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How To Cope When Family TV Time Turns Awkward


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GETTY E 122712 TVADS?  SQUARESPACE CACHEVERSION=1356656139290iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — You’ve probably been there before. Curled up on the couch with the family, TV glowing, a general good time being had by all.

Then, without warning, someone on the screen starts taking off their clothes. There’s a string of dirty jokes. A kissing scene goes from G to R-rated at a nauseating speed. You want to crawl under the couch, flip a channel — anything than to watch the material with the people who who you gave birth to — or who birthed you. 

It’s something especially likely to happen during the holidays, when relatives of all ages congregate in front of the TV.

Communication is one good thing that can come out of all the awkwardness during TV watching, according to Nadine Kaslow, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University.

“If the relationships are pretty good, there’s open communication, and people feel pretty confident with one another, know that the awkward feeling is going to pass, and joke it off or chat it off,” she said.

It also helps to do your research, as one New Jersey dad — who did not want to be identified, found out when he took his then 14-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son to see Borat, the gleefully offensive Sacha Baron Cohen film that he thought was “just a funny movie.”

“The biggest laugh in the theater was when I hustled them out while a rather large penis was on the screen,” the dad said. “My son thought it was hilarious. My daughter was in full cringe mode.”

P.Y., a 26-year-old Detroit native, found herself in the reverse situation when she took her mom to see the foul-mouthed teddy bear flick Ted “not realizing how crude the jokes were.”

“She looked at me during certain parts of the movie to see if I had a reaction,” said P.Y., who asked to be identified only by her initials. “I remember this specifically when Ted was at the cashier and he squirted lotion on his face — super awkward. I just kept saying out loud, ‘OMG.'”

P.Y.’s mom called the movie “very inappropriate.” The viewer said of her mom, “I couldn’t look her in the face for several hours after.”

So: do you research and figure out what you can laugh off. If you’re spending the holidays with extended family and friends, you might want to ask them to do the same.

“If you happen to be the parent with stricter rules and everyone’s watching Wedding Crashers and you’re not comfortable with your 8-year-old watching that, you need to say, ‘If the family chooses to do this, then we’re going to go in another room,” Kaslow said. “It will mean compromise, it will mean negotiation.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio