Discussion Packet

Encanto (2021) – Discussion Guide

Discussion Guide:

  1. Would you like to live in a magic house like Casita? What would you want it to do?
    Caregiver Note: This is primarily just a fun question to promote bonding and start talking about the movie. However, it could lend itself to a conversation about what makes a home feel like a home and what kinds of things are important to have in a home. We may not live-in magic houses like Casita but having a home that feels safe and peaceful can be magical in a way to children who have not had that security before.
  2. Everyone in the Madrigal Family has a special power. If you could pick any special power for yourself, what would you pick? Why?
    Caregiver Note: Again, this is mostly just for fun. But talking about magical powers may offer some insight into things your child values about themselves or might wish were different. This can be a great way to talk about the magical powers you each *do* have in the form of special personality traits or talents.
  3. ACTIVITY: Design a Door
    Caregiver Note: When each member of the Madrigal Family comes of age and participates in a special ceremony which includes touching a doorknob and getting their power and a new room to go along with it. Their door then lights up with decorations to reflect them and their special power. For this activity, have each family member’s name on a piece of poster board and have everyone decorate their ‘door’ with things that reflect them- favorite colors and things, things they’re good at, anything that makes them happy and showcases who they are. When everyone is finished you can even have a family ceremony! Take turns showing their door to the group and talking about what they included and why. When finished these could be hung up on bedroom doors or in a hallway for everyone to enjoy.

  4. Mirabel is the only one in the family who doesn’t get a gift during her coming-of-age ceremony. How do you think this makes her feel?
    Caregiver Note: Mirabel tries very hard to be supportive of all of her family members and their magic powers, but it’s clear that a part of her feels very left out being the only one who doesn’t have one. During her cousin Antonio’s ceremony, we even see her have a flashback to her own ceremony where her door disappeared and get a sense of the emotions she felt and the mark that trauma left on her. This can be an opportunity to talk about the way your kids might feel different or left out. For those who are adopted or in foster care they might feel like they aren’t ‘really’ a part of the family, just as Mirabel feels like since she doesn’t have a magical power she doesn’t really fit in with her family.

  5. How do Mirabel’s family members treat her? How could they have done a better job of making her feel included and supported despite being different?
    Caregiver Note: It’s clear that Mirabel’s family love her, however they also sometimes seem unsure of how to act around her/how to treat her because she is different. The only family members that seem to have unwavering support for her are her parents. Her Abuela is especially hard on her, as is her sister Isabella. She tends to get blamed when things go wrong, and is often told to ‘stay out of the way’ and ‘stop trying so hard’. There is even one point where they all take a family photo with Antonio and Mirabel is not included. For the most part none of these slights are intentional or malicious but they still hurt Mirabel. This can be an opportunity to talk about how your family can be sensitive to one another’s feelings and ensure no one feels excluded the way Mirabel does in her family.

  6. What are some of the ways that Mirabel shows support to her cousin Antonio?
    Caregiver Note: When Antonio is hiding from everyone because he’s nervous about his upcoming ceremony, Mirabel takes time talking with him about what exactly his worries are. She also offers him support- saying she hopes he gets a power but ensuring him that she’ll still be there for him if it doesn’t go well. She also gives him a stuffed toy to take with him to his new room if he gets one, so he won’t feel so alone not sharing a room anymore. Later during the actual ceremony, he asks Mirabel to walk with him. Even though this is hard for her to do, because it brings up bad memories, she still holds his hand and gives him the support he asks for. This can help illustrate what support might look like in a healthy family relationship, which children with backgrounds of trauma might not be able to recognize if they haven’t had that experience.

  7. When you’re worried or scared about something, what are some of the things I can do to help you the way Mirabel helped Antonio?
    Caregiver Note: Support tends to look different for every child. Some may appreciate physical affection when they have big feelings- hugs, holding hands, etc. However not all are comfortable with this. Some may want to talk things through, or might want to have their own space. The important thing is to have the conversation about what their preferences are before the situation arises where they need support. That way you’ll know how to provide care and reassurance in the correct way, rather than inadvertently making things worse. Kids may not be able to articulate what they would want, so it may be helpful to talk through the different examples of what Mirabel does for Antonio with the question above for ideas of what support might look like.

