As parents, we instinctively want to protect our children from everything bad that could possibly happen. But no matter how much we try, they still have worries and fears. Lots of them. One common approach to dealing with our children’s fears is to ignore or minimize their feelings with well-meaning pats on the head and assurances that nothing bad will ever happen and that we’ll always be there to protect them. Part of that approach involves sanitizing the media—books, movies, and so on—that our children are exposed to. The result is a huge proliferation of fluffy bunnies, unicorns who poop rainbows, and other inhabitants of a world where everyone gets along and where troubles are always resolved with a hug.
In my house, there’s a place for bunnies and unicorns (which happens to be the trash). Instead, we’ve always done things a little differently. I’ve never shied away from talking with my children about their deepest fears and helping them confront those fears head on. Instead, we’ve gravitated towards media that show children in the exact situations they fear most—and that show them coping with those situations. But most importantly, the books and stories and movies my kids and I prefer more often than not lead to interesting discussions about life, danger, happiness, sadness, fear, joy, friendship, ethics, right and wrong, and so much more.
So am I right? Just take a look at the success of children’s books that deal with kids’ fears. Think about Where the Wild Things Are, anything by Roald Dahl (where someone’s parents are usually killed within the first 10 pages), the Harry Potter series, the Series of Unfortunate Events, and so many more.
@Netflix has dozens of streaming videos that can act as conversation starters. Here are a few of my current faves.
Series of Unfortunate Events. A Netflix Original series that includes kidnapping, murder, trickery, deceit, lies, and just about every other nasty thing you can think of.
One Day at a Time. A Netflix Original reboot of the classic TV show. Deals with all sorts of tough issues, including sexuality and money.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The only Roald Dahl story available on streaming. If you don’t know Dahl, head down to your local library.
Charlotte’s Web. A story about bullies, life, and death.
To Catch a Thief. One of the very few movies by Alfred Hitchcock, whose films have sparked some of the most fascinating discussions I’ve ever had with my children.
Rear Window. A decent remake of the classic Hitchcock film, with Christopher Reeve in the Jimmy Stewart role.
Dexter. Of course killing is wrong. But what if you’re killing killers to prevent them from killing even more people? For teens and older.
(Dis)Honesty: The Truth about Lies. The truth is that we lie constantly—to ourselves and to everyone around us.
Disclosure: I’m a member of the #Netflix #StreamTeam and receive occasional product and early access to programming. But every word I write is all mine.