by Comprehensive Staff

08/03/2016 3:45 pm

What Movies Can Teach Us About Children & Emotions

characters from Inside Out movie


Children often face a rough and bumpy path through adolescence as they learn to navigate the complex world of emotions and develop the skills they need to manage and express these often intense feelings at this stage of their lives.

Now that Pixar’s blockbuster children’s movie from last year, Inside Out, is widely available on DVD, more children and families are going to be given an “inside” look into this process. The filmmakers employed Dacher Keltner, a Berkeley psychologist and expert on the science of emotions, as a consultant for the movie, which uses animated characters to play a variety of common emotions (Joy, Anger, Sadness, Fear and Disgust ) vying for the attention of the main character, an 11-year-old girl named Riley.

Research suggests that children moving through their pre-teen and early teen years often go through a shift in their emotional world — experiencing a decline in overall happiness and a rise in fears and anxieties — thrusting them into unknown and uncertain emotional territory that they must try to successfully navigate. In an NBC news story related to his role in as consultant to the move, Keltner stated, "It's like the world crashes down on them."

While the movie may present a simplified version of how our brains and emotions operate, it does provide an important message for kids and families, according to Keltner: "You're not forever held hostage by your emotions." We can learn to accept, embrace and manage our emotions — so they do not end up managing us.

Parents can watch the movie with their kids and use it to help their children learn better emotion identification and regulation skills. Learning about emotions and their healthy expression is an important component in Comprehensive’s Strong Families·Familias Fuertes parenting classes. For more information about upcoming classes, visit our Calendar page.