Encompass Blog

Creating Space for All Emotions with Inside Out 2

June 24, 2024  |  Parenting  |  By Megan Walsh, MSW, LICSW

Inside Out 2 characters on a movie screenIn a partnership with North Bend’s quaint, wonderful movie theatre, local kids and families were treated to a sensory-friendly performance of the much-anticipated sequel, Inside Out 2 on June 17.  The North Bend Theatre staff raised the lights a bit, lowered the sound a smidge and Encompass offered fidgets and weighted sensory items to meet the needs of moviegoers.

This brilliant movie showcases an emotional journey through the inner workings of Riley’s mind as she navigates the complex emotions we all experience when moving through childhood. As a mental health therapist for kids and families, I was thrilled to see the portrayal of the different stages of life through the perspective of emotional development.  Riley moves from early childhood experiences with core emotions (joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust) to navigating more complex feelings like anxiety, ennui (boredom), envy, and embarrassment.  Inside Out 2 does a wonderful job of normalizing a range of feelings without villainizing any of them.

In my work with families and with my own kids, it’s so important for adults to encourage and allow kids to experience a full range of emotions so that they (and we) can experience moving through them in healthy ways.  Kids can’t be expected to appropriately manage feelings they aren’t allowed to have.  Riley quickly moves from feeling to feeling in a way that will help kids feel comfortable with the emotional fluctuations that happen as we grow.  So often, kids start to worry that other people aren’t feeling the same way they do and that results in a feeling of isolation and loneliness.  Those feelings can cascade into mistaken beliefs about their worth and ability to love and be loved.

The overall message that every emotion, even the difficult ones, is vital to our development and growth, will have a positive impact on kids.  Many of the kids we see in therapy struggle to acknowledge and identify challenging feelings because they’ve absorbed the message that their feelings are too big, too scary, or too overwhelming.  Helping kids understand that every single emotion has its function and contributes to healthy growth and development is key to raising empowered kids who can navigate life’s challenges with resilience.  In addition, the message that reaching out to safe friends and family members for support as a positive coping strategy cannot be oversold.  Healthy kids need healthy connections to thrive.

Starting a conversation about emotions can sometimes feel awkward, but the more you practice, the easier it will be.  I’ve noticed that asking questions will cause kids to get overwhelmed and shut down, so I will often wonder out loud instead of peppering a child with questions.  Saying something like, “Oh boy, that isn’t what I meant to say. I think Anxiety was in charge there; let me try that again,” or “I sometimes feel like the embarrassment character. I wonder which one felt most like you.” can go a long way toward a child feeling invited to a chat instead of being tested to pick the right answer.  I also find that car chats where kids aren’t expected to make consistent eye contact often lead to more openness and vulnerability.  The biggest tip I can offer is to respond with curiosity, kindness, and empathy to whatever emotion your kids express.  Every emotion is valid even when we want to shift the behaviors that are sometimes used to express them.

I watched this movie with my 80-year-old parents and 17-year-old teenager, and we all laughed, a few of us cried, and we all left the theatre feeling excited about the focus on emotional awareness, coping strategies, and common emotional experiences. Inside Out 2 entertained, educated, and inspired meaningful conversations among my crew and I hope you will give it a chance to do the same for yours!

Related Posts

Comments are closed.

Thank You to Our Community Partners for Their Support

  • King County logo
  • King County Best Starts for Kids logo
  • City of Seattle logo
  • City of North Bend logo
  • City of Snoqualmie logo
  • City of Carnation logo
  • City of Sammamish logo
  • City of Issaquah logo
  • United Way logo
  • NAEYC logo
  • WA State Dept of Children Youth & Families
Back to Top