It's Complicated ...
Such is the life of a teen or tween.
Such is the life of a parent to a teen or tween.
We stand on the sidelines watching our kids juggle worries, concerns, pressures, and expectations: school, family, friends, dating. They start to push us to the sidelines as spectators rather than participant, or coach. They think we don't understand, like we've never been a teen. Whether we do or not matters little if our teens and tweens think we're clueless and tune us out.
Starting conversations, getting teens to talk, actively listen and hear our words of wisdom becomes challenging. It becomes a daily struggle to find balance between wanting to protect our kids and allowing them the independence to grow and mature. Ideally my kids can avoid some of life's mistakes and learn some of life's lessons through cautionary tales, rather than personal experience.
Special Delivery ...
How the message is delivered becomes as important as the message itself. It has to be presented in a way teens and tweens are willing to hear it. Movies and shows about teen life, choices, consequences, responsibility and self-worth can be very effective message delivery tools, and a great way to connect, bond and start dialogues with your tween or teen.
Middle School & High School: In my day ...
In my opinion may of the issues were the same, as were the challenges of parent-teen communication. When I was in high school (back with the dinosaurs) we had to deal with bullying, drugs, alcohol, suicide, teen pregnancy, sex, birth control, STD's, sexuality and social status. The fact is we started to deal with these issues in middle school. There were expectations and pressure regarding academic performance, marks and career choices. As well as expectations and pressure in regards performance in extra-curricular sports, arts, music. My parents limited my time on our land-line phone rather than a cell phone. My school had cliques and groups: the popular kids, jocks, keener smart kids, geeks, stoners, and punk rockers.
That was then, This is now ...
What has changed is the reach and the 24-7 access social media and the internet allows. In my day our circle of friends, influences, resources and support were largely limited by geography. Both have their pros and cons. Not only does the internet and social media open up new avenues for predators, and ways to bully, it also opens up ways to find support, and access information and resources.
Bonding, Dialogue and Finding Common Ground:
Below I've listed some shows and movies that might help to start dialogues about issues that face teens and tweens today. Many deal with the real issues facing kids today, without sugar coating. Some are examples of what not to do, or poor judgement and choices. We can't pretend these issues don't exist. We need to provide our kids with information to make good life choices, and model tolerance, acceptance and empathy. We know we need to be involved as parents, and movies or shows can help us to understand and relate to our kids, provide common ground and work as a great segues to conversation. Watching them together can also be a way to bond with our fickle tween or teen.
Separate and Together:
I recommend watching these yourself so you are able to decide which are best for the kids to watch on their own, together with you, or just for you to watch to gain some insight and perspective on the pressures and issues facing teens today.
Switched at Birth (TV-14) (family, parenting, disabilities)
The Fosters (TV-14) (parenting, interracial same sex parenting, family, adoption, teens, sexuality, LGBT)
Glee (PG) (sexuality, acceptance, tolerance, empathy, LGBT)
Dance Academy TV-PG) (pressures to succeed, competitive dance)
Freaks and Geeks (TV-14) (acceptance, tolerance, empathy, teen life)
Friday Night Lights (TV-PG) (competitive sports, pressures to succeed, parenting, teen life)
The Secret Life of the American Teenager (teenage pregnancy, sexuality, teen life)
Hjordis (sub-titles) (TV-14) (bullying, acceptance, empathy)
About A Boy (Series) (TV-PG) (acceptance, single parent, adult role-models)
Family Party (TV-14) (family, culture, expectations, academic success)
White Frog (NR) (special needs, Asperger's syndrome, labels, family, death, grieving, LGBT, parenting)
The First Time (PG-13) (teen life, sex, dating, relationships)
About A Boy (Movie) (PG) (single parenting, suicide, role models, acceptance, bullying, peer pressure)
Mean Girls (PG)
A Girl Like Her (PG-13) (bullying, suicide, teen life, social media, acceptance, peer pressure)
Easy A (PG) (teen life, acceptance, peer pressure, relationships, dating, sex, labels, stereotypes)
Breakfast with Scot (PG) (stereotypes, labels, single sex families, LGBT, acceptance, friendship)
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (PG-13)
Ender's Game (PG-13)
4 Minute Mile PG-13) (mentor, life choices, grief, teen life)
Billy Elliot - The Musical (NR)
Man Up (NR) (teen pregnancy and parenting)
Paper Towns (PG-13)
A Birder's Guide to Everything (parenting, death, grief, remarrying, friends, teen life)
How do you start challenging conversations and dialogue with your kids?
Look for the #Streamteam hashtag and Netflix_CA on twitter to follow along on the Streamteam adventures.
Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about parenting teens.
Note: As a member of the Netflix Streamteam I receive Netflix and a streaming device free of charge for the purpose of my Netflix reviews and posts. All opinions are my own.
Images for The Fosters and Glee courtesy of Netflix.
Images for The Fosters and Glee courtesy of Netflix.