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Surviving Christmas TV with a child who joined the family by adoption

143 replies

Italiangreyhound · 14/12/2014 17:31

Oh look, Kung Fu Panda (adopted by a stork), on Sat 29th, Cinderella (lost her birth mum and dad married a bitch) in 22nd, The Rugrats movie (returning a new born baby to the hospital) in 23, Puss in Boots (and Humpty Dumpty was in the orphanage) on Christmas Day! Plus on that day we have Nanny Mchee (the children who have lost their mum), the child catcher on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and later Kung Fu Panda 2. All we need is Tanged and Elf and we might be part way to a full set!

We started watching Elf last week on DVD but once they started talking about Will Ferrel going to find his 'real dad' I felt we should probably stop!

So there are a lot of programmes on TV this Christmas that some of our kids might find worrying.

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Italiangreyhound · 14/12/2014 17:40

Some are great movies, but just wanted to warn!

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mummytime · 14/12/2014 17:51

I could actually see some of them could be helpful! Elf could open great conversations for a child of different ethnicity for example. Actually Step parents tend to get the really bad press.

AdventuringAbout · 14/12/2014 18:22

Look out for Despicable Me too (children returned to orphanage when too much bother). I know what you mean, but I cannot bring myself to abandon Elf. Hopefully it will either be seen as just a story, or it will be a no pressure chance to talk a bit about what family means - the last scene in Elf is very good for that!

Kewcumber · 14/12/2014 19:40

Luckily DS is old enough to understand that a film is not the truth and thankfully he loves some of these films.

My owrst experience was the book of the first Stuart Little film where the adoptive parents giving him back to the fake birth parents so easily was phrased horrendously. I handled it with a gay laugh (through gritted teeth) and said "goodness thats been written by someone silly who doesn;t understand that adoption is forever".

Jameme · 14/12/2014 19:50

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Lilka · 14/12/2014 22:05

Oh we saw the new Annie trailer too. Now, we do love Annie in this house. Love it. Especially the version with Kathy Bates. So we are definitely excited to see a new take on it. To be in keeping with the modern day they've changed the lyrics in the new Hard Knock Life to "No one cares for you a bit, when you're a foster kid" which is going to be a barrell of laughs for any FC's whose foster children want to watch it.

Despicable Me is great as well

But Stuart Little was the pits. It was just an awful film all round, never mind the stupid adoption theme.

Italiangreyhound · 14/12/2014 23:11

I sort of feel the more ridiculous they are the easier it is to explain. In Despicable Me he learn that letting the girls go was the worst mistake of his life and I guess Miss Hattie's box of shame is just plain silly (I hope!!).

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Italiangreyhound · 14/12/2014 23:17

Meet The Roninsons is THE adoption friendly movie, I love it.

In the movie a couple adopt a little boy and at 1:12 they all know he is home. YES it is very sentimental but then again if you watch the whole film it is about 'charting' a new 'destiny'. I love it.

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slkk · 15/12/2014 00:19

It's sometimes useful to raise these themes in film and surprising where they pop up.we were watching a programme about monkey world where a baby chimp had been abandoned by her mother and hand reared in a zoo abroad and was being prepared to move to monkey world. Her new keeper travelled to her and went through an introductions period like ours complete with giving her a t-shirt he had slept with and building up time together. When her current keepers brought her to monkey world to leave her she cried out and screamed for them and he was left struggling to comfort her. Our ds, though just turned 4, has language delay and has never been able to talk about his loss or confusion or fear yet he watched this scene unfold and said 'new daddy monkey. No crying it's ok'. He then hid under a blanket. My heart broke but it's the first time he's talked in any about his move and maybe will open a path of communication in some way.

Italiangreyhound · 15/12/2014 14:37

slkk wow, sounds moving. Sometimes films do provide a safe way of exploring things.

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Buster510 · 15/12/2014 15:16

Oh we started watching Elf with all of the fam and DS, I was a bit mortified when he was going back to 'his real dad!' however DS just laughed at it and didn't seem to be 'affected' by the storyline at all. He has seen a few of these kind of films though, he loves despicable me - literally is his fav thing at the mo, and loves how the girls 'get a mummy' (also the fact it's purely toilet humor which he can't get enough of with the minions!). Tangled was the most awkward to watch I think, again he does enjoy it though! He really enjoys Matilda and loved Paddington.

Dear me it sounds as though all we do is watch adoption related films! Honestly we don't :)

Buster510 · 15/12/2014 15:17

Not laughed at 'going back to his real dad' I must add! Just Buddy in general!

mummytime · 15/12/2014 17:11

Well there are a lot of adoption/broken family related films. Because for it to be a really interesting story about children, you almost always need to get rid of the parents in some way. Just think of Home Alone or Jumanji.

Threesocksnohairbrush · 15/12/2014 17:36

Peter Pan when DS was about 4 was quite something.
With all the Lost Boys who 'fall out of their prams when nobody is looking after them' and who don't know what a mother is

  • and Peter telling Wendy that he went back to look for his mother and 'the window was closed and there was another little boy in my place'

Weirdly though, DS promptly developed an obsession with the whole play/story and we went to see the big budget RSC pantomime last Christmas. He doesn't quite get why it has Mummy in floods of tears even now, I think!

I do marvel at how prevalent the adoption motif is in children's stories and plays and as well as the narrative need to get rid of the parents, I do also wonder if there's something else at play. We may be a biologically driven species but we are also a deeply social species, and maybe if we need to tell ourselves stories about biological parents, we also need to tell ourselves stories that reassure that there is always love and care for children, whatever happens to the biological relationship?

