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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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Devora · 17/12/2014 00:32

Oh, and of course this isn't an issue for the BBFC. Film makers can't ensure that their movies never affect anyone - that would be ridiculous, given the volume and variety of human trauma. It is for us as parents to manage this - and this kind of thread is how we do that.

Jameme · 17/12/2014 01:07

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RhinosAreFatUnicorns · 17/12/2014 06:12

Every film we seem to watch with DD (3) recently has a conversation about where the mummy and daddy are in the film - Frozen, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc (her favourite), Snow White..... It's obviously something she's thinking about quite a bit at the moment. It's just hard to know exactly what with her being so young.

Jameme · 17/12/2014 10:03

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MissFenella · 17/12/2014 10:18

We have always had the 'all families are different' mantra in our house and we certainly do not limit age appropriate films with adoption as a minor plot point.

It has never been a problem and we just chat through who is who if needed.

When the 'queen' is an evil step mum I always say 'oo look its me according to DSS' and I quite often offer him an apple if its nice and red (he is 30). We all laugh because its not how life really is.

But that works for us an our family, it might not work for all so just do what is best for you.

WillkommenBienvenue · 17/12/2014 10:53

Here is the source of that article

The press article doesn't do it justice at all, it's a far more interesting and in depth piece of research and covers a much wider range than just the number of incidents of traumatic events.

TrinnyandSatsuma · 17/12/2014 21:26

Really pleased I read this thread. As we were considering paddington over the holidays, think I will give that a miss.

In my experience, the story of the film doesn't affect our son so much. But very sad scenes, with mournful music, where someone has lost something or is lonely, gets him very upset. He tunes into the emotion of the scene and reacts to that. The story lines seem to go over his head a bit.

We watched postman pat the movie. Content was fine, nothing adoption related, but one of the characters (the big corporate boss who wanted to change things and was really mean) got a real reaction. He was genuinely scared and cowered from the TV. I suspect his character reminded him of aggressive, abusive or violent adults he has known in the past. So again, storyline wasn't the issue, but the character or personality of a person in the film was really upsetting and possibly triggered bad memories. You don't get warnings about that on the parents guide on imdb unfortunately.

We stick to octonauts! We love octonauts!

Devora · 18/12/2014 00:38

I love octonauts, Trinny. Sadly, my dds have left it behind and prefer CBBC - I have to beg to be allowed to watch it.

Italiangreyhound · 18/12/2014 02:48

Devora everything in our house is Octo related, get in the octobath, do you want an octoegg - except not in the octobath!

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Italiangreyhound · 18/12/2014 03:25

Jameme before you linked to that article I was sitting in the bath and thinking and I realised that almost every kids film I can think of has themes of loss of parental figures in! I mean even on this thread we are saying stuff like I like Frozen (my kids love it, but her parents die), Mrs Doubtfire (I love it, but they get divorced and he ends up dressing as an old lady to see his own kids!), Toy story is all about who you belong to (that's family) and being separated during a move - left behind! TS1) - and yes I cried in TS3.

How to train your dragon 2 he learns his mum is alive after living all his life without her and then (spoiler alert) loses his dad!

ArcheryAnnie I personally loved Kung Fu Panda but then I do think it is easier when it is animals. And yet Sifu raised Tai Lung from a cub and then Tai Lung turned out bad, quiet aside from the Po and Mr Ping storyline. I would not say this was a reason not to watch it, but I am just saying - themes of abandonment!

It is that loss again and again, Wizard of Oz, Snow White, Finding Nemo and Pinocchio.

The films that spring to mind that do not fit that world are the Shrek films. I wondered why and then I realised these are really adult tales. Shrek one is a buddy movie, and a romance and triumph of the little guy (in this case the big ogre) over the meanie (in this case the little guy). It is for children as it has funny characters but the plot is very adult. Shrek 2 is meet the parents, Shrek three is a buddy movie with a twist a kind of mentor movie, like that dreadful role play and energy drink one! Shrek 4 is a wonderful life.

