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Videos Help Kids Cope With Bad Situations

1 Jun, 2005 By: Meryl Schoenbaum

Being a kid is not all fun and games. Most children are at some point faced with physical or emotional obstacles, and some must live with those challenges every day.

Several videos are designed to help kids through the rough patches as well as longer-term problems. Some offer comfort by showing familiar animated characters in difficult situations; others deliver hope through the stories of real-life youngsters who overcame their obstacles and flourished despite (and sometimes because of) them.

The sudden loss of a loved one is perhaps the ultimate challenge and the most difficult concept to explain to children. Several video suppliers are releasing DVDs to help kids deal with their grief by answering common questions and sharing stories about children who have suffered a similar loss.

June 7 Paramount Home Entertainment and PBS Home Video will release the PBS-televised A Death in the Family (DVD $19.99), based on James Agee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Set in 1915 Tennessee, the story follows a 7-year-old boy whose greatest joy in life is spending time with his father (tenderly portrayed by John Slattery). The light in his life is abruptly extinguished when his father is killed in a car accident. However, the child emerges from his grief to assume some of his father's roles in the family, such as requesting to sit at the head of the dinner table and wearing a cap like his dad did.

Award-winning author Trevor Romain has written more than 30 books for children and travels to schools to discuss topics such as fear, bullies, homework and divorce. The Comical Sense Co. has just released a video series based on Romain's books called “The Trevor Romain Collection.” The first three entries are What on Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies?, Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain and How to Do Homework Without Throwing Up (DVD/VHS $14.99 each).

Romain was inspired to write What on Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies? from personal experience.

“My father died, and my niece and nephew were devastated. I wrote them a letter, and the book came out of the letter,” he said.

The animated DVD includes such bonus materials as a live segment in which Romain speaks to kids about death as well as a parent/teacher resource guide and lesson plan.

“Our aim with the DVD is to comfort any child who is grieving and to help parents discuss death, which is often a taboo subject,” he said. “The entire series is designed as a discussion starter to help parents and teachers broach difficult subjects.”

School counselors and psychologists were consulted for the project to make sure the information provided was up to date, Romain added.

“Exposure to today's mass media has made kids mature faster than any other generation. They often don't have the tools to cope with the constant bombardment of information they are processing on a daily basis. The pressure on kids to succeed, look good and be the best is incredible,” he noted.

The next installment in the series is Taking the ‘Duh' Out of Divorce, streeting in August (DVD/VHS $14.99). Future topics the series will address include health, self-esteem, cliques, anger, stress, values, community and “things your parents are too chicken to tell you,” Romain said.

The videos can be obtained at the Web site www.TrevorRomain.com.

Abduction awareness
The escalating rate of child abductions is alarming for parents and children alike. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there is, on average, one child molester per square mile. One in three girls and one in seven boys will be molested at least once before age 18.

When Janet Ritchie was 13 years old, her 12-year-old cousin was abducted and murdered. For the past 40 years, she has dedicated her life to changing a legal system that she feels is too lenient on those who abduct or abuse children.

Now, as Ritchie puts it, her dream has come true, as Child Watch of North America — a nonprofit organization that works to find missing and abducted children in the United States and for which Ritchie volunteers as a consultant — has joined forces with Starpower Productions LLC and Kidsational Inc. to produce a documentary called Eyes of America and a music DVD called Stay Safe, both released May 25.

The music video features the group Kid Power Kidz singing easy-to-remember songs with lyrics that educate children about avoiding situations that could lead to abduction. The documentary Eyes of America informs families and educators about child abductions through interviews with real-life victims and instruction on safety precautions.

“I was so moved by the willingness of those involved in the projects to donate their services or receive minimal payment to cover costs,” Ritchie said. “It couldn't have been done without their generous support.”

The DVDs may be obtained by stores free of charge (only shipping costs are incurred) at www.eyesofamerica.net.

Life's daily challenges
The loss of a beloved family pet is another tough challenge for a child. Goldhil Home Media recently released Paws, Claws, Feather & Fins (DVD $14.98), which includes a segment on helping children say goodbye to their pet and deal with the loss. The DVD received a Parents' Choice Gold Award and was the winner of the ASPCA Animal Watch Award.

Goldhil addresses another difficult issue many children must face in Let's Get a Move On!, (DVD $14.98), which combines real stories about moving with catchy songs to help kids get through the uprooted feelings associated with changing homes.

Let's Get a Move On! includes a printable activity guide for kids to follow through the moving process. The DVD has received a Parents' Choice award and was voted one of TV Guide's top 10 children's videos.

Going to the doctor can be a traumatic experience for a child. Buena Vista Home Entertainment offers an easy-to-swallow remedy with Visiting the Doctor With Bear, streeting June 7, part of the “Bear in the Big Blue House” series (DVD $14.99). The animated DVD includes four sing-a-longs and three stories with names such as “That Healing Feeling” and “The Picture of Health.”

Some children have to live with challenges on a daily basis for the rest of their lives. Christopher Reeve's final project was as director of the TV movie The Brooke Ellison Story, the true story of a girl, played by Lacey Chabert, who at age 11 suffered severe spinal cord injuries after being hit by a car, but went on to graduate from Harvard University despite being paralyzed from the neck down and needing a wheelchair. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the 2004 film on DVD May 24 ($24.96).

The film stars Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Brooke's mom, who sits next to her daughter at all her classes, from public school through Harvard, taking notes and raising her hand so Brooke could answer questions. John Slattery stars as Brooke's supportive dad, who stays at home to deal with the harsh financial realities of having to find a way to pay the mounting medical bills — and all the red tape and phone calls that accompany doing so.

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