A guide to talking about the movie with your kids.
Inside Out is a powerful story, and it is just the start. When you can know what you truly feel, respect it, and express it – your communication and relationships deepen. The emotional impact of the movie takes time to process, but when your family is ready to talk, this is an amazing opportunity to bring the message of this movie – there are no such things as bad feelings – into your family life.
If you only have time for one conversation, ask the first question and begin to exchange stories. Our studies show that parents are the number one influencer of girls all the way through high school, so you are more powerful than Pixar when it comes to giving her permission to connect with sadness, fear, joy and all the emotions in between.
If you only have time for one question:
Q: Like Riley, have you ever experienced something that made you feel sad, or hurt, but it also allowed you to take action, or make a change?
This is a question to both share and listen. Without over-sharing something you might be in the middle of right now, see if you can recall a moment in your life when a difficult emotion, such as one in the sadness family, give you the information that you needed to make a change or a choice. While Inside Out shows us that no feelings are better than other feelings, that is not the message that most of us send to our kids every day.
Q: When fear is in charge at your “Headquarters,” how can you tell if that is a healthy fear that you should listen to because something is dangerous, versus just something new that would be good to try?
There isn’t a hard and fast rule to guide us when facing fear. The important thing to realize is that fear can be helpful, and keep us safe, and fear can also be too helpful, and keep us from pushing the limits of our comfort zone. Now that we can visualize fear as a long purple guy with a big nose, it might be easier to decide if we want him driving the controls at any given moment.
Q: When we go through hard times, most of us, like Riley, have emotions that are harder to connect with or share. When Riley’s joy and sadness got lost, disgust and anger were easier for her to express. When you’re upset, what is at your control panel? What might get lost and hard to find?
There is no universal guide to what people show and what people hide. Everybody is different, and it comes from a mix of our innate temperament, and the culture in which we grow up. Some cultures embrace anger as a part of daily life, and others try to lose it in the stacks of long-term memory. It’s important to own the impact of your culture and temperament so that you can better understand yourself, and therefore other people who might be different.
Q: Do you think girls and boys get different messages about which emotions are supposed to be driving the control panel? If yes, what’s the impact?
In some cultures, there are strong rules about gender and culture, and in other cultures gender expectations aren’t as defined. In our mainstream culture, girls are often taught to be happy, and anger is seen as unattractive. Boys, on the other hand, have far more permission to be angry, but could be socially punished for expressing sadness. Both of these expectations make it hard to develop skills for expressing all of the emotions and can lead to habits where we are ashamed to reveal what we really feel, and therefore ashamed of ourselves. When this happens it is impossible to know and get what you really need to feel better.
Q: Why does it matter that Pixar made a movie starring a girl?
While girls are 50% of the population, they are only 25% of characters in kids’ media. To have a movie starring a girl is significant, to have one starring a girl who isn’t a princess, or valued for her looks is radical (not because anything is wrong with princesses, they can be cool, depends on the princess). When princesses dominate, it doesn’t feel like there much choice in how to be a girl.
It was really hard for Riley to move, make new friends, and join a new hockey team. Losing touch with her feelings during that time made it ever harder – she lost touch with her personality, and people that cared about her. Reconnecting to those feelings, no matter how hard they were, gave her the information that she needed her parents, needed to play her favorite sport and reconnect with friends. Because feelings tell us where we are, they point us where we need to go.
Read our #HowDoYouFeel #InsideOut Twitter conversation
How Challenging Emotions Can Empower Action and Positive Change