Last weekend, my children and I went to see the new Disney/Pixar movie Inside Out and it quickly became my most favourite family movie ever! 

Putting aside for a moment that Inside Out is a theme park attraction waiting to happen and that I possibly laughed at the dream sequence more than my kids, it's message is one that resonated strongly with me as a parent and teacher - that without sadness, there is no joy.

Use the Disney/Pixar movie Inside Out to help children better understand their emotions | you clever monkey

Inside Out follows the story of 11 year old Riley as she and her family move house from one side of the US to the other and we are given a front row seat to the inside mechanisms of her brain as she deals with this milestone event. We are introduced to Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger who are in HQ directing Riley just as they are all of us (even dogs and cats). At the start of the movie, everyone sees Joy as the star in Riley's production which reminded me of many conversations I have had with parents over the last few years as an educator. As adults, we spend very few days being happy all day long. We know that we can experience many emotions in a day but sometimes expect our children to be different.

Consequently, many young children do not recognise that experiencing different emotions is both normal and healthy. Disney/Pixar have done an excellent job in creating characters young children can identify with and understand. Whilst we may want to shield our children from the worst life can throw at us, they do need to see us showing our emotions and most importantly, how we cope and regulate them. We need our children to see how resilient we are, that life is a balance, that without sadness, there can be no joy.

Use the Disney/Pixar movie Inside Out to help children better understand their emotions | you clever monkey

Of course trying to learn how to regulate your emotions can be hard work the younger you are. Add in long days at school, negotiating with peers, not enough sleep or not enough of the right foods, and the job of self-regulating emotions gets harder still. As a parent of three, I've been there. It's not easy but I can see this movie and its characters being a powerful tool that can be used to help children navigate their way through those difficult moments. Their most powerful emotions now have a face, a colour and even a name! 

Case in point, it's nearing the end of second term here in Australia and after a long day at school, my six year old was not impressed by the actions of her two older sisters. Her face told the world she was losing the fight and Anger was about to win. Fresh from watching Inside Out, I simply asked her who was driving? Who had control of the console in HQ right now inside her head? She stopped, looked at me and then very slowly started to smile. Anger had been push out of the way for now but we were able to talk about how she felt when Anger was in control - that she felt herself getting hot like when he burnt a hole in the window, that her eyes felt 'all squinty' and that her breathing was hard. We also talked about what she can do to change that. When she's home, she likes to go and jump on the trampoline by herself whereas one of her sisters likes some time to herself in her room where she'll sit and read for a while.

As a classroom teacher of young children, I think having a set of these characters from Inside Out in the classroom will prove to be a useful tool as students would have a visual prompt for them to be able to help explain their feelings. Or have some of these free Inside Out colouring in pages available for them to use while they calm down and regain control of their emotions. 

Inside Out opens at cinemas nationally on June 18.

Use the Disney/Pixar movie Inside Out to help children better understand their emotions | you clever monkey

Disclosure: We received free tickets to see Inside Out 
but the views expressed within this post are my own.