Have you taken your kids to a summer blockbuster and later wished you hadn't? Welcome to the club. Movies are a fun treat, but they can cause stress--even those rated G and PG. I don't know about you, but I cringe when my kids see bad behavior on screen and cringe even more when they start acting out the bad behavior at home. Here are methods we've developed for coping with the aftermath of an otherwise fun family movie experience:
1. Watch and listen. Has anything from the movie crept into your child's behavior? In my family, we'll sometimes hear new words during pretend play or see violence that we've never seen before.
2. Ask a few questions. Instead of a general question such as "What did you think of the movie?" (which may provoke too vague a response), ask a few directed questions to gauge your child's feelings about the movie; for example, "How did you feel when that character got teased?" or "Did that scene feel OK to you?"
3. And then listen. It may take a little time for your kid to get the words out (particularly if they've just had a nightmare about the movie), but wait and listen and let them lead vs. jumping in with your own opinion.
4. Remind your kids that movies are stories. Help your child understand that movies are stories. (You can also say nightmares are stories.) If your child is old enough, try discussing why the writers chose to include various actions or words. For a younger child, I've found it helpful to ask how they'd feel if someone acted or spoke that way to them in real life.
5. Be clear about house rules. The clearer you can be about what is and is not acceptable in your family, the better. I ask my kids to think of other words or actions they're allowed to use in real-life circumstances, then tell them that what they saw in the movie is not okay in our family.
Movies are a wonderful source of entertainment, but every now and then they trigger issues that need to be dealt with. Keep the channels of communication open around upsetting actions or words and soon enough, you'll be able to get past them. If you have other ideas for how to discuss challenging movies with your family, feel free to share in the comments below!