- What was your favorite character? Why is that?
Caregiver Note: While this question will appear to be “fluff”, this is a good way to start discussing hard topics. Just jumping into hard questions is often difficult for most adults, let alone youth who struggle with interpersonal relationships and trusting adults. Allow your youth to discuss characters they appreciate and why to gain insight into where your youth may be emotionally and mentally with associating with such characters. I don’t advise this as clinical advice, but if you talk more about the movie this may help you make other connections later as a caregiver.
- Why does Peter blame himself for what happened to Aunt May?
Caregiver Note: Grief and loss are very normal and natural experiences for humans. At some point every single one of us will lose at least one person we care about. For some youth though, these losses occur sooner than anticipated and often more closely together. Not only will the grief be heavy but the youth in these circumstances will be missing a key component to developing resiliency and skills to process grief: supportive relationships. Peter has already lost his mother, father, and Tony Stark who very much functioned as a father figure in his life. So it is very understandable that Peter will take it very hard when Aunt May dies after being attacked by the very group of villains she encouraged him to save. We as the audience know that Peter is not at fault for her tragic death, but grief can often convince us in states of denial that we could have done more than what was really possible to prevent such a loss. Peter is not exempt from experiencing denial during his grief processing.
- When the other Spider-Mans from the multiverse spoke to Peter they told him that being rage-full and out of control didn’t make it better. Has there been a time where you retaliated against someone who hurt you? Did it help?
Caregiver Note: This is a chance to allow your youth to apply what they’ve learned about grief to their own world. Allow them to talk through their experiences at their own pace with no judgment. Remember that very few of us are capable of being in full control of our emotions in intense grief and any one of us could make similar mistakes under the worst of circumstances. In moments like this it is important to focus on connecting with your youth and developing trusting relationships. This means understanding that your youth will mess up (we all do) and that your intention is creating a safe space for youth to feel comfortable coming to you for help rather than hiding mistakes as this is not something they have learned in the past.
- What are some things Peter did or had available that did help with grieving for Aunt May? What are some things that would help you?
Caregiver Note: Let your teen lead this part of the conversation. This may be a topic that gets discussed more later as a child grows and develops more abstract thought. While it helps to have movie characters to represent the integration and grief process every youth’s journey of self-discovery will be unique and will take different amounts of time. It’s also good to check in periodically as your child grows and understands more with age and develops more self-awareness of their identity and trauma. Some examples you may be able to point out to help may include Peter learning from a safe adult how to express emotions, having supportive friendships with Ned and MJ who are resilient themselves, and having support from positive influences like Dr. Strange.
- How do MJ and Ned show they are good, positive friendships for Peter?
Caregiver Note: While there are many people around Peter who want the clout he possesses as an Avenger and talented guy, Peter exclusively trusts Ned and MJ above all others. These relationships are grounded in a history of honesty and loyalty. MJ and Ned are also willing to tell Peter hard truths even when conflict feels inevitable because they care for their friend. They are also amazing in their supportive responses to Peter losing Aunt May in giving him unconditional support.
- Why does MJ ask that Peter ask her and Ned before making huge decisions in the future?Caregiver Note: While Peter means well, as we see in the fallout from the MIT rejection letters, Peter is still a young adult and hasn’t learned how to process and plan. While the quick thinking and improvisation is great on the battlefield Peter has missed out on opportunities to slow down and think through consequences for his actions… including consequences for those around him. In asking to brainstorm together for life-altering decisions MJ is requesting a very reasonable boundary and asks for this in a way that both honors Peter’s love and sincerity in wanting to protect those he loves while also placing healthy boundaries for herself and Ned so that moving forward they can hopefully avoid such complications in the future.
- What ages are each of the Peters? What kinds of things are they dealing with?
Caregiver Note: When we meet the other two Peter Parkers we see some variance in ages. While Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is just coming out of high school, Andrew Garfield’s is clearly at least in his 20s and still grieving the loss of Gwen Stacey. Toby McGuire’s Peter Parker is even older and has clearly had the time and space to process trauma. Additionally, Toby’s Peter started his journey as an older character. New research has shown us that resilience is not only affected by social supports and the amount of trauma exposure but also by when trauma occurs. For this reason it makes sense that Toby McGuire’s Peter Parker had more life experience and time to develop social skills prior to losing Uncle Ben and starting his path as Spider-Man. Similarly, Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man was a little younger when he lost his Uncle Ben and our newest Peter Parker is the youngest. For this reason it makes sense that the events in Tom Holland’s Peter Parker experience compound even harder especially in light of having less caring adult supports available than his multiverse counterparts.
- Why do the Peters all compare themselves to one another? Why was Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man so quick to discount his own experiences?
Caregiver Note: Self-Talk is a reflection of our self-esteem. Garfield’s Spider-Man is still reeling from the grief of losing Gwen and is filled with self-doubt about his abilities. It’s easy to see how hearing about one Peter fighting in space and another being so far ahead in life and relationships could bring up these feelings of inadequacy especially without having the support the other two Spider-Mans have had historically. As a result he needs someone to help him reframe his experiences to find his strengths. Your youth will also need a cheerleader in the same way to help teach skills in reframing and developing positive self-talk while processing experiences and developing new strategies for the future to prevent self-sabotage from negative self-talk.
- What are some times where it’s hard for you to see your strengths? How can I be like Toby McGuire’s Spider-Man and help remind you of those strengths?
Caregiver Note: Allow your youth to talk through this with minimal guidance. Be prepared to take criticism too as sometimes we may hear that our reactions to misbehavior or bad choices may trigger a child to avoid telling us they need help. Focus on connection and helping your child identify connection, contentment, and changed behavior as signs of progress in this area.
- ACTIVITY: Square Breathing Technique (for developing Spidey-Senses in Mindfulness)
Caregiver Note: This is a great technique that works best in a quiet, comfortable space but can ultimately be done almost anywhere when things are feeling chaotic. In my experience, children often learn that “deep breaths” are good but when discussing the mechanics of such exercises they often struggle with steps on how to know how to do these breaths to reach a state of calm. The square breathing technique will help give something more tangible for a child to understand how this works.
First, sit upright in a comfortable chair with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Then, place your hands upwards on your lap and close your eyes. Take a deep breath for 4 seconds through your nose, noticing how your body feels as air floods your lungs and abdomen. Hold for 4 additional seconds. Release your breath for 4 seconds through your mouth, noticing how your body feels as the air escapes your belly and chest. Hold for 4 more seconds. Repeat this sequence 3 more times. Once you finish, take note of how you feel. Where are your shoulders? Do you feel dizzy? How does your neck feel? If you do feel dizzy, take a few moments with normal breaths to come back to baseline. Deep breaths help regulate our Autonomic Nervous System, which is a part of that fight-or-flight response so we often will experience calm after doing such an exercise.
About the Reviewer: Rachael Rathe
Rachael B. Rathe is an East Tennessee native with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with a Minor in Child & Family Studies from The University of Tennessee Knoxville. She has worked in mental health since 2013 and in foster care/adoptions for a private provider agency since 2014. Rachael was inspired to work in the field after working with children and teens on a volunteer basis 2008 – 2013. Rachael’s ideal self-care day involves snuggling on a couch with her kitties (Tabitha, Fergus, and Rufus) while enjoying a good movie or book. She also enjoys galavanting around conventions concerning all things nerd and geekery.
Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its reviews nor this discussion packet to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds