Discussion Packet

Inside Out (2015) – Discussion Guide

Discussion Guide:

  1. How did Riley’s emotions cooperate before the move from Minnesota to California? What happened during and right after the move?
    Caregiver Note: This question is a good way to start the conversation as well as to see what your child has perceived in the film. If your child struggles to remember some parts feel free to help with a little prompting. Some older children may pick up on more subtle themes but be prepared to help with connecting the emotions to the ways they showed response through Riley’s behavior. Try to focus more so on how Joy drives the emotions before and during the move, but after is able to work with her team to help Riley express all of her emotions in meaningful ways.
  2. What things before the move from Minnesota help Joy maintain the most emotional control? What people or activities helped Riley cope when she did feel Fear, Sadness, Anger, or Disgust taking over?
    Caregiver Note: This question will help children identify strengths and supports before processing further. Help children identify strengths and supports such as Riley having her parents’ attention and love, Riley’s talents, Riley’s ability to try to find positives/humor in situations, close/trustworthy friends, lots of hockey time, cultural comforts from her small town, etc. This will help them practice doing so when they need to think about their own strengths and supports.
  3. While it was frustrating that all the family belongings ended up in Texas, Riley had needs that may have been more important during the move to California. What did Riley need the most when she moved?
    Caregiver Note: This is a great discussion point that can move to discussing what your child specifically needs from you. Children in care may see themselves in Riley, lost in a place of unfamiliarity and in need of a caring adult to help sort them out. Oftentimes a caregiver may play detective to decipher feelings and behavior but sometimes children need reminders that they can also directly tell caregivers what they need. This will help children to express their needs in an appropriate manner.
  4.  How could Riley’s parents have helped with Riley’s experience of moving?
    Caregiver Note: Change can be a highly stressful time for a family, even if the change is welcomed. If change is not welcomed, this can compound the stress and trauma perceived from the event. This is another question that can help allow a child to process emotions with a caring adult and practice expressing those needs appropriately. Common answers can include giving Riley more attention/special time, helping Riley meet new friends, helping Riley keep contact with her old friends, having favorite meals, getting involved with others like Riley, etc.
  5. ACTIVITY: Create Your Emotions – Draw your 5 biggest emotions and give them names. After you’re done, explain what they look like and how they drive your control panel in your brain. Caregiver Note: This is a fantastic activity to allow children to express their own emotions and have you, as a caring adult, give them names. Sometimes just identifying an emotion is a huge struggle even for adults! After identifying the emotions, ask your child how each emotion drives their control panel and help them think of a beneficial way to express that emotion and ask for help. Emphasize that these emotions are not “bad” and that it is how we choose to express these emotions that will lead to various consequences.
  6. Why did Joy try so hard to keep Sadness away from memories and the control panel? Was that okay to keep Sadness from her role?
    Caregiver Note: While Joy is fun every emotion needs a chance for expression in Riley’s life. Joy genuinely thought she was helping Riley by suppressing Sadness, but even with her good intentions was making a mistake in not allowing Sadness (and often the other emotions) to have their time to shine as they each had a purpose to help Riley. This is a great question that can ease into discussion about doing what’s right vs. doing what feels good and how these can be two different things.
  7. How did Riley respond when the emotions competed for control and didn’t work together? What happened when each emotion was heard and allowed a place at the control panel?
    Caregiver Note: Children are often familiar with overwhelming emotions and the feelings that can bring. Draw this question out. Does it feel good when there are too many big emotions and not enough space to think? Probably not! Allow them to identify how Riley was affected by the competition and how much better Riley thrived once each emotion was able to be honored and work together for Riley’s overall well-being.
  8. Do memories have to be one feeling or can they have many feelings? When was a time when you had more than one feeling at once? Caregiver Note: Caregivers should note that children may not be aware that it’s okay to feel more than one emotion at once. A good example is children in foster care who may love their foster parents but very much miss their family of origin. Often times children in care may lash out at foster parents upon realizing that loving their foster parents may contradict the love and sadness they experience for their parents. While this may or may not be the exact example brought up by a child it is important for caregivers to be prepared if bigger emotions like this come up. Also, make sure to communicate with your child’s therapeutic team if it seems that your child needs more support.
  9. How can we help when words for feelings are hard? How can we support your needs when your emotions need names or you need help with competing emotions?
    Caregiver Note: This can be a great practice for developing an emotional regulation routine, which is similar in concept to a traditional Safety Plan. A Safety Plan is a place utilized by a team for a child in care to help keep a child safe before, during, and after crisis. With making a plan before something potentially occurs, a team is better prepared to tackle an issue. Allow the child to give the most input to your plan as they will be more likely to participate in their plan if they author it. Include a discussion on appropriate ways to signal for a need for support. Remind the child that they will not be in trouble for feelings and that you are there to help them so that they can make better choices.
  10. Island-Craft: Have your child draw up two maps of islands. Help your child identify islands of interest and personality from the past for one map and current interests and personality traits now. Think of this as a strength-based activity and help your child think of items if they struggle to find positive islands. Make sure to make it fun with lots of colors or craft supplies. Caregiver Note: This activity is a fun way to promote a positive sense of self-esteem and identity. Talk about the different islands and use this as an opportunity to bond and learn more about your child as they learn about themselves. If this goes well you can also have the child help you come up with a map of your own islands. It can be beneficial with this to see how a child perceives you and help you identify anything that may need some support as well to better communicate love and support with your child.

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NOTE: Inclusion on these lists does not necessarily mean endorsement. Furthermore, with all our resources, we highly recommend you preview them first to determine if there are any trauma triggers that your child may not be ready to handle. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its reviews 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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