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How to connect with your teen using the magic of movies

Family movie night
Family movie night
Ginny | flickr

Research consistently shows that the most protective factor for teens is having a strong, positive connection with their parents. However, as our kids approach adolescence, it is common for our relationships with them to get more complicated, conflicted and disconnected. Why? Parents tend to react to their teen’s attempts to push away from the family by pulling them in closer. Unfortunately, this often results in power struggles, arguments and frustration. The tighter we hold on, the harder they fight to break free.

The irony is that teens actually want to be close to their families. In a recent Youth Happiness Study, the majority of the 1300 teens interviewed claimed they were often happier being with their parents than being with their friends. The problem is, many teens don't feel like their parents “get them.” And in reality, they don't.

How can parents create the connection that both they and their teens want so desperately? One of the best ways to build and strengthen their relationship is through open, authentic communication. This can be achieved in 3 easy steps:

  1. provide a safe, relaxed environment for you and your teen to hang out
  2. start a casual conversation
  3. actively listen to them

Chilling out on the couch, watching a movie with a big bowl of hot, buttery popcorn can definitely set the right tone. The storyline and characters provide fuel to spark constructive conversations. Then, it's up to you to pay attention and listen.

Start this weekend. Select one of your teen’s favorite movies or share one of your own. Ask questions about it and see where your teen's responses lead you. You'll be amazed at how much you can learn about your child in a short period of time.

Some general questions you can ask are:

  1. What did you think about this movie? What did you like/dislike?
  2. How does this movie portray teens/families/schools?
  3. What is realistic vs. “Hollywood-ized”?
  4. What stereotypes are strengthened/contradicted?
  5. Do you see any similar behaviors or situations in your own life?
  6. Did you learn anything from this movie (either positive or negative)? How can you use this information in your life? How does it change your perspective?
  7. Did this movie bring up any questions or concerns you’d like to discuss?
  8. If the movie is from a different era: What differences/similarities do you see in how teens/families/schools are portrayed today? Does is seem like life was harder for teens then or now?

Not sure what to watch? Here’s a list of 50 iconic coming-of-age movies that are family-friendly (PG-13 or under) and rich with teen-related topics to spark your talk. Enjoy!

Continue to 50 iconic coming-of-age movies >

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