- Tom and Jerry don’t like each other from the beginning. Why don’t they like each other very much?
Caregiver Note: This is meant to be an opening question but may provide you with some insight into how your child thinks based on how they answer. Most children will likely point out that as a cat and mouse, they are natural enemies and are supposed to dislike each other due to stereotypes from Tom & Jerry cartoons and other forms of media. Other children may point out how Jerry tricked Tom when they first met at Tom’s Central Park piano performance. Some children may even say they have no idea. Help your child connect to something they saw in the movie if they struggle to connect feelings to behaviors.
- After Tom and Jerry start to work together they still fight a lot. Why is it so hard for Tom and Jerry to get along after they promised Kayla to get along?
Caregiver Note: Children often struggle to connect feelings to behavior even without trauma because that is an emotional and social skill developed in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. When trauma is added to the mix these skills can be inhibited even more. Children may not connect that when Tom or Jerry carry out an annoying or problematic action that is a new conflict for Tom and Jerry to sort out again and again. This is because Tom and Jerry have fought and argued for so long that this is how they have learned to communicate with one another and it will take even more time to practice new ways to communicate disagreement or needs. This is a great example to use to explain this to your child and connect specific instances where Tom or Jerry reacted to the other without thinking through the action, as depicted when Tom has the mental processing in thought bubbles and forgets how to say “No” to a fight.
- Over time, Tom and Jerry get along much better but still argue some. Does this mean that they hate each other and can never be friends?
Caregiver Note: This is very important to discuss with children of all ages. Often, children who have endured trauma see conflict as a sign of a broken relationship because this is what they have experienced. This can persist so much that they may sabotage relationships they value very deeply, over seemingly minor issues, because they view relationships as very fragile. It’s important to talk with your child about how conflict is a normal part of relationships and how respectful conflict can strengthen a relationship with good communication of needs and feelings. Though we don’t see it, this means that Tom and Jerry can continue the positive curve their relationship has taken with lots of time, patience, and learning to communicate emotions differently while using the logic part of our brains once we are calm.
- Tom and Jerry can’t talk with words. What other ways do they communicate to others?
Caregiver Note: As we learn from watching Tom and Jerry (and other characters), there are so many different ways to communicate without using spoken words. Charades, pictures, letters/notes, body language, tone/volume of voice, facial expressions, and even social media are used throughout the film by not only Tom and Jerry, but most of the human cast as well! Help your child identify these connections with communication.
- What can happen if I only pay attention to your words? What other things do I need to notice if you are trying to tell me something?
Caregiver Note: Here is another great chance to help your child learn and practice language to communicate connections between feelings and behavior and to connect communication methods! This can also help you better learn how your child communicates what they mean with what they say, how they say it, and what they do by helping them build their own voice to do so. This will continue to help build up on those language deficits we discussed earlier by strengthening pathways while the child is calm so that they are better rehearsed for when they are less calm and will have a harder time accessing this skill while emotionally volatile.
- Royal Gate Relationship Tower
Caregiver Note: This will be a fun way to keep hands busy while talking about emotions to connect to behavior. For this game you will need a block tower game (i.e. – Jenga) and a permanent marker. On each brick before you play, the caregiver will need to write a big emotion on about half of the bricks. These can include sad, lonely, angry, frustrated, disappointed, disgusted, worried, scared, surprised, overwhelmed, and other words that your child may need help practicing. Set up your block game and play like usual with taking blocks from the lower part of the tower and restacking them. Wherever a player draws a block with an emotion they will need to describe how that emotion feels for them. For example: “I drew angry. When I am angry my face gets hot and I clench my fists.” What this activity will do is help your child learn to develop a mind-body connection to their emotions and help them practice verbally connecting those feelings to their behaviors. This may not seem like a big deal, but for a child who has lacked the practice in this area this can be a great way to develop those much needed skills!
- Why does Ben do such big things for Preeta when she didn’t ask? Why does Preeta not tell Ben “No” when she doesn’t like something?
