Guest Post: Helping your kids engage with stories

We’re thrilled to have a guest post written by Cat Caird. Cat is a friend and former colleague (during our time on staff with UCCF:The Christian Unions). She describes herself as “Christian. Wife. Mum. Geek. Gamer. Blogger.” Cat’s blog explores popular culture through the lens of a Christian Worldview. She says that she wants to “explore how as Christians we can enjoy the culture around us, but also engage with it in a deep way that allows us to see and celebrate the good in our culture as well as engage with the things that need redemption.”  Her blog is thoughtful and helpful, check out more of her stuff here: “Sunshine lenses”

We are so excited that she’s written for Gospel-Centred Parenting! Today she’s helping us think through how we can help our children engage with stories in a thoughtful and Christ-honouring way. 

In 2015, the BBC reported that “Children aged five to 16 spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen…according to market research firm Childwise.”

Although reading statistics like this can seem rather scary and daunting, the reality is that screen time is a digital technology that is very much part of our everyday lives. As our children grow up, they will encounter even more advanced digital technology, using it at home, school and work, becoming much more proficient at it then we ever will.

I am not sure we can, nor do I think we should, hide away from it. There are of course times where we must switch the screen off or limit screen time. But in general, it’s part of the fabric of our lives, which means it’s something we need to engage with and provide tools for our children to help them engage with the stories they see on screen.

Everything we see on screen is telling us a message, from films to adverts, they are revealing to us stories and ideas that either convey elements of the Gospel or deny the Gospel. As Christians, I don’t think it’s helpful to simply soak up these messages without any thought as to what they are saying and equally we cannot ignore or dismiss those messages either.

Therefore, from an early age we can begin to help our children ask good questions about what they watch, revealing the places where Gospel truth (love, sacrifice, heroes, hope, joy, friendship etc) is celebrated and showing the places that need redemption (sin, fallen heroes, villains, darkness, despair). This will enable them to judge what is good, wholesome and true, while also identifying the places that hold up a distorted mirror of the truth.

So for example, when they encounter stories that tell them the way to have a happy life is by being rich, successful and owning a certain brand of car, they can return back to the Gospel and see how that story has distorted the truth. Or when they encounter stories that show love through sacrifice or the value of friendship, they can again come back to the Gospel and celebrate how that reflects Jesus.

So to help us with that, I have put together 5 questions we could ask while watching a film, advert or tv program with our kids:

  1. What did you like and dislike about the story and why?
  2. How did the story make you feel? (happy, sad, frightened, excited?)
  3. Who were the Heroes and Villains? (the good guys and the bad guys)
  4. How was the Hero or villain the same / different to Jesus?
  5. What did you learn from the story?

These questions are designed to start a conversation, to get you and your child thinking about the story and the messages that are being conveyed. To start with you could pick one or two questions at an appropriate time and see where that conversation leads you. I think you may find some interesting ideas will pop up.

As we start to do this more, it will help us to think through what we watch and why we watch it. It will also give us avenues to share the gospel with our children and their friends, using stories that they love and identify with to share Gospel truths.

If you would like to read more about the subject of engaging with stories, here are some links that you may find helpful:

5 Resources for hosting a film discussion

Popologetics book by Ted Turnau*

Damaris Trust Website

We hope you enjoyed this post. Don’t forget to check out Cat’s blog for more great posts. 

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