All parents want to protect their children. They want to give them a safe, carefree childhood before they grow up. Unfortunately, sometimes children are just too smart for their own good. Young minds have a way of noticing things they’re not ready for, and when that happens, Mom and Dad can get asked some pretty tough questions. So how do we, as Christian parents, help our kids come to terms with things like faith, love, and death?
Well, one way is with movies. For years, people have used movies to help others understand difficult or challenging concepts, and children’s films are no exception. If you’re the parent of a curious child, here are five films to help you answer some of their toughest questions.
The Land Before Time – What is Faith?
The Land Before Time tells the story of a young dinosaur as he and his family search for a place called “The Great Valley”. A drought has left the land barren, and each day the dinosaurs must walk as far as they can in hopes of reaching their new home. The journey is fraught with danger, and at one point, the young dinosaur asks how they can know the Great Valley exists if none of them have ever seen it before. His mother kindly responds that some things you see with your eyes, others you see with your heart. What a simple, beautiful way of describing faith.
“How do we know God exists if we can’t see Him?” is a question all children will eventually struggle with. What makes The Land Before Time so special, is that it helps children see God with their hearts, not their eyes.
Kung Fu Panda 2 – Am I Adopted?
In the first Kung Fu Panda, the lovable Po taught children everywhere the importance of hard work and staying true to yourself. It wasn’t until the second film though that viewers learned the mild-mannered goose, Mr. Ping, was (gasp) not Po’s real father! The revelation causes something of an identity crisis for Po. He starts to question who he really is, and struggles with the knowledge that his biological parents chose to give him up. Sadly, there are many children out there who can relate to Po’s situation.
Adoption is a wonderful thing, but that doesn’t make it any easier for some kids to accept. The important message Kung Fu Panda 2 sends to adopted children is that they belong, and they are loved.
Frozen – Am I Different?
By now, most parents have seen Frozen enough times they could quote the movie by heart. The story centers around two sisters, Elsa and Anna, who live in the picturesque kingdom of Arendelle. Elsa, the older sister, was born with the power to summon ice and snow, but after a childhood accident, she’s taught to keep her abilities secret and isolate herself from the rest of the world. As a result, Elsa grows up filled with shame and self-loathing instead recognizing her power as something precious. It’s only through the help of her sister that Elsa finally learns there’s nothing wrong with being different.
While there are no children with the ability to create talking snowmen (I think), there are plenty who know what it’s like to feel different. Movies like Frozen can teach boys and girls everywhere that the very things that make them stand out, are the same things that make them special.
Monsters Inc. – Why Are They Different?
What if it’s not your child that’s different? What if it’s another child your son or daughter happens to know? In that case, you might want to show your kids Monsters Inc. In this Pixar classic, two well-meaning monsters accidentally find themselves in possession of a little girl named “Boo”. Ironically, both monsters are terrified of the lovable tot, until time and experience shows them there’s nothing to be afraid of.
It’s important that parents teach their children the same lesson. We need to remind them that God loves everyone, no matter how strange they may seem to us. If we learn anything from Monsters Inc., it’s that we’re all more alike than we appear.
Charlotte’s Web – Will I Die?
Death is probably the hardest subject our children will ever encounter. It’s terrifying, and unlike the others on this list, there’s really no “good time” to talk about it. Christian parents can try to encourage their children, they can speak to them about Heaven and remind them of God’s promise, but in the end, the only way to truly accept death is to face it. While a number of the movies listed here could help kids do this, Charlotte's Web is perhaps the best. Not only does the film gently introduce death to its young viewers, but it also teaches them how to face it bravely.
Unlike most tragic stories, the title character of Charlotte’s Web knows she is going to die. In fact, she explains as much to her friend Wilbur about halfway through the movie. Yet despite this, she is not afraid, she knows her life has had meaning and was spent surrounded by those she loved most. While her death is still painful to watch, Charlotte is able to meet it peacefully with no regrets. It’s the type of ending that leaves our children just a little bit wiser.
*This article first published 4/8/2015