08 Movies to Help Children Learn Empathy

 
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Movies to Help Children Learn Empathy

Kids with social skills issues may struggle with empathy—the ability to understand and relate to the feelings of others. This can make it hard for them to make friends and navigate social situations. These movies can help kids learn how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

Empathy is one of the most important traits for living in an interconnected world. It's one of the character strengths and life skills essential to kids' overall growth and success. These movies help kids learn the value of putting themselves in someone else's shoes to understand the feelings and perspectives of others. 


From classic films like To Kill a Mockingbird to modern kid-friendly faves like Inside Out and Zootopia, these picks will help your family step into a new point of view. 


1. “To Kill a Mockingbird”

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” So says Atticus Finch, a lawyer who decides to defend a Black man accused of rape in the 1930s Deep South. This classic film teaches kids about the impact of racism. And it can help kids understand the importance of not judging others by their appearance.

Recommended Ages: 12+

Discussion Questions to Ask Your Child

  1. Do you think you could stand up like Atticus to fight for what’s right?
  2. Why is the character Boo Radley so misunderstood?
  3. What do you think the jurors are thinking as they consider the case?


2. “Beauty and the Beast”

Magic turns an arrogant prince into an ugly beast. To try to break the spell, the beast takes a young woman named Belle captive in his castle. She starts to see the beast’s inner beauty, but her village marches to destroy him. The music, story and animations in this Disney movie will captivate kids—raising questions about the nature of appearances.

Recommended Ages: 6+

Discussion Questions to Ask Your Child

  1. What is Belle feeling when she agrees to be the Beast’s captive?
  2. Why is Gaston surprised that Belle doesn’t want to marry him?
  3. Why do the villagers want to destroy the beast?


3. “Inside Out”

Inside Out is an animated Pixar film about the feelings of an 11-year-old girl named Riley. Anger, Sadness, Joy, Fear and Disgust are all characters in the film. They must work together to help Riley make the right decisions in life. Inside Out is more serious than a typical Pixar movie, but it can teach kids a lot about emotions. (Read why Inside Out is great for kids with attention issues.)

Recommended Ages: 6+

Discussion Questions to Ask Your Child

  1. Why is it hard for Riley to tell her parents how she is feeling?
  2. How does Bing Bong feel when he helps Joy escape?
  3. What does it mean to have “mixed emotions” about something?


4. “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial”

In the classic family film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, a young boy named Elliott makes friends with an alien who is stranded on Earth. Elliott tries to help E.T. “go home.” But other humans are afraid of E.T., and government scientists try to catch and study the alien. This film can help kids explore how people see others who are different.

Recommended Ages: 7+

Discussion Questions to Ask Your Child

  1. Why do the kids and adults see E.T. differently?
  2. Could Elliott have talked to his mom about E.T.? Why or why not?
  3. Did you know that the director, Steven Spielberg, has dyslexia?
  4. Do you think that helped him relate to the characters, and how?


5. “Zootopia”

In a world where animals can talk, a rabbit named Judy Hopps and a fox named Nick Wilde team up to solve a kidnapping case. This exciting crime mystery has lots of jokes that will go over kids’ heads (and that parents may love). But it’s a great tool for helping kids learn about tolerance and the danger of stereotypes.

Recommended Ages: 8+

Discussion Questions to Ask Your Child

  1. What kinds of stereotypes do the animals of Zootopia have about rabbits and foxes?
  2. How do Judy’s and Nick’s opinions about each other change in the film?
  3. Is there something human society can learn from Zootopia?


6. “Fiddler on the Roof”

Fiddler on the Roof is an epic musical story of Jews in Ukraine facing religious persecution while trying to hold on to their traditions. The main character is Tevye. He butts heads with his daughters over marriage, and they are all threatened by a hostile government. Fiddler on the Roof can help kids understand how cultures shape people.

Recommended Ages: 10+

Discussion Questions to Ask Your Child

  1. At the start of the film, Tevye sings “If I were a rich man…” Have you ever felt like him?
  2. Why do Tevye and his daughters disagree about marriage?
  3. Do you know of any people today who are persecuted because of their religion?


7. “Bully”

Bully is a powerful documentary about the impact of bullying in America. Through heartbreaking real-life stories, the film takes on issues of name-calling, physical violence and teen suicide. This movie is intense and not appropriate for every child. It’s probably best to watch this film together with your child.

Recommended Ages: 12+

Discussion Questions to Ask Your Child

  1. How do the kids who are bullied feel? Have you ever felt that way?
  2. Why do you think it’s so hard for kids to stand up when another child is bullied?
  3. How can kids and adults help stop the problem of bullying?


8. “The Breakfast Club”

In The Breakfast Club, five high school students—some popular and others not—spend Saturday detention together. They end up setting aside their differences to learn about each other’s hopes, fears and dreams. There’s a lot of racy content in this film, but it can help your teen learn about social dynamics in high school.

Recommended Ages: 15+

Discussion Questions to Ask Your Child

  1. Does your high school have clubs like in the movie? 
  2. Which student in the movie is the most like you?
  3. Do you think the students will continue to be friends when they go back to school the next week? Why or why not?



Relevant Blogs

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08 movies every child must watch before turning 10

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