If the Movie Is Too Harsh for Your Child, Change Viewing Habits

Movies have captured our hearts. Stories on the screen have whisked us away to other times in distant places. They have bonded us to others, whether family or strangers in a theater. The golden ones have stood the test of time.

As parents, we want to pass the joy we felt from that motion picture. We want our children to share that golden story. In our haste to get to those golden moments, though, we may neglect to consider the intensity of key scenes in our beloved films. As parents, a proactive role is necessary for us to raise our children with sensible values.

If you are asking yourself how you can know which movies to show your toddlers and which to show your older children when you are not even comfortable with all the content in G-rated films, then it may be time to change your viewing habits so you can figure out where you and your child are when it comes to these matters.

Starting your children's viewing habits young will increase their chances of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Specialists recommend strict time constraints. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids 3 to 18 should have no more than two hours of screen time each day. Younger children should have none. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) link screen-time indulgence to obesity, attention problems, anxiety and depression. To combat this sedentary activity, the NIH developed sensible rules and guidelines for families to implement at home.

Plan to view the movie in chunks. This will allow for you to have teachable moments, which may, in turn, become your golden moments.

Begin your favorite classic and plan to watch only the first 10 to 15 minutes. Stop the film and save the rest for the next time, which may be later that day or the next day. When the movie is off, engage your child in teachable play.

Suggest to your child that you reenact the scenes from what you have seen of the movie so far. During play, create dialogue based on aspects of the movie. Do so with toys or in pantomime. This should give you the chance to see what they understand and what they have misconceived. You will better understand your child's relationship with the characters by having this talk.

The dialogue you create will help you decide if your child should wait to see harsh scenes. Practice developing recall and comprehension skills. Ask why characters acted the way they did. What did the characters' gestures indicate? This is, in itself, a teachable moment for discussing what motivates people's behaviors and feelings. Discuss how motivation affects you in real life with your child.

Prediction skills can also be sharpened during this break from the movie. Imagine how engaging your conversation with your child will be as he/she wonders about the way conflicts will be resolved. Besides inspiring creative thinking, this can help you discuss what choices a character may have. Guide your child in logical reasoning. Discuss what are good choices for a character to make and why that is the case. Likewise, discuss poor choices a character might make and why those decisions should not be made. Cause and effect relationships will face your child; you want him/her to have the reasoning and analysis skills to make the best choices in life.

Let the movie inspire your time with the child. You could color or draw pictures related to the movie. Practice teaching chronological order to your child. Think about what your child enjoys doing, and tie that activity to the movie. Can you investigate a scientific aspect about the movie? What historical links fit the setting? If the setting is a real place, research its culture and geography.

Whether you are watching a classic Disney movie or a contemporary favorite, take the time to talk out what's been seen. Allow your child the safety of discussing what might become scary or violent in upcoming scenes. If aggressive or fearful behaviors are displayed by your child during talk or play, then skip those harsh parts of the movie. Now is not the time for the child to see what you think he/she is not ready to see.

When you are ready to continue viewing the next chunk of the movie, proceed. Do not forget to help your child manage how much screen time is being taken in each day. A whole movie could take up the time allotted for screen viewing for the day. If your child is not in the habit of watching a whole movie in one sitting, it may be easier for you to shut it off before the movie ends.

Be a role model for good viewing habits. Your children depend on you to help them grow into sensible beings with strong morals. Viewing your favorite films in chunks that allow for play, discussion and reflection will not only allow you to share childhood memories, but it will also help you in fostering a strong relationship with the ones you love.