CC White LPC, one of In Step’s wonderful clinicians saw the movie Inside Out this week and has written this week’s blog post about the film. Some children’s films hit that sweet spot between supreme entertainment and emotional authenticity. I haven’t seen this film yet, but after reading CC’s post, I’d say that Inside Out makes the mark.
If you are a parent, chances are very good that you already know about the movie Inside Out, a story of an 11-year-old girl who just moved with her family and is having a tough time adjusting to her new school and life. She is experiencing a wide, quickly-changing array of emotions including Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear and Sadness; feelings we all, children and adults alike, experience and relate to. Each feeling is portrayed in the film as a unique character manifested in her mind.
This movie is truly a gift that encourages children to open up and talk to their parents and others about how they are feeling. Children see that it is okay to have all these emotions. In all of us, there is a place for disgust which helps us understand the importance of hygiene; fear which helps us understand situations that are troublesome or concerning; anger which helps us stand up for ourselves and understand frustrations; joy which helps us understand love as well as people and situations that make us feel whole. Most of all, there is the benefit of sadness which helps us understand disappointment and longing. Sadness in a child is a challenging emotion to sit with for most adults, especially parents. We want our children to feel loved, supported and unique, and not to dwell on the wrongs or hardships of life. We feel it is our job to make our kid(s) happy. The truth is, outside of our homes too, our children face stressful challenges at school, with peers, teachers, and coaches. Growing up isn’t easy for kids, and helping them to express emotions in healthy, appropriate ways is not easy either. Resiliency and a sense of optimism develop when children find ways to untangle and then manage more complex feelings.
Inside Out doesn’t just give emotions a side-line role in the film. Rather, feelings literally come alive with personalities, opening the door for parents and children to process a range of emotions together. The film illustrates the critical need for parents to stay tuned-in to their child’s emotional needs and help them understand, nurture, and express feelings.
The following are a few take-home messages for you to nurture feelings at home:
- Create a safe environment. Feelings can be confusing, frightening and powerful. Create an open and safe environment for your child to share feelings by checking in on their feelings. Then, listen in a fully present manner to what they share.
- Respond empathically. Listen and try to relate to how your child is feeling. Show with your face and body how much you care.
- Go with the emotion. Rather than telling your child what to feel and what not to feel i.e. “You don’t really feel that way.” or “This isn’t a reason for you to feel sad”, validate feelings instead. For example, if your child has an argument with a peer and worries s/he may be losing a friend, try saying this, “You seem sad. It’s hard to lose someone you care about so much”. When you acknowledge and name the emotion, your child feels heard and is soothed by your recognizing their feelings.
- Try coping strategies. Simple actions can de-stress. Help your child relax with deep breaths, counting to ten, develop strategies that can help make them feel more comfortable and calm.
- Use a different lens. There are no all or nothing situations. When your child has a challenging event with peers, negativity typically gives way to more positive take-aways once s/he has felt heard and understood. You’ll know when it’s time for you to encourage using a different lens, however small. For example, after an upsetting social situation with peers, ask him/her to try to remember a familiar face or person there who was positive and supportive.
- Make feelings a priority. The greatest gift you can give yourself and your child is an opening to start a conversation about emotions early on. Give them an opportunity to understand themselves better and accept themselves. Learning about oneself from the “Inside Out” gives our children the potential to become healthier, happier and more resilient.I encourage you to see the movie and take the time to talk about it together. You might be surprised at what you will learn and that is the platform for growth.