Caregiver Note: As we discussed earlier, children are often afraid of conflict because of past experiences with conflict not being resolved well, if not at all. Much like Ben, children may overshare or overdo affection with painful hugs or high-fives to “earn” or “win” at being loving. They may also react to intimacy like Preeta in being afraid to express disappointment or other feelings they perceive as negative in fear of rejection. Though your child may do a combination of these behaviors or more that I’ve not listed, across the board your children definitely want to know they are loved unconditionally and they are safe, even when they are not acting so loving or safe themselves. This is a great question to help your child connect Preeta and Ben’s disconnects in what they are feeling and what they are telling one another due to these fears.
- Was there a time when it was hard for you to talk about something you needed? Was there a time when it was hard for you to say no like Preeta?
Caregiver Note: This is a time to allow your child to express openly and honestly. Caregivers should prepare for a time when perhaps they were the person that was hard to talk to or say no to, as it’s very likely if you have started to create a sense of safety. Do not take this personally! Remember, disagreement is a space for growth and building trust! If you are the subject of this hard talk, remember to listen more than talk, help connect feelings to behaviors, and if needed apologize. Children need to see that adults are capable of handling their big emotions and this is potentially your chance to help reinforce that you are a bigger, stronger, wiser, kinder adult who can handle these big emotions and struggles with communication. Make sure to take note too, even if you are not the subject of the time of struggle you may pick up on a pattern from a disagreement with someone else that will help you better understand what your child is feeling/thinking when a similar situation with you may arise and better help you to meet your child’s needs.
- How can I help you feel more comfortable when you need to tell me what you need and how you feel?
Caregiver Note: With most kids, having a frank discussion about felt safety vs. actual safety in relationships may be too abstract. Asking your child how you can help them speak honestly about their inner thoughts and emotions is a great way for you to know what they need and to help them verbalize their needs for a trusting relationship and give them a voice for self-advocacy, even if they are too young to know what those words mean. This is another great chance for you to help your child build their confidence to voice for themselves what they need using the language they have learned. It will take lots of practice to help this skill grow, but the benefits can be life-changing when a caregiver takes the time to practice this.
- ACTIVITY: Selfie Scavenger Hunt
Caregiver Note: Remember when Tom and Jerry had to do their “getting along trip” around New York? Here’s a way you can do that, even in your yard! For this one you will need at least enough participants to break off in pairs, preferably 1 child:1 adult ratios if possible for kids who need extra supervision. Groups make these even more fun if you have a larger number of participants around. You will need to come up with a list of selfie ideas around the set perimeter (i.e. – the yard, a playground, or with older kids even a theme park can make a great area for some wild but appropriate shenanigans on an upcoming vacation). Each team will need a list and some way to take pictures whether it’s a smart phone, a tablet, or a polaroid-like camera. Here is a list of ideas to start with for that list:
1. Take a selfie of your team doing something everyone loves!
2. Take a selfie of your team doing a Rocky impression on top of some stairs!
3. Take a selfie of your team planking on a funny surface!
4. Take a selfie of your team mimicking what the family pet is doing!
Whatever items are on the list you create for each team, make sure that they are safe, maintain appropriate physical and supervisional boundaries needed to help your children be successful, and that each activity makes the team interact with each other. At the end of the time limit you have given, have each team present their pictures so everyone can see how much fun each team has had. Having fun is a very important part of relationship building, especially for children, so taking time to just be silly together like this can become a tradition to help your family connect over time as your kids grow.
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 reviews nor this discussion packet 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.
About the Reviewer: Rachael Rathe
Rachael B. Rathe is an East Tennessee native with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with a Minor in Child & Family Studies from The University of Tennessee Knoxville. She has worked in mental health since 2013 and in foster care/adoptions for a private provider agency since 2014. Rachael was inspired to work in the field after working with children and teens on a volunteer basis 2008 – 2013. Rachael’s ideal self-care day involves snuggling on a couch with her kitties (Tabitha, Fergus, and Rufus) while enjoying a good movie or book. She also enjoys galavanting around conventions concerning all things nerd and geekery.