Movies move us.
Movies tell stories. Storytelling is a powerful way engage your audience, to provoke thought, to connect with others.
Movies often involve popcorn, soda and other treats.
Bottom line: movies are fun.
Other bottom line your kids don’t need to know: movies provide the opportunity to craft therapy experiences specific to your child. Often, the best therapy involves realizing others have similar battles to our own.
Let me give you an example of what I mean:
The last few years have been a struggle. I wonder if anyone else thinks the way I do, or if I’m just weird and everyone else is doing fine. Maybe I’m just different from everyone else on the planet, but when life throws a difficult experience in my lap, I feel alone. I feel that no one can understand. I feel different from everyone else on the planet.
Oh, you’ve felt this?
Perhaps I’m not so different. Maybe you’re a kindred spirit. If you’ve experienced a similar difficulty and survived, so can I. We are connected.
When we connect with other individuals—real or imagined—who experience similar hazards or painful crises, we no longer feel isolated. We find community. We find hope.
My aim for Hypervigilant.org is to provide a place where foster and adoptive parents (and their supporting cast members) will find hope, healing and the knowledge that not one of us is alone in the fight to help our children survive and thrive.
As parents, we must find ways to help our children reach hope, healing and community as well—and the best place to start is at home.
Sometimes, this goal feels so far out of reach, it might as well be in outer space. When RAD is in full swing, when kids have screaming tantrums, when your child is continually defiant, when they’ve broken every possible object, when you’re ready to pull your hair out…it’s time to pull out a secret weapon.
FAMILY MOVIE NIGHT!
Break out that popcorn machine (or toss a pack in the microwave). Pour special drinks for the kids (and possibly “extra-special” drinks for the adults). As long as candy doesn’t send them over the edge, buy a couple boxes of “movie candy” at CVS.
Get the kids excited. (But not too excited…we’re looking for positive participation, not chaos…)
And then, play a movie with a theme aimed at their hearts.
While watching, point out key elements.
“Wow, I bet that made him angry.”
“Do you think she’s feeling sad, or just confused?”
“I think maybe he reacted that way because he misses his dog.”
After the movie, spend a few minutes getting the kids involved in conversation. Remember, this is not a full-on therapy session. No need to extend it unless your kiddos become invested in the process.
*Key component: if it’s after bedtime, inform the kids they may stay up “__ minutes more” as long as they’re contributing to the discussion in an active and positive way.
Ask what they thought the character felt during ______ scene. How could the character have reacted differently (either positive or negative) and in what way might that change the story?
Often, asking, “can you think of anyone who might have similar feelings/could have had a similar experience/may understand a character in the movie?” works better than a direct, “does this apply to you?” The way your kids connect to the stories may surprise you; sometimes we think the kids will attach to a certain character, but they relate to another for other reasons.
It’s okay to watch the same movie more than once; investment in characters may change as kids develop. I experienced this myself, watching The Fault in Our Stars. I expected to empathize with the young girl experiencing cancer, since I contend with chronic illness. Instead, the scenes involving her mother made me sob, thinking of how I’d feel if our girl were so sick.
Cinema Therapy, as it’s called in some circles, is gaining ground with professionals (although I doubt insurance providers will pay for movie tickets anytime soon). Especially for kids who have difficulty opening up because they feel no one understands, the right movies can bring healing. For families struggling to connect, Family Movie Night can facilitate finding common ground—even if it’s just a shared love of buttered popcorn.
Next up: Resources for Cinema Therapy at home
I just read a blog post from a dad who is committed to making sure he stays connected with his kids. (Click the link; his blog is super.)
His thoughts led me to a few of my own.
We so often focus on getting “quality” time with our kids and doing special things they will remember.
But what do you remember from your childhood? If you have memories of your family doing things together, what is your strongest mental image?
Most of my early memories don’t involve anything elaborate. Many relate to simple things we did each week.
Digging in a sandbox.
Swinging on the backyard set.
Board games on the floor.
We wanted to create similar happy memories with our kids.
When they first came to us, I would have argued that “board games” should just be called “bored.” Or, more accurately, “the quickest way to give yourself a migraine.”
In the beginning, they had zero focus and fought us at every turn (get it…because in games you take a turn…), even when something was supposed to be fun.
However, Hubby and I have fond memories of playing games like Risk and Monopoly, and we’re nothing if not determined. Our kids WILL play games, doggone it.
Brain-numbing (to us) choices like Memory and Guess-Who gave us our first tentative game connections with the kids, and eventually they could make it through a full round of Sorry or Trouble.
Doing puzzles also interested them, although we had to buy puzzles several levels below what you’d expect for their age. As confidence built, the number on the puzzle box rose.
Thanks to my aunts and mom, who often jigsaw when together, the kids saw puzzles as a fun hangout time for adults. This, of course, made the activity more desirable.
Our kiddos recently shocked us by asking for family game night instead of family movie night.
And we played Risk, without any actual casualties.
I call it a win.