With the arrival of the Christmas Holidays, our family routine changes, both in content and in rhythm. We have a short break from set routines, never-ending school hours, homework, extracurricular activities and everything that we associate with school-time fades into the background. Giving way to a period of rest (both physical and mental), to relaxation and enjoyment and to the opportunity to spend some quality time together. Our job as parents does not come to a halt during the holidays but with this change in activities and in pace, new opportunities arise to educate our children. The holidays provide us with the opportunity to partake in fun activities with our children that during the rest of the year we are otherwise unable to enjoy.
These moments are necessary and something we should give more weight to as they strengthen the bond we have with our children and can help them in their personal development. In short, they can serve to satisfy some of the most basic needs that children have; to feel loved, protected and valued. These fun activities also provide an opportunity to continue educating our children in values, beliefs and codes of conduct that, once internalised, they will continue to use throughout their lives.
One example of these kinds of activities, which as well as being fun can also be educational, is to watch a movie together. There is a wide variety of movies to choose from and the one we ultimately choose depends on the message/s that we wish to transmit. One movie that I recommend is Wonder, based on the book by R.J Palacio that tells the story of Auggie Pullman, a 10 year old boy that was born with congenital facial deformities. The first 10 years of his life were spent between hospitals and staying within the confines of his house. The 27 operations that he undergoes allow him to see, talk and hear like everyone, but his face looks unlike that of any other 10 year old child. He has never been able to go to school, with his mother always home-schooling him.
Auggie has his parents and his older sister who love and protect him, but he is fully aware of his appearance and suffers when other people reject him. When his mother believes that the time has come for him to face the world and attend school for the first time, he is petrified, but at the same time holds out hope that he will be accepted and be able to live the life a normal child. The movie focuses on Auggie’s first year at school and narrates his experiences as well as the experiences of those around him. The environment and the situations that are described in the movie are real and relatable, allowing the audience to easily empathise with the different characters.
The movie touches on some very important issues such as bullying, friendship, the need to feel accepted, tolerance, respect, kindness, empathy, humour, strength in the face of adversity, the need to confront difficulties in order to overcome them and many other life lessons. The way in which the film is narrated by different characters permits us to appreciate the different interpretations of the same event and the impact that these events have on each person. In fact, although the central focus is on Auggie, the secondary characters also face difficulties and learn different life lessons over the course of the movie.
Wonder is a moving and touching film portrayed with sensitivity that will appeal to both children and adults. The story is so relatable that it encourages us to think about our own lives, it invites us to be more conscious of what is happening around us and, I believe, it even pushes us to try to be better people. In the movie, there is a quote by Wayne Dyer, a well-known American psychologist, made by one of Auggie’s teachers that sums up part of the message of this movie: “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind."
This movie can be used to discuss and to highlight some very important values. After watching it, we can start a conversation and ask questions which will help our children reflect on what they would do in these situations. For example: What would you do if someone new or different came to your class? How would you react? Would you think how difficult it must be for someone to experience something like that? Would you try to help them? How?
In fact, the movie can also help parents to be more attentive to the needs of all our children and not only to those that are in obvious need of attention and support.
While the Christmas holidays can provide many opportunities for fun and overindulgence, we can also ask ourselves where the opportunities for connecting and teaching lie. Watching a movie like Wonder together with our children is a magnificent opportunity to spend some quality time with them while at the same time transmitting fundamental values that will ultimately help them to become better people.
Proofreading and editing by Gráinne Keeshan