Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Lorax and The Hunger Games: How these Books and Movies Promote Good Parenting, Enhance Child Development, and Support Family Connections

The month of March was ushered in by the Lorax and takes its leave with the Hunger Games. These two books, turned movies, are capturing the attention of children and teens across the country. Kids are excited and they are talking about it.

The Lorax, with its vibrant colors, bold animation, and lovable characters (so fitting of Dr. Seuss) maintains its environmental and social commentary in a whimsical way that connects with young children's budding empathic sides and their curiosity about the world. The Hunger Games, though a much darker commentary, seems to get at the core of young teens' struggles with identity and related feelings of belonging, importance, relationships, values, and beliefs. Children and teens, so touched by these stories, are reaching out to share their experiences with their families.

So many of the kids I see for therapy, and with whom I am acquainted, have been talking about the Lorax and the Hunger Games over the past few months. They know the stories inside and out. They identify with their favorites characters. They imagine and have hopes for the future. They feel connected to something and it motivates them to want to share that part of themselves with their parents. I have heard several stories about how kids have pestered their parents and siblings to read these books, going as far as repeatedly leaving the book on a parent's chair, pillow, laptop or in their bag or desk. Parents - this is your chance; your children are excited about something, feel empowered and want you to mirror those feelings. They are letting you into their world. By taking the time to explore their thoughts and validate their feelings, you are sharing in their experience, encouraging their self development, and letting them know they matter. There is no better way to connect.

Books, movies, and other social media, though thought by many to interfere with development and interpersonal relationships, can support family connections and children's social and emotional growth if they are used and managed in the right ways (i.e., if they are only a piece of the children's experiences and these experiences are shared by the family within certain boundaries and limits). Enjoy the entertainment and social factors of the Lorax and the Hunger Games but, most importantly, take advantage of the opportunity to connect with your children.