We have this new thing we do each week, sometimes each day in our family. It all started of course with the release of this fantastic documentary...I mean, Pixar movie, Inside Out. We added the minion too. He represents "silly," an extension of joy.
I heard a lot of friends raving about the movie when over the past few months. "Have you seen Inside Out?" my friends asked me, some of them a few times. No, I definitely had not seen it yet when it first came out on DVD. I have seen about 4 movies in a movie theatre since November of 2008. I guess that's one movie every two years. Yikes. It's just that in 2007 we began having children and therefore my relationship with the movie theatre was surrendered. It was just way to much work to keep up. I mean, having to either find a sitter or take a baby or child whom I had to keep quiet for 2 plus hours, buy tickets, pay for snacks/drinks, find seats together in a good spot, set everyone up with snacks/drinks, and sit in seats that 800 other people have sat in that day, while I stare at a screen just does not compare to the alternative of putting the baby to bed according to his/her regular routine, sitting on my own comfy couch in my pajamas, with my blankets, eating a bowl of ice cream and being allowed to ask all of the questions out loud that I want about the movie while only getting frustrated looks from my husband instead of everyone else in the theatre. I have taken my two older kids to the movies...those 4 times in 8 years and it was great fun. We, however had our third child last August, which is why I had not seen this new, revered movie. Anyhow, I've brought myself slightly off course here, but I did finally see it and I LOVE it!!!
After a friend of mine loaned it to us and I watched it with the kids. I made my husband sit down and watch it with us. The comparison of this movie to a documentary actually first came from my husband after only a few minutes. He thought it was a fantastic movie, especially since teaching children about their emotions is a very high priority for the two of us. With Scott dealing with anxiety for so many years and me coming from a family who deals with depression and having my own moments of fear and anxiety, we try to find as many teachable moments as possible on understanding our own emotions.
Scott ordered these little characters to use for these teachable moments. We came up with a game to play at dinner one night. Each of us took a turn with the characters, showing each other which characters we had in our heads that day and what happened when the characters showed up, and the results of allowing those characters to take over.
Of course we had someone who was not so into it and said something like, "I just had Joy all day, okay there I'm done." As the rest of us said our emotions, he decided to add one or two more. I think this activity can be really beneficial to the kids in multiple ways.
Recognition of Emotions
First,they learn to recognize emotions they feel throughout the day and when they are feeling a particular emotion. As they hear our examples of situations as parents, they can better understand what is happening in their own situations. As they get better at it, they will learn to catch themselves in a moment of a particular emotion and stop themselves from going further into it if necessary. Today my daughter asked me the name of a particular emotion character. She said, "Mom, my friend and I had a little bit of...angry...angerness....what's his name....and another name for him?" I told her the words were anger and frustration.
It is okay to feel
Next, they learn that it is okay to feel certain emotions that maybe they thought was not okay or that "adults don't feel that." They might discover that they may even share the some of the same emotions during the same circumstances such as frustration when we are waiting in the forever long pharmacy drive through. An important one for them to realize that we have is sadness. I think the movie's point about our need for sadness was excellent! I will not say any more and give away the story if any readers have not seen it. My children can clearly tell when I feel frustrated and angry sometimes, but they may not always realize when I feel sad and so verbalizing that during our activity brings it to their attention and reminds them that adults feel sad sometimes too. For some reason, that one is the most uncomfortable to admit, even as an adult, but also because of that, can help the children have compassion for other family members.
How to solve a problem
Also, these conversations lead to discussion of what they can do to solve their problem and problems can much easier be solved once we have identified our emotions. The insight and independence they gain in learning to solve their problems may lead to more joy and peace within the children. After my daughter told me that she and her friend had anger she also told me that they were able to solve their issue.
Compassion for othersOne great hope that I have for this activity is that they kids become more compassionate towards others in our family as they think about how someone else was feeling that day and why they were feeling that way. After the children learn about their own feelings, they may be able to recognize those emotions in someone else throughout their day and hopefully develop compassion for that person. Tonight, at bed time, my daughter volunteered the information today. We missed our dinnertime discussion due to after school activities. She said, "Dad, who was in your head today?"
Here are some photos of us practicing some different facial expressions! Mental wellness education is on the way!
Trying to look disgusted...but disgust looks funny sometimes!