Using Movies to Talk to Teens

OReel of Filmne of my favorite summer activities was (and still is) watching movies. Whether it is catching up on older movies no longer in theaters or splurging on seeing the latest blockbuster (and enjoying the theater’s air conditioning), summers and movies go together like macaroni and cheese. Since we at Amplify are always looking for ways to help you in the daunting task of raising teens, I’d like to share with you a great way to use movies this summer to have meaningful conversations with your children.

Amplify Youth Development has created a free e-course called “Using Movies to Talk to Teens.” If you sign up, you will receive two emails a week for the next five weeks. One email discusses strategies for how to effectively use movies to address difficult topics with your teen. The second email each week discusses a specific film and which topics could be addressed with your child during or after viewing the film together. The movies included are all available to rent or from your local library and cover topics such as bullying, pregnancy, dating and marriage, and internet safety.

You can learn more or sign up here. There is no cost for this e-course! Comment below if you have any questions or to share your experiences with the movies.

Boys Deal With Body Image Issues Too

Most of what we read about body image issues focuses on girls who are trying to be model thin, or are obsessed with showing off their…curves.  But boys are not immune to our culture’s unhealthy focus on appearance.   A new study discussed in an online article by ANI News shows that boys who are of a healthy weight, but think they are too heavy or too thin, are more likely to be depressed.  Those who think they are “very underweight,” are the most depressed.  Boys who do not exhibit the bulging muscles of their peers, or of media celebrities, and experience bullying, are also more likely to use steroids, according to the article.  Giving our boys a healthy sense of self, whether they are muscular and toned, or of a leaner or huskier build, is as important as making sure girls know they don’t have to look like an airbrushed sunken-cheeked model.

Is your teen bullying or being bullied online?

I’ve been reading about lately.  The buzz is about teens that have committed suicide after being bullied on the site.  For all the teens that resort to suicide, often after being urged to kill themselves by anonymous bullies, there are many, many more that are living in fear and despair.  Anonymity allows teens to act on their worst impulses.  I couldn’t help but think of the soul-crushing guilt or loss of conscience that the bullies must feel when they face the very real consequences of their cruelty.  Heaven forbid, that my child, or yours, could be that bully. has posted an article telling us what we need to know about, including the following:

  • As is true of Facebook and Twitter, you must be 13 to use it.
  • allows anonymous objectionable content, which it does not monitor.
  • Therefore, it’s being used for the worst type of bullying and sexualized content.
  • Users can’t increase privacy settings, as you can with Facebook and Twitter.
  • content can be linked to Facebook and Twitter, increasing the spread of the bullying.
  • “A user can disable his/her account, even if the password is forgotten.”  Kids have been known to lie about that.
  • One user can block another, but the person can still view any interactions under any profile.

Action YOU can take:  Find out if anyone is posting hurtful or sexual things.  Ask if these “friends” are friends in real life.  It’s OK to insist on transparency…sit down and take a look at your teen’s account.  Advise your teen, “Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your  family to see.”

Is it Sibling Rivalry? Or an “In-House” Bully?

When brothers Nate and Joel go at it at home, and there’s hitting and yelling, is it just to be expected?  Or is it time to step in?  Particularly when one child is always the aggressor,  the answer is “Yes.”  An article in the Chicago Tribune interviewed author and psychoanalyst Jeanne Safer about her work with patients who are carrying mental and emotional (sometimes even physical) scars from such childhood  bullying.  She says, “You’re bullied in your safe haven, in your bedroom, at the dinner table, in the backyard, when your friends come over.  This is a problem hiding in plain sight.”  The Tribune article cites a recent study that ties sibling aggression to “significantly worse” mental health in kids who experience this type of familial bullying.   One thing Safer says when urging parents to have a no tolerance policy, is that “Parents need to tell the abused child, ‘You do not have to tolerate this, and I will help you defend yourself.  I will get your brother or sister professional help, and I will not permit them to harm you.'”  Parents who tolerate abuse, thinking that kids will toughen up, or work it out, are setting up both of their kids to suffer later.  Your bullied child needs you to go to bat for him or her, and your child who bullies needs to learn now to change, rather than become an adult who continues to bully.

Worried About Your Teen’s Weight?

A New York Times health and wellness blog on teens and weight got my attention, because it reported on a study that focused on parents’ and other adults’ (such as teachers or coaches) often well-meaning attempts to “help” overweight children.  The study found that parents can “tease” their children about weight, in a misguided attempt to prompt their children to lose weight.  Their motives are often out of love, knowing that being overweight is distressing to a child, and also draws bullying from peers.  But parents’ methods can create new problems.  

Reading about the things parents do that are unintentionally hurtful triggered a memory.  My now svelte sister went through a period in her teen years where she was mildly overweight, and I thought I recalled our father “teasing” her about it, so I asked her about it.  “Yes, he called me Fatso,”  she said.  My response was “That’s terrible.”  We agreed that Dad meant well, and truly did love her, but his method of connecting–teasing and humor–was hurtful and probably contributed to some later life consequences.  

So how can adults help children to attain a healthier lifestyle and weight (surely a worthy goal), without crushing their spirits or even, potentially, contributing to things such as eating disorders?  The article, which is worth reading in full, gives a lot of “dont’s” and a few “do’s” from Yale researcher Dr. Rebecca Puhl.  One “don’t” in the article is: “Don’t engage in ‘fat talk,’ complaining about weight and appearance, whether it’s your own, your child’s or a celebrity’s. Saying ‘My thighs are so huge!’ teaches your child it’s acceptable to disparage herself and puts way too much emphasis on appearance, says Dr. Puhl.” One “do”: “Focus on health, not weight. ‘Promote a healthy environment for everyone in the home,’ says Dr. Puhl, not just the child who is overweight.”

If you have an overweight son or daughter, and your attempts to help aren’t working, some of the blog’s suggestions might just help.