Blockbuster season! It’s a time for a slew of high-profile movies to hit all at once—and your toddler, tween, and teen probably want to see all of them! As their parent, you have a difficult path to tread—how can your family embrace culture in the blockbuster film season and still honor God?
Know your values. Before you even think about which movies to say yes to, think about your family’s core values. What does your family stand for, believe in, and base their decisions on? When you (and your kids!) know your values, it’s a lot easier to navigate the messages movies are trying to tell us are true.
Set limits together. Before your teenager even asks to go to the movies with their friends, have limits in place so your response doesn’t feel reactionary or controlling to your kid. Instead of making decisions in the heat of the moment, lay some groundwork beforehand. Include your children in the limit creation—bring your ideas to the table, and let theirs influence the discussion. When kids have a say in the rules, they have buy-in. Look for ways to set limits which apply to everyone in your family, not just to kids—remember, some things that aren’t good for kids, aren’t good for grown-ups, either (1 Corinthians 6:12)!
Do your homework. A movie says it’s G—so you go as a family. The preschooler winds up traumatized, and your teenager thinks it’s boring. How were you supposed to know? Ask friends and family members you trust to give their view—and if nobody’s seen it yet, use online resources like Kids-in-Mind, Common Sense Media, or, for a Christian perspective, try out Plugged In. These websites have reviews on almost anything you can imagine, point out what content your family will be exposed to, and share what kids and parents think about it.
Watch together. Blockbuster film season offers a great opportunity to spend time together! Look for movies that will fit the whole family and go together. Or, take your kids on one-on-one dates to see movies that are good for their particular season in life. When you watch together, you not only get to give your kids the time and attention they crave, but you can see what they’re seeing, talk about it, and listen to their response.
Support independence. You’ve probably found your older children or teenagers don’t love it when you dictate what they can and can’t watch. Give them some freedom by teaching them how to do their own research on a movie ahead of time and letting them decide whether or not the content is appropriate for them. Work together to think through action steps and what to say to their friends if they find the movie they’re watching makes them feel uncomfortable or is clearly inappropriate or offensive. When you give your kids some freedom, they can learn how to make decisions. That being said, if you extend some freedom to your child and they abuse it or their behavior is affected negatively by the movies they choose to see, rein it back in and revisit limits and values.
Talk about it. Remember how family values matter even before you make a decision on movies? Well, they matter here at the end of the road, too! Whether you see a movie with your kid or they go it alone, think of a few open-ended, non-judgmental questions you can ask them about it afterward. Help your kid process which parts of the movie lined up with your values, and which didn’t. Ask your kid what message they think the creators of the movie were trying to send, why people in our culture may be attracted to it, and what takeaways they have. Let the conversation be neutral and listen more than you speak—you don’t have to teach your kid a lesson every time they watch a movie—but be open in case they have a lesson to teach you!
So don’t sweat it this blockbuster film season. Use movies as opportunities to talk about culture through the lens of God’s truth, and leverage them as learning experiences to reiterate your family values and have some fun together.