and then sit close and escape to TV Land. And we discuss it and look forward to the next episode – together.
Our first mother-daughter binge experience was “Gilmore Girls,” about the smart, ambitious and funny Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, a single mother and teen daughter straddling their family’s wealthy world and their quirky, small town. There are lessons and values to ponder, but it’s fun and not too darkly adult.
The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch with Your Teen
Sleep and homework are non-negotiable. So – in contrast to binge watching with an adult – there’s no tiredly convincing ourselves it’s fine to stay up past midnight watching ‘just one more’ episode. “Gilmore Girls” took many months and a couple of school vacations to conquer. Then my girl tended to disappear into teen world again – but I’ve got her back (for an episode at a time, at least) with a new series, “Anne with an E.”
In preparation for the next round, I surveyed other families and scouted out these possibilities: “My So-Called Life,” “The Wonder Years,” “Glee,” “Switched at Birth,” “Dr. Who” (that’s just one link, but there are many incarnations of “Dr. Who”), “Freaks and Geeks,” “Once Upon a Time,” “The Crown,” “Ugly Betty” or maybe “Heartland.”
Other parents of teens loved “Stranger Things,” though I’m not sure we can handle it (too scary!?). My daughter and I have both read “13 Reasons Why,” but the show looks better for older teens. We’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments – thanks!
One more tip: I’m pretty cautious about my kids watching age-appropriate content. To inform decisions on what to watch or find ideas for a family movie night or straight-up binge watching, I like Common Sense Media. It shares guidance – including reviews by both parents and kids – on TV shows, movies, books, YouTube, apps and games.
For more non-judgy thoughts on kids and screen time, read Kleinkinder vor dem Bildschirm: Das böse, böse iPad. Or, find tips for tweens and teens on dealing with parents and screen time in Die Eltern nerven: so geht man als Tweenager damit um. (Both links are in German for now. Watch this space for English versions!)
And to avoid any risk of turning into a couch potato, there are plenty of fun activities around Zurich (English again!).
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