Question: The Hunger Games is the ultimate in terrifying teens, it’s an abuse of power by adults, it’s the neglect of children, just to name a few of the awful parts of this film.  But, if you take a second to think about how all this awfulness is brought to the big screen I think you’ll see a profound opportunity here to talk to your teens.

Answer: I don’t think any child should see this film until they are abstract thinkers.  And lots of kids are not capable of thinking abstractly in every aspect of their lives until at least the age of 12.  And I don’t think any child should see this film unless their parents are willing to see it with them and discuss the content immediately after the film.

One of the things I did like about the film was that it showed very clearly that “Reality TV” has nothing to do with reality.  This is the first talking point I’d like you to consider when you discuss this film with your teen. The reality is the Hunger Games is a very publicly advertised movie so your kids are going to hear about it from their peers even if they don’t see it. So, parents need to be prepared to help their children DEAL with the way they FEEL about what they hear from peers and or what they see on the screen.

Other talking points that might be helpful to parents are specifically asking your teens to describe Kitness’s (the main character from the Hunger Games) feelings and then tell their parents how she dealt with them.  Then ask your teen how they think they might DEAL with the way they FEEL?

Talking points for you and your teen: What do you think Kitness felt when?

1-She doesn’t have enough to eat?

2-She hears her sister is chosen to fight to her death?

3-She volunteers to take her sisters place and face death herself?

4-She watches adults take pleasure in games where children die?

5- She hears Peeta say he ‘likes’ her?

6-She watches others gang-up on her and bully her?

Take these initial talking points and then follow all the rest of her feelings throughout the movie.  This will take a potentially ‘bad’ movie and make it into a teachable moment for you and your children.  Emotional intelligence or “awareness of one’s own emotions and moods and those of others, especially in managing people” is key in developing healthy relationships. If you see the movie I would love to hear how your discussion with your children went!

Please look for “Pocket Full of Feelings” arriving soon on my website as a tool to use to continue teaching your children how to DEAL with the way they FEEL, Dr. Ann. For emotional education look for the 2012 Pocket Full of Feelings workshop at Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine, CA. For more tips & solutions at your fingertips check out Dr. Ann’s Parenting Passport, her newest pocket discipline guide.