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Positive movies can help children address divorce

Washington residents who have decided that divorce is the best course of action for their family may nonetheless find themselves concerned about the impact the separation might have on their children. It can be hard for kids, especially younger ones, to envision the post-divorce future if they have nothing on which to model their expectations.

A fun way to give kids role models from which they can learn is through showing them movies with strong, single-parent characters. Since they are movies and not obvious "teachable moments," your children might embrace these films more easily than they would, say, a book or website about divorce or other changes to the family structure. If you have a movie night with pizza or popcorn, your children might not even realize they are learning something.

It is important, of course, to choose movies that depict positive outcomes of divorce or single parenthood -- "Kramer v. Kramer" is a classic, but it does not fit the bill here, for example. Here are five movies with strong central characters who are single parents:

"Waitress": Keri Russell plays (you guessed it) a small-town waitress who finds herself pregnant with her husband's baby after she has decided to let go of their dying marriage. This independent film was praised by critics for its gentle humor and strong performances, but it does have some adult themes, so it is not a good choice for youngsters.

"Sleepless in Seattle": "Sleepless in Seattle" is one of the most iconic romantic comedies ever made, and for good reason. It is warm, tender and sensitive and thus a good choice for this list. In this movie, Tom Hanks plays a grieving widower and single father. When his young son calls a talk-radio show and asks how he can encourage his father to find someone new, Meg Ryan's character hears the program and falls in love with the idea of the man described....and, eventually, with the man himself. This movie will introduce children to the idea that it can be a good idea for single parents to start dating again when the time is right.

"About a Boy": This Hugh Grant drama did not bring in the big bucks at the box office, but critics lauded it for its moving themes and excellent acting. Here, Grant plays against type as a shallow, self-centered bachelor who mends his ways after he strikes up a friendship with a 12-year-old boy whose mother he is dating. This movie shows that single parents and children can have loving, healthy relationships.

"The Holiday": If our female readers get dewy-eyed over Jude Law, they are going to swoon when they see him playing a dedicated single father who is left to raise two girls after his wife dies. Luckily for him, Cameron Diaz is not only single, but loves making pillow forts with his daughters, too.

"Jerry Maguire": Renee Zellweger leapt to stardom with her portrayal of a single mom who falls for a callous sports agent (it's the role for which she uttered the famous line "You had me at hello"). Bear in mind this movie is rated R.

Source: Parenting, "11 Movies About Single Parent Families," Christine Coppa, last accessed Sept. 21, 2011

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