As a therapist, I have been extremely happy with some of the movies that have been released in the past few years. No longer are the heroes males and the females in distress, feelings are talked about more readily, and fairness and prejudice are themes. Here are a few examples of movies that focus on these ideas. After you watch these movies, use the following questions to open a dialogue with your children.
Yes, Frozen. As a therapist, I hear about this movie almost every day (still). While the repetition can be exhausting, there are some really good themes in the movie: including loneliness, shame, and secret-keeping. Questions to ask:
1) The main song is "Let it Go" with the following lyrics ""Don't let them in, don't let them see / Be the good girl / You always had to be / Conceal, don't feel, Don't let them know." What do you think that means for Elsa to have to hold everything in? Why do you think she feels she needs to hide? Have you ever felt there is something you can't show?
2) In an effort to keep her secret from Anna, Elsa locks herself in her room. We see this in "Do You Want to Build a Snowman". How does Anna feel? How does Elsa feel? How would you feel if you were Anna? How would you feel if you were Elsa?
3) Elsa creates a beautiful ice castle at the top of the mountain, but she is alone. Do you think she wants to be alone? How does that make Anna feel? Have you ever felt alone?
4) How would the story be different if Elsa share her special powers with Anna?
Inside Out (2015)
I was so happy when "Inside Out" was released. Finally there was a movie that focused on feelings (and not just angry or happiness). While there are MANY questions to ask your children, here are just a few:
1) Why is it hard for Riley to tell her parents how she's feeling? Is it OK for them to ask her to be their "happy girl"? How does that make her feel when she's not in a particularly joyful state of mind? Have you ever felt like you had to feel a certain way to please someone else? Is that fair?
2) What does it mean to have "mixed emotions" about something? How do all of our different feelings relate to each other? Can you have joy without sadness? Why is it important to feel a range of emotions?
3) Some of the movie's scenes are sad and scary. Is it OK for a kids' movie to not be cheerful and silly all the time?
4) What problem does Riley think running away will fix? Why is she wrong? What could have happened to her if she'd gone through with her plan? Parents, talk to your kids about why Riley's idea -- and how she went about trying to accomplish it -- is not an example to follow.
5) What do you think about the anger emotion being male? What about sadness being female? Do you think you can only show certain feelings?
6) What do you think your own emotions might look and talk like? What about those of your friends and family members? Ask kids to draw what they think might be going on inside their own head.
The topics of prejudice, racism, and stereotypes are difficult to address with children, however, many times, it is from our own discomfort with the topics as adults. Children are naturally open-minded, so asking the following questions can help with this discussion.
1) Stereotypes (thinking all people that look a certain way ACT a certain way) can hurt everyone. Did we think a certain thing about the "baby" and the Popsicle? What about the mayor and the assistant mayor? Did we have thoughts about them because of how they looked? Do you ever decide something about someone based on how they look?
2) Prejudice is unfair. It happens when we treat people differently, because of a stereotype. Can you think of a time that a character was treated differently? How did this effect Judy Hops? How did this effect Nick Wilde? Can you think of other characters that were treated differently? Have you ever felt that you were treated differently based on something about you? What about being a boy or a girl?
3) Bullying happens. How did it happen to Nick in the movie? How did he feel? How did you feel? Have you ever felt that way? What can you do if you see this happen to someone?
4) How did the characters work together in the end? What happened? Is this something you could do a school? Church? In the neighborhood?
While these are just a few examples of movies and questions, I hope this can lead to positive and open-minded discussions with your children.