Watching Encanto with Your Grandchildren

Categories:
Fun with Kids

Watching movies with our grandkids can be super fun and a great way to ignite their imagination, explore their emotions, and have a good conversation. Jewish tradition euphemistically calls anything that stimulates this type of a conversation pitchon peh — an open mouth.

The Disney blockbuster Encanto, which has captivated people of all ages, has the potential to prompt such meaningful discussions. Although the entire soundtrack is memorable, four songs in particular convey important messages:

    1. Dignity of all human beings (Jewish value of B’tzelem Elohim — in the image of God)
    2. Power of empathy to enrich relationships (Jewish value of Chesed — kindness and compassion)
    3. Responsibility to care for family (Jewish value of Mishpachah — family)
    4. Value of maintaining cultural traditions during traumatic times (Jewish value of Masoret — traditions)

Click HERE to learn more about the four Jewish values related to the movie.

Song #1 – The Family Madrigal

The opening song introduces the characters and explains their miraculous gifts. During the song, it becomes clear that Mirabel, the main character, is the only member of the family who did not receive a special gift.

Pitchon Peh — This song provides an opportunity to talk about human dignity (B’tzelem Elohim) and to emphasize that each person is unique and worthy of respect, regardless of their individual talents and/or abilities.

Questions you might ask your grandchild:

    • How do you think Mirabel feels when the pesky children keep asking her, “What’s your gift?”
    • What can you do if you ever feel like Mirabel and don’t want to talk about something that is bothering you?
    • Have you ever felt sad because you think a friend is better than you at something? What can we do when we feel that way?

Song #2 – Surface Pressure

Luisa sings about the pressure she feels trying to live up to everyone’s expectations. Mirabel hugs her and says, “I think you’re carrying way too much.”

Pitchon Peh — Here is an opportunity to talk about the value of empathy (Chesed) and explore how it draws us closer to our friends and family.

Questions you might ask:

    • Why does Mirabel hug Luisa?
    • Why does a hug make some people feel better?
    • Have you ever felt you had to be strong for someone else? You might add: If you ever feel like Luisa, you know you can always call me.

Song #3 – Waiting on a Miracle

Mirabel admits that she’s struggling to discover who she is and what her gift to the family might be.

Pitchon Peh – The song prompts a discussion about family dynamics and the responsibility of each family member to care for loved ones (Mishpachah).

Questions you might ask:

    • Why does Mirabel plead with Abuela to “open your eyes”? What does she want her Abuela to see?
    • Do you ever feel like your parents or grandparents don’t see who you are?
    • When Mirabel sings “I can heal what’s broken,” what does she mean? What is broken in the family?
    • What can we do when we think something is broken in our family relationships?

Song #4 – Dos Oruguitas

Mirabel finally recognizes the trauma Abuela endured and the courage it took for her to rebuild her life.

Pitchon Peh — This emotional song prompts a discussion about cultural traditions (Masoret), and how they provide hope to oppressed communities that have fled persecution. (This topic should be discussed with grandchildren who are 8–12.)

Questions you might ask:

    • What do you think it was like for Abuela to rebuild her life?
    • What personal qualities does it take for someone to rebuild after suffering a disaster?
    • What do you think Abuela means when she tells Mirabel that she had prayed to her husband for help and that he sent “you”?
    • What Jewish holiday(s) recall times when Jews experienced oppression and had to flee or fight back to protect themselves? Who helped them in these times of need?
    • Can you name a time when Jews were given a miracle?
    • How is Abuela’s story of survival similar to and different from the trauma the Jewish people suffered during the Holocaust? (If your family lost relatives during the Holocaust, or has a loved one who survived, this is a good opportunity to tell their stories.)

Click HERE to learn more about the four Jewish values related to the movie.

Here are 5 tips that will help you discuss Encanto — and any movie — with your grandchildren.

    1. Assess the mood. Sometimes watching a movie together should simply be fun, with no discussion necessary.
    2. Look for themes in the movie that speak to personal experiences your grandchild has had, for example, loneliness, friendship, and anxiety.
    3. Follow your grandchild’s emotional cues and talk about feelings they are willing to share.
    4. Ask questions appropriate to your grandchild’s age.
    5. Try to find a Jewish value that relates to the themes you discuss.

Rabbi Mark H. Levine is the Jewish Educator at the Jewish Grandparents Network.