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Disney Therapy: Learning to Find the Good Ones

by Peggy Carstensen, LCPC, ATR

Summer may have ended, but Disney’s summer release Luca continues to play on repeat in my home. Like many Disney movies, it is culturally imperfect and you can find many theories about the deeper content. If you are a parent, you may notice or assign meaning that was never intended or dissect films before showing them to your kids. (Or maybe you’re like me and you don’t actually see the full film in one sitting but piece the scenes together after weeks of it playing in the background.)

The dialogue in Luca impressed me from the start. It got me thinking more about ways I can have important conversations with my young children through the *gasp* screen time they are clocking. Particularly, the line from Luca that has stuck with me since the first viewing (first of approximately 7,439) is related to Luca’s mother’s fears of whether her son will be accepted in a world where he does not match the majority.

“Some people will never accept him. But some will. And he seems to know how to find the good ones.”

This quote from Luca’s grandmother ignited something in me (or maybe it just helped me justify all the moving-watching). Her message made its way into conversations with my daughter as I was putting her to bed. Like we sneak green vegetables under sauces and condiments, we can and should shift what seems like lighthearted or time-filling viewing into teachable moments for our young kids. Whether referring to accepting members of the LGBTQ+ community, introducing racial inequity, or normalizing feeling like an outsider, this quote captures what we as therapists strive to help all clients navigate:

  • Accept what (and who) you cannot control.

  • Have hope that not everyone will let you down.

  • Hone your skills for surrounding yourself with people who build you up and love you as you are.

Whether you’re a parent trying to talk about tough social issues with your children or feeling guilt about them watching shows and movies, remember that beautiful messages and life lessons can be found in unexpected places. I believe part of our job as a parent is to notice these lessons, help our kids feel seen and heard, and use examples like Luca to push our children to create a more accepting and loving world.

*Share your favorite life lessons learned/taught through a movie in the comments!*

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