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Hollywood stars David and Maria Barrera share advice for raising strong children

David and Maria Barrera
David and Maria Barrera headshots, 2022 |

The stars of the upcoming film “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters”, Pure Flix’s first original movie, recently shared how they rely on God to help them in their parenting journey.

Actors David Barrera (“Killing It”) and Maria Canals-Barrera (“Wizards of Waverly Place”) have been married for over 20 years and have two kids. They also play a married couple in the upcoming film that streams exclusively on Pure Flix beginning Aug. 1. The David de Vos-directed film was inspired by Meg Meeker’s bestselling book of the same name. 

“Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” tells the story of Steve, a father of three who desperately tries to hold onto his little girls. In doing so, he feels his daughters slipping from him, and he has to look to God to give up control and trust Him with their futures.

The new movie also stars real-life married couple Robyn Lively (“9-1-1: Lone Star”) and Bart Johnson (“High School Musical”). Others in the cast include Brandon Prado, Carrie Wampler, Kayla DiVenere and Arden Myrin.

Maria Barrera said the theme of “being your daughter's hero” is a very important one. The couple wants fathers to know that they are “enough.” 

"A lot of dads, I imagine, focus on shortcomings or feeling ill-prepared just because they're of the different gender and think that moms need to handle certain things, when in actuality, a father stepping up to the plate and having those intimate conversations with their daughters is exactly what the daughter needs,” she explained. 

"I think it's encouraging dads to know that it doesn't matter where you think you lack; the fact that you care and are present and want to be there for her is an 80% of it right there. So don't get caught up in being perfect as a dad, just be involved, because a daughter needs to know that her dad wants to know what she has to say.” 

In preparation for his role, David Barrera, who has two daughters with his wife, read the book and thought "it was incredible."

"I thought Meg Meeker has some incredible insights, some God-given advice to fathers who are raising daughters. Insights that are in there are just so incredibly stated by a woman to fathers to say, 'Hey, you're a little different because you're a man, but I'm a woman telling you, this is how you should raise your daughters, and the kinds of things that you should implement in your raising,'” he said.

The film realistically explored the unpleasantness of life, including unmet expectations, embarrassments and selfish thinking that parents can sometimes have. 

"It's realistic; it doesn't try to gloss over some of our ugliness or the mistakes teens make,” Maria Barrera told CP. “But then there's also the real remedy in there, in the messaging, it's not just, 'sprinkle positive things over realistic things and hope for the best.' I think it really gets in there, in a very unapologetic ... way of facing life.”

As the film progresses, the father eventually humbles himself and turns to God for help with his children. The couple said this is a practice all parents should consider.

"We don't realize as parents … but there is a line where if you exasperate your kids, it is not effective, and the accepting who they are as adults, because [in the film], she is an adult, knowing that she has her own separate God-given purpose. It's a beautiful walk alongside [them] the way God does with us. That’s what an earthly father is called to do with his grown children. We know as parents, it’s a shift that we're making as our children are older teenagers now, which is not easy,” she noted.

"Humility is essential in knowing that we are not the authors of right and wrong,” she added. “Our Creator is! So learning scriptural truths, and being humble and willing to be molded and changed into, of course never perfection, but better is what was the character of Dad, played by Bart so beautifully in such a fun, entertaining human way.”

The Barreras said the film taught them lessons about parenting, and they were proud to be part of bringing it to life.

"It is just going to probably be a lifelong thing for me, I think, to let my children grow and not try to worry, and just leave her and trust, lead in faith and not in fear and know that God has her because she loves the Lord, they both do,” Maria Barrera said.

“It's an everyday thing for me to seek God's will. Sometimes, we think that the message for them is the message we needed, but they're a totally different person,” she maintained. “So they need a clean slate to parent according to their personalities and their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes I just assume it's what I needed to learn and go in there and teach that. But that's where our own healing needs to take place as much as possible.”

She said parents must have the courage to face “our own wounds, and ask God and seek God's healing, whether it be in a small group, or in Christian counseling because we all have wounds."

"[We need to heal] our own wounds as much as possible before we think that they have those wounds and go in there and try to fix them when they may not even have it." she said. "For me, it is a daily thing for me to pray about and trust.” 

“Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” is a faith-based film and drives home the spiritual aspect of the family dynamic. 

David Barrera shared advice for parents raising spirited children. 

"There's a saying that says, 'Don't shoot the people in your foxhole.' In war, you're in foxholes and you're in the same team, so don't shoot the person in your foxhole," he said.

"I think it's the same thing with our kids. Don't battle with them. It's not a battle between us and our kids. We're on the same team. We're battling against the bad in the world or the evil in the world. It is a spiritual battle at the same time, and we're on the same team. So if somebody on my team is hurt, the last thing I want to do is hurt them more. What I want to do is help them heal, and you helped them heal through God's help and love.”

For more information on the “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters,” visit Pure Flix.

Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: jeannie.law@christianpost.com She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic

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