The world of film offers a way to explore some important changes that are happening in families. I’ve watched a variety of movies and television series lately that illustrate some of the new family dynamics developing in society.
The number of Canadian children living alone with their father has increased by 35% in the last decade. Statistics Canada says this reflects a growing acknowledgement of the important role of fathers in family life.
The movie Eighth Grade available for rent on Amazon tells the story of a dedicated single Dad raising his teenage daughter who is beset with self- esteem issues, anxious about her appearance, her friendships and her online presence. Although she finds her father bumbling and irritating at times he is the rock in her life always there to listen, tell her how great she is, and to provide protection and support.
Nearly 16% of Canadian couples will struggle with infertility in 2019. Only 5% had problems conceiving children in 1985. Many different factors contribute to this increased rate. While new ways of helping such couples are constantly being explored infertility is still very difficult.
The movie Private Life on Netflix looks at a couple Richard and Rachel who desperately want to conceive a child. They’ve tried everything but won’t give up. I found their story heartbreaking even thought it is told with a sense of wry humor.
There has been a significant increase in the number of same sex Canadian couples having children and raising families together. These families tend to live in urban areas. Their children may be biological or adopted or a combination of both.
The Fosters is a Netflix series that tells the story of Lena and Stefanie, a married lesbian couple living in San Diego. They are raising one biological and four adopted children together. Lena is the vice-principal at a charter high school and Stefanie is a police officer. Together they provide their children with a loving and stable home.
About 10% of Canadian children live in stepfamilies. About 30% of those children live in what is called complex stepfamilies, with both biological parents having some custody rights and stepbrothers and sisters playing a role in their lives.
The Netflix series Bonus Family examines just such a situation. Lisa and Patrick are a Swedish couple who have both left unhappy marriages to live together. Lisa has a son and daughter and Patrick has a son. They retain joint custody of their children with their former partners and Patrick and Lisa have a new baby together. It is a very complex situation and Patrick and Lisa seek help from a therapist team to try and sort it all out.
There are more Canadian children with disabilities and they are living longer. A Lethbridge University research report said this statistic raises concerns for parents who worry about who will care for their disabled children once they can no longer do so.
In the moving and inspiring Netflix documentary Far From The Tree we meet a whole series of families who are doing their best to find happiness even though their children face some major challenges in life. One of the families profiled is that of Jason Kingsley a man with Down syndrome and his elderly mother Emily. Jason’s father has died, and Jason has no siblings. Emily expresses her anxiety about who will care for her son once she is gone.
Canadian families are changing and one way we can further understand those changes and think about them is to watch films and television series that explore a wide variety of family experiences.
This post was a newspaper column published in The Carillon recently.
Other columns published on my blog…….
The Great Statue Debate
Women in Politics
On The Rock