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Cinematters - Finding Nemo


By Kelly Parthen and Shannon Payette Seip

Protective parent struggles to let son swim with own two fins

Does your daughter desperately want to get her ears pierced, but you don't think she's old enough? Is your son begging to go to baseball camp, but you fear his home runs will turn into homesickness?

If you and your kids don't always agree when it's time for them to test new waters, the new computer-animated film Finding Nemo can help your family dive into a deeper understanding of each other. And our "Sink or Swim" activity will bring the lesson to life.

Finding Nemo features Marlin, an overprotective clownfish (Albert Brooks), and his curious young son, Nemo (Alexander Gould). Traumatized by a shark attack that killed most of his family, Marlin fears letting Nemo go to school in the Great Barrier Reef. On the first day, in an attempt to prove his independence to his dad and impress his new classmates, Nemo swims past the boundaries. Nemo is snatched by a scuba diver who uses him to stock his aquarium.

While trapped in the tank, Nemo realizes there are good reasons his father sets limits, and he plots a daring escape so he can reunite with his dad. In the meantime, Marlin must face his fears of the dangerous ocean in order to find Nemo. With the help of his funny-but-forgetful fish friend Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), Marlin learns he can't always protect Nemo and must let him wade his way into the real world.

Family Activity: Sink or Swim
Your family doesn't have to have fins to fight about boundaries. Together play our "Sink or Swim" game to learn when it's time to loosen the limits.

First, talk about the things Nemo wanted to try but that his dad said he wasn't old enough to do--from going to school alone to swimming past the boundaries. Discuss the things your children want to do but aren't allowed to yet.

Next, ask your kids what Marlin's fears were--from shark attacks to letting Nemo start school. Which of Marlin's fears actually helped to protect Nemo, and which fears got in Nemo's way of growing up?

Now, ask your children what they think your fears are. Make sure to share your side. Together, discuss which fears help to protect them, and which stem from you not wanting to let them go.

Materials needed:
One fish bowl filled with water
Masking or medical tape
One empty film canister for each player
One bag of heavy marbles

Wrap tape around each of the film canisters. Using the crayons, write your name and decorate the outside.

Play one-on-one with each child. Take turns thinking of something your child wants to do for which he thinks he's old enough--like staying home alone after school. Take turns explaining why you each think it's a good or not-so-good idea.
Secretly, each of you either completely fills your canister with marbles if you think the idea should "sink," or be put on hold; or puts no marbles in the canister if the idea is good and should "swim."

Fasten the top of each canister and drop both in the fish bowl at the same time. If both canisters sink, you agree the idea should be put on hold. If both canisters swim, you agree it's time to take the plunge and try something new.

If one sinks and one swims, swap places. You pretend you're the child and plead your case. Your child pretends he's the parent and pleads his case. Make sure to listen to each other carefully.

Then, take your original canister and do "Sink or Swim" again. Maybe you'll agree, maybe you'll disagree. You can either compromise or decide on a future time to revisit the discussion. Either way, your family will learn, just like Marlin and Nemo did, that when it comes to growing up, both sides are worth "sea"ing.

E-mail your comments or ideas to [email protected].

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