Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Adoption Movie Guide: Santa Clause 2

Family secrets are hard to keep.

Scott Calvin has been Santa Clause for eight years. His teenage son Charlie knows; so do his ex-wife Laura and her husband Neil. Remarkably, Scott, Laura, and Neil have a better-than-civil relationship. Laura’s and Neil’s daughter Lucy thinks of Scott as “Uncle Scott,” and suspects that he might be Santa Clause. However, family secrets are kept and Lucy isn’t told. In fact, she’s told that it’s not true.

Scott finds himself in some trouble; he needs to get married quickly or he will forfeit his status as Santa. Charlie is also having trouble; he acts out through vandalism (even vandalizing his principal’s house!), largely because of his conflicted feelings about his father’s secret identity.
This is a Disney film, though, so Scott ends up marrying Charlie’s principal, and everyone goes away happy.

How is This Relevant to Adoption? 
Scott, Laura, and Neil maintain contact with each other. This likely happens in step-parent adoptions , which are one of several main types of adoption, but ongoing contact also happens in grandparent adoptions and other open adoptions.  Family secrets are also present in many different forms of adoption, and they’re a major theme in this film; it’s possible that Charlie’s acting-out behaviors are due to the discomfort he feels with keeping family secrets.

Strong Points
The positive, collaborative relationship shared by Scott, Laura, and Neil is exemplary. When Scott is feeling guilty for Charlie’s misbehavior, Laura comforts him, “don’t blame yourself for Charlie. You’ve been an excellent Dad.”

Scott and Charlie are able to talk about important things (like girls.)

Charlie powerfully sums up the experience of living with secrets, “I don’t live a normal life… My whole life has become about secrets and I hate it.” For adoptive families that have encouraged children to keep secrets, this could be a very powerful line.

By the end of the film, Charlie is at least able to share his secret with his principal and with his half-sister.


Charlie’s principal chastises Scott, “Maybe if you spent more time with your son, he’d have fewer problems.” This sounds like conventional wisdom, but Charlie is struggling with family secrets rather than Scott’s absence.

Weak Points

Even though Charlie is able to share Scott’s secret identity with his half-sister and his principal, he is still expected to keep the secret from everyone else. Confidentiality would be a better expectation of Charlie: tell people you trust and who you want to tell, but don’t feel like you have to tell everyone.

Santa asks an elf to lie. A hero telling lies could be confusing to the young children most likely to appreciate this film.


The Santa Clause 2 is a good film this time of year for young kids, who will enjoy the Christmas theme and the candy-binging reindeer. The movie’s positive portrayal of an open family structure could be very encouraging to children in an open relationship with their first family. The movie’s focus on family secrets could be a way to invite a child to be freed from the perceived burden of secrecy. It’s a good fit – as a film, and as a conversation starter – for kids ages 6-11.

Questions for Discussion after the movie

Why was Charlie misbehaving?

What secrets does our family keep?

How do you feel about keeping secrets?

Who do you wish you could tell secrets to?

How do you feel about the relationship between your adoptive family and your first family?

For parents:

One character says, “Every parent’s biggest challenge is balancing work and children.” What do you think?

What secrets have you overtly asked (or covertly expected) your child to keep about their history and adoption?   What secrets have you kept from them?

MERRY CHRISTMAS from Adoption at the Movies!

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