I loved the Shrek movies. So it is possible to make movies for kids without these constant themes, (I am a big kid), yet we do not!

It's all so weird!

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Italiangreyhound · 18/12/2014 03:31

WillkommenBienvenue I wonder if when you posted 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. That you think adoptive parents will be keeping the fact their children are adopted quiet in general, as in not telling them they are adopted?

I can honestly say in real life I have only known of two cases where this either happened, or partially happened (not sure how it can be partial but hazy perhaps) or where this was suggested it might happen.

Of course in the past I am sure it did happen a lot but really nowadays all adopters are given clear guidance on this and on the fact it is much better for the child to grow up always knowing in an age appropriate way. And that to do anything different in this day and age of DNA tests/ recovered memory etc is frankly very stupid.

But it is the misrepresentation, the confusion, the upset and perhaps the simper fact we do not know what will upset our kids, that makes some film choices, or even book choices, quite hard. It is not about lying to our children, not that I think you are suggesting that, but I just wondered what you think we are hiding or concealing or may wish to conceal?

And although you would like to see more portrayal of children with disabilities in them (which I would agree with), I expect we would both agree we would want those images to be positive. You would not want the image of disability to be as a result of someone being 'bad' or a disabled child to be portrayed as being totally reliant on others and unable to help themselves, etc.

Just curious Smile

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EatShitDerek · 18/12/2014 04:40

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WillkommenBienvenue · 18/12/2014 09:10

No I don't think that Italiangreyhound I was concerned that some parents don't realise that when they censor things from a child's life it can add another layer of doubt in the child's mind - children pick up on absolutely everything.

Openness is obviously the best approach to adoption and one that has fortunately taken prevalence.

The reason that loss of a parent is so prevalent in stories is because it is a child's worst fear. Even in imaginary play that's the game of choice of many children and is a natural part of dealing with separation and developing independence.

I'm so glad they have done this research, it does indicate that film classification needs to be looked at again with fresh eyes.

Devora · 18/12/2014 10:04

I don't think it's about censoring things, Wilkommen. It's about managing the flow of information so they get exposure and learning in the best possible time and place to allow them to make good use of it. Much of the time that isn't within our control, of course, but I'm sure all parents make decisions about whether their kids are old enough to see a particular movie or learn about a particular issue. For example, our heritage is Jewish and I wouldn't dream of not teaching my children about the Holocaust. But I'm not going to sit my 5 yo down in front of Schindler's List and say, "Oh look, that's where Granny went". I'm going to share information with her gradually and in an age appropriate way, and I'm going to try to make sure that when she learns the really hard stuff it's in a safe place with me next to her to help make sense of it all.

Similarly, with adoption. Generally speaking, our children have to deal with really, really difficult information at a very young age. Most 5 year olds aren't grappling with the knowledge my dd has about her birth family and her early life. And every time she leaves the house she gets intrusive questioning from other children and adults - on the school, on the bus, in the street. "Where is your real mum?", "Why did your mum give you away?", "How come you have two mums?", "Was your mum a nasty lady?", "Why is your skin brown?". Trust me: adopted children are not generally over-protected; they are over-exposed.

So I do think you have misunderstood where we are coming from. It's not about us trying to shield our children from learning about the world. If only that were possible! Our children have often been exposed to things no child should know about; they may be hyper-vigilant and sensitised. Every day of their lives they have to make sense of stuff that other children haven't started learning about. So we do try to create some small spaces of safety where they can just enjoy a movie without having to deal with difficult feelings - you know, just be a kid.

excitedmamma · 18/12/2014 10:28

I saw one of these Facebook poster things the other day which I think sums this thread up..... "you can't child-proof the world so you have to world-proof the child"

Italiangreyhound · 18/12/2014 12:14

WillkommenBienvenue thanks for claryfying Smile. I don't think it is a matter of hiding it is a matter or not seeking out, not going to the cinema or turning on the TV when a progamme that would scare a child is on. My dd (now 10) loves scary stuff and has no problems with vampires etc! as a child I was terrified of them. I am sure my parents would have bot deliberately taken me to a film that would be too much for me.

Also, I still not sure why books and films focus on the most awful thing that can happen to a person. I can think of a few awful things that as an adult scare me still, yet I can easily seek out comedies, musicals, romances and even horror films (if I wanted - not that I do!) that do not touch on those themes. Why is it not so for children. Is it almost (scary thought!) a way of controlling children!

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Italiangreyhound · 18/12/2014 12:18

Devora you say it so much better than me!

Excited love it, a world-proofed child.

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Jameme · 18/12/2014 12:30

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ArcheryAnnie · 18/12/2014 13:06

I'm pretty sure that "first, get rid of the parents" is a rule in children's books, not because it's every child's worst fear, but because the removal of adult authority is necessary to free the children into making decisions and having dangerous adventures on their own.

dibly · 18/12/2014 13:29

Interesting discussion. I think for many adoptive parents like us, our children are either pre verbal or in the midst of magical thinking, where it is really difficult to meaningfully explain away the stereotypes of good birth parents/evil adopters which is portrayed in a lot of films. For kids who already have to process a lot of complex stuff, dealing with moving from homes and people that they've lived with before they can understand why, then these kind of films can really muddy the water for our children.

If anyone wants to infer I'm some kind of neurotic Mary whitehouse figure for trying to shield my already confused daughter from further distress until she's old enough to understand, then so be it; it's not really relevant just as your choices for your LO are probably irrelevant for our set up.

hanahsaunt · 18/12/2014 13:44

Apologies if this has been linked to already but this makes fascinating reading esp for those who parent (or are themselves) ones who are adopted or have had difficult childhoods:

Italiangreyhound · 18/12/2014 14:03

Yes, ArcheryAnnie but it does not need to be by the parents dying. It could be a whole lot of reasons.

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Italiangreyhound · 18/12/2014 14:04

Also it is because most kids do not lose parents that this topic for most is safe.

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Buster510 · 18/12/2014 14:22

Thanks for the link Hanah - glimpses of that very much with our DS.

WillkommenBienvenue · 18/12/2014 17:38

Italiangreyhound I still not sure why books and films focus on the most awful thing that can happen to a person.

Imaginary play/reading stories is a way for children to play out potential obstacles and resolutions. Every child does it and every child needs to do it to develop an understanding of their place in the world around them.

Nearly all stories consist of a combination of problem/resolution - they would be dull without it and parental loss is one of many plot devices which have different purposes. This particular 'plot device' is about independence and learning to separate from parents safely. Most children go through a phase of frequently thinking about the death or demise of their parents (whether in dreams or conscious thought) and it's absolutely normal. Humans are extremely slow as a species to separate from adults and their fascination with certain dark subjects is what kicks off that process. It's almost as though our own brains are forcing us to let go of parents.

Interesting that you think it could be seen as a way of controlling children - in fact it's the opposite - ultimately it enables independence and survival.

Obviously for children who have really lost their parents the whole thing is turned upside down and they've been through the trauma and the subject matter will possibly act as a trigger for remembering that and as most of you have said can have a very negative impact.

It is something that as others have said does pass (not sure how or why or what to do to enable that).

Dibly - I agree and I would also go on to say that children under 3 simply shouldn't watch films and stick to books or Cbeebies which has safe TV nailed. The great thing about books is that there is an opportunity for interaction and an explanation and you can pace it as you like.

You're all doing a fantastic job by the way, sorry if I've hijacked the thread with my psychological ponderings. I do find this a very interesting subject and as you can see I've very much revised my thinking on this particular issue. Trauma is obviously something to avoid and exposure to triggers does need to be done cautiously.


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