Emotions Run High When Relocating

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By Elizabeth Christmas, LCSW, LCAC – Courier & Press – April 5, 2016 –

In July 2015 I took my children to see a movie. All I knew about the plot was that it centered around the emotions of a young girl.

As a therapist who works with children daily, I was intrigued and couldn’t wait to see this social/emotional brain activity play out on the big screen.

I had no idea just how much my own children and I needed to experience “Inside Out,” as our lives were about to turn upside down.

We had known for several months that our small family would likely be relocating. Like any good mother/therapist, I made sure we talked about what it would be like when the big day came.

My children were familiar with the new community and had visited. I had done some networking to find a few girls my daughter’s age and scheduled some play dates.

We kept our most special toys and stuffed animals with us during the transition. But I don’t think the reality of starting our lives over in a new place really hit my daughter and me until that summer afternoon we moved to our new town.

If you haven’t seen the movie, you truly are missing out on an opportunity to grow. Most of this movie is set inside the brain of an 11-year old girl named Riley who’s depressed about her parents’ decision to move, separating her from her friends.

In the master control room of her mind, five major emotions jostle for control: joy, sadness, anger, fear and disgust. The story kicks into gear when Riley attends her first day of fifth grade and has a flashback to a “joy-colored” memory from Minnesota. Sadness is somehow compelled to touch this core memory, prompting Riley to cry in front of her new peers.

For the rest of the movie “Joy” and “Sadness” battle for control, until these personified emotions eventually learn Riley cannot thrive without them working together.

At the end of the movie, Riley finally confessed to her parents how sad she truly was about the move. She had tried to wear a happy face, but that only caused her to become angry on the inside.

As Riley and her parents embraced, I heard a sniffle next to me. I looked over and saw a big tear running down my daughter’s cheek as she watched Riley’s story play out and related it to her own.

Over the last eight months my daughter and I have often come back to the lessons we learned that day. Every time she gets sad about missing her friends, her school, our house, our church … we cry together about all that we miss. I try to be open with her about my own feelings of sadness.

And then we talk about all that we love about our new friends and new school. We make sure to visit the pieces of our past while we enjoy our present. What we learned from “Inside Out” is that life will be sad at times. Children need to hear that parents struggle too and that sadness is acceptable.

When facing a difficult transition such as a move, embrace and press on together — always looking for the joy. God has a way of tying it all together and bringing us full circle. My daughter celebrated her 9th birthday this week … at our new home in our new town on Riley Street.