Upon giving birth, it seems sensible that every mother should receive a secret decoder ring or a manual to interpret the emotions of their children. I know I would have appreciated such a device, especially over the last 12 months. As all families do, we’ve had our ups and downs this past year, and sometimes I feel like I’m in an American-Ninja-Warrior-Parent obstacle course with my 4-year-old’s emotions.
Luckily, I now get help navigating through the delicate world of childhood emotions with the aid of a clever cast of characters from Disney•Pixar’s Inside Out. Last May, I had the great privilege of attending the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World Resort. A highlight for myself and my family, we were truly grateful to have been a part of this inspiring event and got to preview part of Inside Out during our visit. It was the first time my daughter had been in a movie theater, and we all loved it, so upon its summer release, our family went to our local theater to see the full film.
Inside Out gave us the opportunity to connect with complex emotions through lovable characters that we could discuss with both of our kids. The bonus was when I realized it could become a pivotal event to help a 4-year-old manage and express emotions.
Let me set this scene properly. It’s after school, everyone is tired, and we have to stop by Target. Recipe for disaster. I get halfway down my shopping list, and both my daughter and son are going down fast. We’re dragging, the kids begin to argue, and I see it coming but can’t prevent…the colossal meltdown begins. Standing in an aisle trying to rationalize with my 4-year-old that if we can just keep moving, we’ll get to go home. But there is nothing rational going on during a meltdown and she transforms before our eyes into a ball of melted butter in aisle 10. I get a “bless her heart” from a fellow mom, a nod, and a side eye from fellow shoppers as I accept defeat that we have just become the 3pm Target family casualty.
Just as I’m getting ready to scrape my little lady off the floor, my 8-year-old comes flying over to proudly show all the Disney Inside Out Tsum Tsums he found. Adorable as they are, I was about to tell him to put them back, but instead watched him bend down and hand Sadness to his sister. She immediately stopped crying and hugged the little Tsum Tsum. Parental epiphany courtesy of my kind-hearted 8-year-old! That day in Target, kneeling down in the aisle, I listened as my 4-year-old was able to express her emotions with the comfort of these characters she held in her hand. Then my 8-year-old wanted a turn to tell us about his day.
Sadness explained that someone in my daughter’s class that day had kicked her in line and said they didn’t want to be her friend anymore.
Anger told me that she felt like she should kick her back.
Fear had kept her up the night before, and she was probably a little cranky since she didn’t sleep well. Those shadows on her bedroom wall keep giving her scary thoughts.
Joy shared that my son felt proud because he completed a challenging science project.
They continued through all the emotions, with the help of an entire cast of comforting characters, and ended with two of their favorites – Bing Bong and Joy. Later that night, while home with our collection of new Tsum Tsums, we talked about how it can help to talk about how we are feeling – even when it is difficult. By the way, you knew I couldn’t leave that store without buying the lot of these emotional-assistive-devices.
Fear, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, Bing Bong, and Joy now sit beside my desk in my home office. Often, my kids will come in and take one in their hands to bring over to me. They don’t always want to say anything, and that’s perfectly okay. I’ve got the clue about what’s going on inside of them. Turns out, sometimes they don’t need a discussion, just a hug.