By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
If your house is anything like ours, Encanto has been watched, and listened to, A LOT! It’s very cute because my son has picked up on the fact that I love this movie as well so when he really wants to watch something and connect with me he will ask for “Encanto and popcorn.” Something that I really love about this movie is how many amazing themes it incorporates and provides concrete ways to discuss some really tough things in life. Like how hard it can be to feel that others expect you to be able to solve every problem (Luisa) or how we might feel our value is only in being “perfect” (Isabella). Or, how much a family is impacted by trying to hide difficult things and not talking about them (Bruno and Mirabel). So, I thought it might be helpful to share a bit about how I, as a child therapist and parent, use the film to explore topics with my son (who is 4 so some of this is for younger kids).
One of my son’s favorite questions about the movie is, why didn’t Mirabel get a gift?
What a great question right? This is a great way to talk about how the family has secrets and is not dealing with the hard things coming up so the magic seemed to find a way to force them to talk about it. First, by trying to show something was wrong by not giving her a gift, and second, by giving Bruno a vision about her. I use this question as a way to weave in the importance of facing our problems and dealing with hard things. We talk about how the magic was there to help the family and that because Abuela wanted to protect the magic by always being of service to everyone and holding tight to “sunshine”, it started to break down. Pretending everything is okay all the time causes harm. Just ask poor Tia Pepa always trying to imagine “clear skies” instead of dancing in the rain!
Another helpful topic is using Luisa’s struggles to explore how it’s okay to ask for help and not be strong all the time. With older kids, it can help to use her situation to explore how unrealistic expectations are the hardest pressures to deal with in life. With my son, I talk about how Luisa feels that she needs to do everything because she is so strong but that it is okay to take a break, ask for help, and that one person should never be the one in a family shouldering all the problems or challenges. We talk about how families are a team and how we need to help each other.
Onto one of my favorite topics of all time, perfection! Specifically, perfection is not a great goal. My son and I talk a lot about how Isabella felt that she had to be a certain way, perfect, to be loved and of use in the family but that when she allowed herself to feel things fully, she was happier and more herself. We love watching her sing and dance and create things totally her own. I think this is a great image for parents when they are considering what they hope for in their child’s life. Instead of perfect Isabella who seemed pretty unhappy at times, we should hope for an Isabella who dances in the magic of her own creations with joy.
Now back to Mirabel of course. While my son loves asking about how she didn’t get a gift, as a therapist, I know a secret. She did get a gift. The gift of empathy. Watching how she was able to connect with all of her family members so well to truly see them, what they needed, and to show them love through their struggles was truly beautiful. Especially as a therapist because she reminded me of what we do every day in our offices. Even if others may not always understand, we know that the Isabella we want is the one who is messy and joyful, not “perfect,” and that the Luisa we want is the one who is resting and helpful because she chooses it, not because her worth is tied to her productivity. While disrupting family patterns is not always easy, it certainly is brave and it was heartwarming to see her family embrace her and the magic reward them all by coming back. Hopefully, all of our lives can embrace a bit of magic that helps us move more in the direction of doing things in line with who we truly are.
At Thrive, we take a positive, client centered approach to therapy that is focused on creating a genuine connection with our clients. If you would like to talk with a Thrive Therapist about yourself, your child, or teen attending therapy via video sessions, please reach out to us by phone at 858-342-1304.
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They become words.
Watch your words,
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Watch your actions,
They become habits.
Watch your habits,
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