How '80s Movies Can Help Us Parent Our Teens And Tweens

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
80s movies for parenting teens and tweens

Now that my kids are older and we’ve kicked Caillou out of our DVR for good, my husband and I have started to introduce our two tweens to the greatest movie genre in the history of filmmaking: ‘80s movies.

Movies from the ‘80s take me back to a time when I wore four pairs of layered socks, sported jacked-to-Jesus hair, and spent more time on my pink princess phone than six AT&T operators combined. I am proud that my generation is responsible for such cinematic gems as Spies Like Us and Caddyshack. Movie greats John Candy, Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase as well as Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall and Andrew McCarthy were there for us every single step of our youth. Their movies shaped our very beings, right down to our Duckie shoes and the suede dresses we stole from our mothers’ closets.

‘80s movies walked us through tough topics like social unrest, abortion, teen heartache and time travel. We learned poetry from secret societies, rankled at anti-Semitism in boarding schools, and yearned for a time when masked men said, “As you wish.” Life was simpler when viewed through a John Hughes haze, and I daresay no other movie genre can claim as many devoted fans. Be honest: Didn’t you dream at least once of having John Cusack standing outside your window with a boom box?

As I’ve re-watched my favorite ‘80s movies with my kids, I’ve realized many of these films offer fairly useful lessons that can help us Gen X parents navigate the complicated tween parenting years. Yes, ‘80s movies can actually help us be better parents. Here are 12 of the most common tween issues paired with their perfect ‘80s movie complement:

1. If your tween is being bullied, reach for Some Kind of Wonderful. It never gets old to see the good guy win in the end. And we all wanted those earrings, Mary Stuart Masterson.

2. If your tween needs tips for babysitting, it’s Adventures in Babysitting to the rescue, Thor hat and all. Knowing how to sing the blues is a very marketable skill in today’s tough babysitting market.

Adventures in Babysitting

3. If your teen needs to lighten up and have more fun, Ferris Bueller and his big day off will corrupt him in all the right ways. And, come on: They got to eat pancreas.

4. If your teen is having trouble fitting in with the cool crowd, Can’t Buy Me Love will show her that knights in shining armor sometimes ride lawn mowers. And that telescopes are cool, and expensive.

5. If your teen is reluctant to fill out college applications, Animal House will give him a glimpse of Greek life that will be sure to have him sending his transcripts off to his safety schools.

6. If you are having trouble talking to your tween about sex, Dirty Dancing has you covered. Penny may have gotten knocked up, but no one puts Baby and her watermelon in the corner. Right, Johnny?

7. If you were so busy planning your older daughter’s wedding that you forgot your younger daughter’s birthday, show her Sixteen Candles. Jake Ryan never forgets to show up at the end. Jake Ryan understands.

8. If your tween has forgotten to show respect to his parents, Mr. Mom will remind him that, sometimes, Moms have to work long hours on Schooner Tuna campaigns. And, dads can take care of business. 220, 221, whatever it takes, right?

Mr Mom

9. If you feel like your teen is growing up too fast and is in a rush to be a grown-up, show her Big. She’ll realize that sometimes, being a grown up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Well, except for the endless amount of silly string.

10. If you can’t fathom teaching your teen to drive, License to Drive will do the trick. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

11. If your teen didn’t make the football team roster, I have one word for you: Rudy, RUDY, RUUUUDY.

12. If your teen is worried about graduation and life after high school, St. Elmo’s Fire might make her realize that she’ll make lifelong friends in college. And maybe get to meet a sexy guy who knows how to play with fire.

And I could go on and on. Pretty much every ‘80s movie gives us at least some valuable life lesson we can use as parents, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t go back and reminisce with all of our favorites. We are doing our children a service when we kick back and relive our glory years. And, no judgment here if you wear your old jean jacket and your Frankie Says Relax T-shirt while combing through your old VHS collection.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go help my daughter with her history homework. She’s studying Medieval history, and it’s inconceivable how much studying she has tonight.

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