Movies are highly entertaining. For two hours a viewer is transported to another place and inhabits another person’s world. A mini-vacation of sorts.
Recently, several movies have not only entertained but have made social statements about the importance of embracing one’s authentic and lovable self. The Greatest Showman enthusiastically proves that it doesn’t matter what a person looks like, it’s their inner beauty that shines. That, and being extraordinarily talented singers and dancers. Call Me By Your Name illustrates the importance of parental support during a climactic and powerful father-son dialogue at the end of the movie. Love, Simon awakens dormant memories of emotional teen angst as we observe Simon’s awkwardly painful experience within the walls of his high school and computer. (Anyone else sit alone at the lunch table a few times?) Love, Simon is based on the equally remarkable book Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli.
These movies offer a glimpse into the lives of regular people dealing with difficult issues. These movies also offer insight on how individuals overcome society’s rigid social norms to develop their own authentic self. As the viewer, we, too, endure the tumultuous journey to self-appreciation alongside the movie’s protagonist. That shared journey allows us to empathize, respect, and embrace someone else’s growing pains. Experiencing this abbreviated period of time in a person’s life helps us to realize that yes, I can get through my own painful experiences, too – if I surround myself with people who support me and love me.
For parents, these movies offer other messages as well.
1. Look at life through the lens of your emerging adult.
We have expectations of our child from the moment they are born. We expect them to walk and talk one day. We expect them to go to school and do their best. We expect them to clean their room. We expect them to become a world-famous brain surgeon. Or president. Or dancer. Or fill-in-the-blank. But those expectations only sometimes come to fruition. By stepping back and allowing your child to explore their interests, friendships, and relationships you are communicating that you trust your child to make good choices. Now, I am not saying let them do whatever they want whenever they want. Kids want and need boundaries to allow them a safe space to explore. They also need parents that can impart wisdom – when asked.
2. Watch your child’s reaction when you talk about particular topics.
In Love, Simon, the dad regularly comments about Simon’s dating life. Despite the lack of response or enthusiasm from Simon, his father continues with this banter. Parents, if you recognize that perhaps your child isn’t responding to your comments or observations the way you might expect, pause for a moment and consider your words. You may feel your comments are lighthearted and innocent, but your child may not be perceiving it that way.
3. It is okay to make mistakes.
Parent make mistakes all. the. time. It’s okay. We are human. Acknowledge to your children that you’ve made a mistake, especially if it is a parenting blunder. And don’t let the fear of making a mistake stop you from trying to parent or whatever else in life you are attempting! If you’ve said something really dumb to your child, it’s okay. Laugh. Move on. Your child will learn that it’s okay to make mistakes and to laugh about it.
When you do make a mistake that hurts another person, apologize. After Simon’s dad found out his son is gay, he needed a moment – or ten – to collect his thoughts. He soon found an opportunity to be alone with Simon and apologized for his lack of understanding and for his insensitive comments about the LGBTQ population. That admission of guilt help repair the bonds that easily could have unraveled.
5. Maintain open and honest conversation in your home, without judgment.
Insensitive comments about others who are “different” from you can cause harm. Keep in mind that your child is watching and learning with everything you say and do. Do you want to raise a person who accepts and respects others regardless of their gender, identity, sexual orientation, religion, or skin color? Then be that person. Kids learn what they live.
6. Tell your child you love them. Repeat often.
Seriously. Show them you love them. Tell them you love them. In our family, we say “I love you” anytime we say goodbye – whether on the phone or in person. In person usually involves a certain amount of tears, however. No matter how angry, frustrated, or hurt we feel – above all we love our kids, right? Tell them. It should be the final words that come out of your mouth as you say goodbye.
Finally, let them know that…
…who they are is who you love.