  8. How do you think it makes Mirabel feel when no one will believe her about the cracks she saw in the house? Have you ever been in a similar situation?
    Caregiver Note: Mirabel sees that there is something wrong with Casita, and with the family’s magic and she instantly goes to tell Abuela. However, Abuela insists that everything is fine and when Mirabel tries to show her what she saw, it’s gone and no one else sees the evidence and therefore doesn’t believe her. We later learn that some family members did in fact know what was happening and that she was telling the truth, but wanted to keep up appearances and pretend that there wasn’t anything wrong. This is unfortunately an all-too-common situation when children try to tell someone they are being abused, which leaves the child feeling even more alone and like there is something wrong with them or that maybe they really did make it up or exaggerate what was happening. Depending on your child’s age and how recent their trauma was they may not be ready to talk about their own experiences so the conversation may need to stay focused on Mirabel which is fine- go with whatever they’re comfortable with.

  9. When Mirabel starts asking about her Uncle Bruno everyone says ‘we don’t talk about Bruno’. Do you think this is a good approach?
    Caregiver Note: Bruno is one of Mirabel’s uncles who ‘disappeared’ when she was a young child. The family largely ignores that he ever existed and doesn’t talk about him. When we lose someone, it can feel like it’s easier to not talk about them, to not even think about them because the memories are painful. But in the long run it only postpones the processing of that grief. Of course, children shouldn’t be forced to talk about anything they aren’t ready to share, but if they feel comfortable doing so, encourage them to talk about and remember their birth families as much and as often as they like.

  10. What is Mirabel’s relationship with her sisters like? How does it change throughout the movie?
    Caregiver Note: Mirabel struggles to get along with her sisters, especially Isabella. She believes that since they have magic gifts that their lives are perfect compared to hers where she struggles to fit in. However, she ends up having separate conversations with either of them where she learns that their lives aren’t as amazing as they appear to be. Louisa admits that even though she can carry heavy objects with her magic power, she really struggles feeling like she has to be strong for everyone all the time even when she’s struggling inside. Isabella can create flowers and beauty and is about to get married, but as it turns out she doesn’t even like the man she’s engaged to and like Louisa, feels pressure to always be perfect and beautiful and feels like she can’t really just be herself. This can be a great opportunity to talk about how we don’t always know what the experiences of others are like and even if their lives on the outside (or on social media) look amazing, they might have challenges as well. This applies to both friends/peers and also siblings. These feelings of jealousy can be especially difficult in a family that has a mixture of biological, foster and adoptive children.

  11. How did the trauma Abuela experienced when she was young affect her later in life?
    Caregiver Note: Abuela had to flee her home and lost her husband leaving her all alone in an unfamiliar place. She found the miracle candle which gave her a home and magical powers that enabled her to care for her family and build a community. Because of the trauma and the magic that came from it, she was able to raise several generations and create a thriving and safe community for many people. However, she also put too much pressure on her children and grandchildren and relied too heavily on the magic- because of her fear of losing everything again. This can be a great conversation starter about the various ways that trauma affects us, even many years later. Abuela doesn’t even realize that’s the reason for her behavior until Mirabel points it out to her.

About the Author: Jenn Ehlers

Jenn is a central Virginia native who received her BA in Psychology from the University of Virginia in 2012. Since then she has worked for a local mental health agency and the Department of Social Services in various capacities and has been involved in her community’s efforts to create a Trauma Informed Network. Currently Jenn works in vocational rehab and mentors youth in foster care. When she isn’t working, Jenn enjoys writing stories, anything and everything Harry Potter, and spending time with her niece and nephew.

**Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its review to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.

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