As I watched Moana with my son, I was so grateful that this was his Disney starting point. Mine was falling in love with Cinderella dropping her glass slipper, and waiting to be saved. He gets to watch a strong young woman save her people.
It would be easy to tally the ways Disney’s Moana is evolving with the times. The title character is a female of color – check. Her physique is athletic, with wrists that won’t break – check. Her quest is about far more than getting the man – check! But, watching Moana is just the start of absorbing her story. Early in the movie, Moana chooses duty over self-realization. She thinks that fulfilling her obligation to her people means suppressing what she truly wants, so she keeps her gaze away from the horizon and her feet firmly planted on dry land.
Yet, when we ignore our true selves and innermost wishes, the result is profound dissatisfaction and sadness. The character in the film who most strongly advocates for Moana’s internal voice is her grandmother, Gramma Tala, who sings:
You may hear a voice inside
And if the voice starts to whisper
To follow the farthest star
Moana, that voice inside is
Who you are.
This is such a quick and subtle moment in the movie that it is worth underlining and highlighting with your kids. Lin-Manuel Miranda thought deeply about this while writing lyrics for Moana. He said, “She has a family that she loves, an island that she loves, but there’s a voice inside that’s calling. The idea of quieting life enough so that you can hear that inner voice was something really worth writing about ….”
Most of us need to practice quieting life enough to hear our own inner voices. When we start to pay attention, we might find that our inner voices have a lot to say. Instead, though, many of us get into the habit of ignoring our inner voice, and our kids learn this from us.
Do you want to hear what your inner voice has to say, and help your kids do the same? Try the following three strategies to get in touch with that whisper inside.
Name it, and share it. Let your kid know that having an internal voice doesn’t mean they’re crazy, it means they’re human. Some people call it a gut feeling, or an instinct, a curiosity or a passion. We all have that voice inside that quietly knows what we really feel or want. Talk about your own internal voice. It doesn’t have to be life changing, you might be thinking about the last Reese’s Cup in the corner of your freezer. The more you practice, the more natural it will become to tune in to what your internal voice is saying.
Take time to journal. For many kids, writing or drawing in a journal is a socially acceptable way to practice mindfulness. This is also a good way for kid as young as 1st and 2nd grade to express themselves. You could leave a notebook and pen by your child’s breakfast plate or on her nightstand. While she’s eating her cereal or preparing for sleep, she might spend a few minutes doodling or jotting her thoughts. A notebook provides a safe, non-judgmental place to explore this new emotional territory.
Put some boundaries on screen time. As our kids get older, technology often becomes an increasingly large part of their lives. Snapping, texting, reading, and watching on a screen also becomes more of a distraction from listening to our own thoughts. Mental quiet is just as important to practice ourselves as it is to enforce with our kids. Instead of imposing a new set of rules, frame this as an experiment. For example, everyone could try putting phones away for a whole afternoon. Afterwards, discuss how it felt to drop the technology habit for a while. Did you feel more in tune with your thoughts? Calmer? More creative? Bored? Lengthen the experiment to a whole day or even a weekend, and check in again. You might eventually create tech-free zones, perhaps during the evenings or weekends.
Tuning into and respecting our inner voices isn’t just a cute thing to do, or a fun conversation topic. It’s a way of life. For Moana, following her inner voice means happiness, fulfilling her potential, and saving her people. If you want your kids to stand up for what’s important to them and make their own dreams come true, tuning into their inner voices is a good place to start.
Is your family listening to Moana on repeat too? What conversations are you having about this movie? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.