As we continue our look at Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s time to shift our focus to youth. In the past, we’ve established that youth can benefit from mental health services, but how do we have that discussion with them in the first place? A potential solution may be closer than you realize. Let’s talk about MOVIE NIGHTS!
WHAT is a Mental Health Movie Night?
Simply put, a mental health movie night is a chance to enjoy a family movie together with the express purpose of discussing mental health issues found in the movie. It can be difficult to discuss abstract mental health issues with children. In addition, children don’t often have the language yet to discuss those concepts in a meaningful way.
Viewing them played out in movies gives a concrete reference point for children to begin to conceptualize them for discussion. Thankfully, there is a lot media for children being produced these days that include mental and emotional health themes in them. Being able to watch them as a family provides the opportunity for discussion to follow!
HOW do we do a Mental Health Movie Night?
1) Give the HEADS UP – The most important things to remember is to BE INTENTIONAL!
Don’t just put on the movie and then spring a bunch of questions on them later. Let the family know that you will be watching a movie as a family and having some discussion after. To help increase buy in with children, you can give options for the movie and let them decide which one you will watch. The more honest you are about your intentions with the movie night, the more willing your children will be to follow your lead with it!
2) Set the MOOD – Before the movie, start with a fun family dinner!
Make or order out a favorite meal, or even have the kids help in the kitchen. During dinner, have some fun yet thought provoking discussion questions available to facilitate discussion. You can find free examples online or order a set of conversation cards from Amazon. The name of the game here is to set the mood for conversation. This is not a passive dinner and movie night!
3) MOVIE TIME! Know what you want to watch ahead of time, and have some idea what you want to discuss. Click here for a list of suggestions.
Be sure to avoid singling out issues that are particular to one child over others if there are multiple children watching. Try to make it more general so no one feels “picked on”. While you’re watching, you may want to highlight important scenes for discussion by saying, “I love this part!” or “That’s one of my favorite lines!” If your child has their own parts that they want to discuss, validate their input and allow the conversation to happen. There’s no right way to do this, just as long as it gets the discussion going!
4) Now DISCUSS! This should be a brief time after the movie where you revisit important scenes and talk about their deeper meaning.
Go back to the parts you pointed out while watching and talk about what they mean to you. Be open to other thoughts and interpretations, and above all VALIDATE your child’s thoughts and emotions as they talk. This should be a safe place where all family members are able to discuss openly with each other!
5) Continue to REFLECT! Once you’ve discussed concepts together through a movie night, be watching for times where you can reference those concepts in real life. Connecting the theme in the movie to real life examples will help children to continue to conceptualize them and apply them to their everyday lives.
Including mental health movie nights can be a fun and engaging way to have deeper conversations with your children. Mental health matters, but it can be tricky to talk about with younger ones.
If you need support in discussing mental health with your children, or if you would like for them to have someone else to talk to, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our therapists at Heartland Therapy Connection. Call us today at (816) 287-0252 and let us help!