In these crazy times of social distancing, many people are turning to movies to help pass the time. What is great about movies, especially movies made for kids, is that they often address grief and the subsequent emotions in a way children can understand and relate to. There is hardly a Disney movie out there that doesn’t start with a parent dying early on in the film. You can use these themes in movies to start a conversation with your child about their own grief and how they can relate to the characters’ emotions. You could talk about the differences between your child’s grief experience and that of the characters in the film. These conversations can be tricky so here are a few tips;
- Watch how the child responds to what they’re watching.
- Ask them questions about their understanding of what happened.
- Fill in the blanks about what happened with clear and honest responses, even if that means giving them a little more information than they ask or introducing new words or concepts. Don’t lie or skirt the truth about what happens in the movie, this often leads to more confusion. (For example: in the movie Frozen it would have been easy to avoid the dreaded ‘D’ word by telling kids that the King and Queen went on a trip and never came back. But then the message they are then left with is that sometimes parents go away on trips and never return to their children.)
- Discuss how they think the characters are probably feeling. Talk with them about times they have felt this way.
- If necessary, talk about the events of the movie in the context of their life. For example, if something hits particularly close to home, address how it is and is not the same.
Below is a list of recent (in the last few years) family movies that address a variety of grief issues.
Big Hero 6
Frozen or Frozen 2
The Lion King
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
We Bought a Zoo
Beauty and the Beast
The Art of Racing in the Rain
Author – Laurenne Hamlin, Program Director