It must be summer, because I’ve actually seen a movie recently.  As a parent of young kids, that doesn’t happen that often.  There’s been a lot written on the power of story and more to come.  But I want to focus on how you might leverage going to the movies this summer into a time to learn more about your son or daughter.

We’ve all noticed how a good movie or book can draw and offer you something unique.

Something big.

Something more.

A good story has the ability to make you feel connected to something bigger than yourself and the routine of your everyday life.  A good story allows us to both escape reality and capture it at the same time.

This is true for adults and for our students.  I can recall watching Lord of the Rings and thinking I just stumbled upon the meaning of life – friendship, struggle, perseverance, good vs. evil, adventure…as I sat in the theater, I knew there was more to life than what my daily experience tells me.  I also knew in that moment, I was wired to live a great story, I just needed to get busy doing it!

In stories we find a piece of ourselves—we find something to identify with that makes us feel like we can know ourselves a little bit better.

An excerpt from a 2012 Psychology Today article pinpoints exactly what this looks like for teenagers (to read the full article, go to

Psychologists such as Dan McAdams (The Stories We Live By) argue that identity is inherently narrative. Fundamental questions such as “Who am I?” are answered through the stories we [speak] out about ourselves. Stories about our struggles, our triumphs, our loves, and our hates combine into the sum total of our sense of self. For most people, these identity stories really emerge in adolescence. Certainly younger children tell stories, but their stories tend to be loose and episodic. In adolescence, people start trying to tell stories that put all the pieces of what they do and think together into a more or less coherent whole.

One of the things I was doing in early adolescence was reading Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It immersed me in a strange world that only vaguely mirrored my own, yet the archetypal motifs of the quest, wisdom, heroism, and evil were instantly familiar. Tolkien transformed these motifs into a series of tales that idealized friendship, loyalty, endurance, sacrifice and compassion, and these themes were woven into my identity.

Books, movies, music, television shows—the things of culture—matter to students, because they identify a piece of themselves in the stories being told. They feel connected to something bigger while simultaneously discovering something more about themselves. And we, as parents, have the potential to tap into that—not only to learn about our students, but teach them a bit about ourselves as well. When we learn about the stories that matter to them and share our own stories, we grow in understanding and this gives us amazing relational leverage.

So, here’s two opportunities for you to connect with your student around this idea of story and identity. You can choose whichever one feels the most comfortable for you, or find time to do both.

Option A: Find out from your student what their favorite movie is and then sit down and watch it together. Before or after the movie, take some time to talk about some of the themes that were present (good versus evil, brokenness and redemption, good choices versus bad choices, etc.) and then ask your student why they like that particular movie. What connects with them the most? What do they feel when they watch it?  The goal is to simply have a dialogue with your student to discover more about who they are and give them a chance to share their favorite story with you.

Option B: Just as learning about oneself through stories is an important process of adolescence, so is learning about the story of your parents. Take some time to share your own story with your son or daughter. When did you first discover how much God loved you? When did you make a decision to follow Jesus? Who or what played a role in that decision? Share about your faith journey so that your student can begin to understand your story as an important part of their own.

Consider this your excuse to enjoy a movie this summer!


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