- The Control Panel: Inside of your brain there is a control panel where your emotions are pushing buttons to determine how you will react to throughout the day. As a baby, the control panel is small, with one button and as she grows the control panel gets bigger. At the end of the movie a new bigger control panel is unveiled. The characters look at the new control panel with awe, wondering what all the new buttons do. The presence of the control panel explains to kids that you can decide what buttons get pushed. It also explains how one emotion, like anger, wants to push one button, but another emotion, like joy, can overrule the decision and select a different option. Ask your kids what they think their control panel looks like – how big is it? What buttons are on their control panel? Which buttons are used the most? Which buttons are used the least?
- The Train of Thought carries your memories around and deposits them in different areas of your brain for storage. I love how obvious, yet clever, this is. At night, when you fall asleep, the train stops running and doesn’t start up again until you wake up. Any child who has trouble falling asleep may be suffering from a train that does not want to stop running. We will certainly be using this visual on those nights when I hear “I can’t fall asleep”.
- Islands of Personality are the four main pillars that make up who Riley really is. As the movie explains these major life moments are the foundation that make Riley the special girl that she is and make up the core pieces of her personality. As parents we strive to explain to our kids that they are unique. As they grow older and start to compare themselves to other, we try to explain that they don’t have to be like everyone else and that they need to appreciate what makes them special. The islands of personality are an easy way to talk about this complex concept. Ask your kids what they think their islands of personality look like. How many do they have? What are they and how do they think those islands came to be?
- All the emotions need each other. Spoiler alert – sometimes you need to experience sadness to feel true joy. In the beginning of the movie all of the memories are one solid color – yellow, blue, green, purple or red. By the end of the movie, you see that the memory balls have multiple colors within one ball - blue and yellow or green and red. The movie focuses on the interaction of joy and sadness, but there are so many other possibilities. What about when anger shows up, but it’s really fear in the background that is causing that anger? Or what about when we are afraid to do something, we face that fear and then feel joy? Whenever our kids are struggling with a situation, we can come back to the emotions and talk through it with them to see if we can determine what is really going on inside their heads.
There are so many great moments, I could go on and on. The movie has given us a vocabulary we’ve never had before where we can take hard to describe feelings and put them into words that our kids will now relate to. We need to use this movie as a springboard to talk to our kids. If all kids start to think about their emotions, their decisions and their personalities in these terms, it will help them become stronger individuals and will also help them in all their future relationships. It could influence an entire generation, now that is powerful.