Anyway, DS seems to have survived Peter Pan and despite the above one can overthink this stuff! I think sometimes our kids need to think and talk about these matters and stories can be a powerful way in.

Have you seen the Facebpok photo that says 'Superman was adopted too'? Also King Arthur, Hercules, Finn Mac Cool ...
Threesocksnohairbrush · 15/12/2014 17:46

On the other hand I have just remembered reassuring a distraught DD about a koala bear who didn't apparently have any parents.

The koala bear was on a packet of toilet paper in the supermarket

You can't always tell what will trigger upset - just stand ready to catch!

Italiangreyhound · 15/12/2014 18:19

Threesocksnohairbrush wow wee at the toilet roll story, who knows what can trigger! And yes, I do wonder about the stories we tell and what they say about or fears! I remember someone saying there were a lot of tales in Australia of people wandering off in the outback, because it was a fear of people's.

Please excuse the reference to Madeline in this, it is the theme of lost children in Australia that I am thinking of...

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blossom101001 · 15/12/2014 18:52

Most children novels etc are about children growing up or overcoming something (sometimes in funny ways). It is difficult to do this with parents there as the parents would make the decisions for them and guide them in the right direction.

Even when parents are around they are not- think of all the boarding school books in the past, children being sucked into alternate universes or even leaving their homes to find adventures.

Not having parents also makes children feel sorry for the character. Makes the reader root for them more...Children want to read to end of the book to ensure they are ok and are safe.

Children also like to see that children can make decisions and that they work. If you know what I mean? They can't do that with parents there!

WillkommenBienvenue · 15/12/2014 19:00

I don't see the problem. Watching films like this gives them an opportunity to explore their feelings about and understand that it happens to a lot of people and isn't unique to them or their 'fault'. As others have said it can help them to see good outcomes and give them hope too.

Children's books and films do this brilliantly, as does children's imaginative play. Unfortunately adoption is one of the things that taps into children's greatest fear and is therefore quite prevalent as a theme in children's stories so I don't think you will be able to get through Christmas without it.

I would try and look at the positive opportunities this can bring for the child.

Jameme · 15/12/2014 19:07

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Italiangreyhound · 15/12/2014 19:44

Yes, Blossom I can see adults around may stop children doing things or making decisions. Hence a lot of books set in boarding schools (I guess, not that I read any myself but I am sure they are out there).

In the films I sited there are still 'adults' there who fulfil some of the roles of parents. I agree that having adults around stifles children to some degree, hence the Famous Five going off without adults but in most of the examples I sited above there are 'people' (or a stork in the case of King Fu Panda) who fulfil the adult/parent role. Except in Puss in Boots!

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WillkommenBienvenue · 15/12/2014 20:15

Jameme I'm raising children.

Jameme · 15/12/2014 20:48

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Italiangreyhound · 15/12/2014 20:48

WillkommenBienvenue Do you have an interest in adoption? Just curious.

I think the issue for me is three fold.

The language used is sometimes not what is normally used these days - e.g. 'real dad' for 'birth father'.

These stories do not deal with real life situations where adoption happens. In Kung Fu Panda the panda is found on the stork's doorstep after the panda's parents are brutally killed (spoiler alert - by a peacock!!). In Elf the baby is in a home and crawls into Santa's sack! Of course a small number of children who are adapted ma be genuine 'orphans' or may have lived in homes (perhaps abroad) but that is not the norm nowadays in Britain and some adopters have adopted from abroad.

Also as a parent to an adopted child I don;t know what he has experienced or seen. I have a fairly good idea what my birth daughter has seen and experienced, since she has been in my care or the care of trusted adults all her life. For some children it really is that there is uncertainty. I don;t mean that in a sense of euphemism. I mean genuinely we do not know if they have seen or experienced things your average child will not have seen. There are features of some films that can be very scary and although all kids may be affected by this the things like the child catcher taking away children could be triggering for children who have been removed in sometimes very scary circumstances from birth families.

I am not saying these films are 'wrong', they are stories, but for some kids who joined their family by adoption they may be unsettling. If the child in question says 'This is scaring me' or whatever it is fine but some kids may watch and not say anything but be internalising some scary messages. As Kew says My owrst experience was the book of the first Stuart Little film where the adoptive parents giving him back to the fake birth parents so easily was phrased horrendously.

My birth dd watched the Rug Rats movie and I was vaguely aware of children feeling ousted by a new sibling, children alone in the wild etc! For my dd, who is 10 and my birth child, this film might be a useful to think about her own feelings of handling having a new sibling via adoption. For my son it might just spell out some of the emotions my dd has experienced and voiced in episodes between her and him!

I think, if I remember rightly Humpty Dumpty is made bitter in the film Puss in Boots because he is in an orphanage and so becomes a 'criminal'. Just some messages we may not always feel comfortable with. In the case of 'Tangled' a lovely film, which my kids adore and watch often, there is a birth mum who is a lovely queen.

Any other films to 'explore'?!

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WillkommenBienvenue · 15/12/2014 21:25

I think that by avoiding stories about adoption / care / losing parents you won't help the child at all. Of course the story will nevr 'fit' your child's story ideally, use the correct terminology and language, but it's how you deal with the situation - you can turn it into a learning experience and use it as an opportunity or you can wince and worry and avoid.

I can't speak for your child or anyone else's but I know that whenever my children watch a movie we have some great discussions about it, especially so when the subject matter is a little difficult.

I think what concerns me really is that you feel you have to hide something from your child, that there are some things that are to be kept quiet - children always pick up on this and they will pick up on your stress about it too and the last thing they need is to worry that you are hiding things.

Jameme · 15/12/2014 21:33

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