Healthy Living

Who Needs Therapy When You Have Stranger Things?

Once, while she was sleeping, I inspected my daughter’s arms for scars – thankfully finding none. Then we started watching "Stranger Things" together and, miraculously, things got better.
photo: Netflix

Last year, I wrote about watching “Stranger Things” with my daughter. I described how the series helped us connect during the pandemic. I was conflicted about whether or not to publish the piece, but finally felt that sharing what we went through might be helpful to other parents – and it was. I heard from so many people that they had also shifted habits, gotten more lenient with things like television watching and chores, all in the name of making things a little bit easier for our children, who were going through so much.

It got pretty bad, for us. Here’s what I wrote then:

Parents aren’t supposed to try and fix our children’s problems. But even in 2018 – before the pandemic – suicide was the second leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14. I didn’t think my daughter was suicidal, but I worried that her self-neglect might become self-harm: Today, some estimates suggest 20% of American teens are depressed and up to 30% of adolescent girls report hurting themselves. Once, while she was sleeping, I inspected my daughter’s arms for scars – thankfully finding none.

Then we started watching “Stranger Things” together and, miraculously, things got better:

Just like a portal to the “Upside Down” that these characters access, the show provided a space through which I could connect to my daughter’s world. Maybe it isn’t so bad, I thought, spending a few hours together each night, gripped by a drama to which we could both relate: a plague that overwhelms a community, with dark death at its heart. Sitting side-by-side, without looking directly at each other, we discussed everything from first kisses to world-threatening contagion that had a lot in common with coronavirus. And, after so many months of physical and emotional distance, the scary scenes gave me an excuse to hold her close.

The long-awaited Season Four just dropped and I can’t wait to watch it with my family. But re-reading my essay drove home just how much has changed. Yes, we still snuggle up on the couch with the dog but often my youngest isn’t even home. She’s out with her friends, having fun in the world – as she should be. It’s a stunning change, and one for which I am so very grateful.

What changed for your family during the pandemic (besides everything :-)? How are you doing now? Please tell me about it, in comments below. Thank you!

2 Comments

  • Mary Helen Stefaniak

    Our three kids are grown and flown, so I’m especially happy that our habit of meeting every week online, which began during the pandemic, has continued. Every Sunday afternoon at 4:00 Central Time (for one daughter and two grandkids in Omaha) and 5:00 Eastern (daughter and son in SC and FL respectively), we share news and jokes and play bananagrams (a word game you can play as soon as you can spell any words at all). We see each other’s faces and hear each other’s voices (along with barking dogs, etc.), in as close to real time as the internet can get us. Somehow that weekly contact makes us closer during the rest of the week, knowing the big and little things going on in one another’s lives. Sure, we could have started this without a pandemic in the picture, but would we? Maybe, maybe not. All I know is I’m glad we did.

    • Rachel Sarnoff

      Oh I love this idea!!! We started out doing zoom and then everyone was so zoomed out that it kind of faded. But we do have an ongoing group chat where we drop news and Wordle scores with my family in New Orleans, New York, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz. You’ve inspired me to try and turn that into a weekly zoom!

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