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Molly Ringwald on watching her teen films as a mom of 3: 'I always sympathize with the parents'

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The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

From Sixteen Candles to The Breakfast Club to Pretty in Pink, Molly Ringwald personified teenage angst and vulnerability. These days, however, the 53-year-old mother of three tells Yahoo Life she no longer subscribes to the "when you grow up, your heart dies" theory.

"Whenever I watch any of the movies that I did when I was younger, I always sympathize with the parents," the actress — who, fittingly plays Archie's mom on Riverdale, says. "Before, when I did them, it was all about the teenagers, but now, all I can think about is, Oh, their poor parents — it must have been really hard for them."

Ringwald's experience as a parent is also instrumental to her latest project, supporting The 16 Vaccine campaign in partnership with the National Meningitis Association, whose president, Leslie Maier, lost her own son to the disease during his senior year of high school. As the campaign's spokesperson, Ringwald is starring in a PSA urging parents to take preventative action against meningococcal disease, or bacterial meningitis, by having their teens get their second MenACWY vaccination at age 16, especially as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that childhood vaccination rates in the U.S. have dipped due to the pandemic. (The first MenACWY shot is recommended at age 11-12, with the second administered when a child hits 16.)

"My 11-year-olds have been vaccinated," says Ringwald, who shares 11-year-old twins, Adele and Roman, and 17-year-old daughter Mathilda with husband Panio Gianopoulos. "They got the MenACWY vaccine and my daughter Mathilda just got her second one."

"As a parent, you just want to do everything you can to protect your kids," she says. "There's so much that's out of our control, but the one thing that we can control is making sure that our kids are vaccinated against these deadly illnesses... It's one very simple thing that you can do."

It's just one way Ringwald stays on top of her kids' overall well-being and giving herself some peace of mind.

"As far as everything else, I think it's just a lot of deep breathing and trying to keep an open line of communication with my kids — checking in with them, making sure that they're feeling OK physically and mentally," she says. "That's a daily practice, something that my husband and I talk about every single day."

Actress and mom of three Molly Ringwald talks vaccines, meditation and pushing past old insecurities. (Photo: Courtesy photo; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Actress and mom of three Molly Ringwald talks vaccines, meditation and pushing past old insecurities. (Photo: Courtesy photo; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

When it comes to her own mental health, practicing meditation has been "helpful."

"Somebody taught me about meditation when I was younger, and it was just something that I always had sort of in the back of my mind," she shares. "But it's something that I actively use now as a tool to center myself and to make sure that I'm getting enough oxygen to my brain and all of that. It's something that I do pretty much every day at some point in the day."

Switching off screens is also key — albeit one that's been increasingly challenging thanks to the pandemic. 

"My husband and I, we're taking our phones and putting them outside of the room and then somehow they found their way back," she admits. "I think that's a constant struggle for everyone in these times, negotiating that time that you have on the screen."

Ringwald credits her parents with helping her stay grounded despite her early fame, saying, "They were very protective of me and also just very encouraging for me to pursue things that were interesting." She hopes to do the same with her own brood, whom she describes as "incredibly determined," with Mathilda already passionate about becoming an actress herself. 

As a John Hughes mainstay and teen screen queen, Ringwald represented young women battling coming-of-age issues like body image and insecurity, something she reflects on now. 

"It's completely normal to feel awkward and out of place and insecure as a teenager," she says. "Then at a different time in your life, you feel differently about the way that you look. I feel the same way about my 20s or my 30s — I'm sort of always looking back and saying, "Oh, I was so cute." You go on and you have a different perspective."

And while it must be surreal to have one's teenage self frozen in time, Ringwald says her best years are yet to come. 

"In certain ways, I feel like my life is just beginning. I've had a great life so far, but I feel like I still have so much more to do."

—Video produced by Jenny Miller.

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