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Navigating Confusing Emotions: Lessons from Barbie for Parenting Children in Foster Care

By August 24, 2023Blog

A few weeks ago, I got to see Greta Gerwig’s film, Barbie, in a packed theater. It was an awesome experience, one of the more memorable times I have had at the movies in recent memory. If you haven’t made it out to see it, I would highly recommend it.

Watching the movie made me think about some of the connections I saw between the story and the journey of many children in foster care. I’d like to share some of those with you:

Navigating Complex Emotions

In the cinematic portrayal of Barbie’s journey, we witness how she evolves from a sheltered existence into a realm of complex emotions and experiences. This transition draws striking parallels to the lives of children in foster care who often confront life’s raw and intricate emotions at an early stage, compared to their counterparts in more conventional family settings.

Much like Barbie’s initial bliss in her tailored environment, children in foster care might experience moments of security and stability as they are navigating foster care. However, they also encounter an accelerated introduction to life’s challenges, uncertainties, and the intricacies of human emotions. These youngsters often face rejection, uncertainty, and other demanding situations sooner than their peers.

Just as Barbie embarks on her transformative journey into the “real world,” children in foster care are plunged into a reality where they must grapple with feelings of displacement, longing, and vulnerability. Similar to her experiences with complex emotions, children in care may find themselves coping with difficult sentiments like fear, anger, and sadness from an early age.

Why does this matter? Because having those emotions when you experience a life-altering event is normal, understandable, and okay.

The Role of Honesty & Vulnerability

Here’s where I feel the analogy of Barbie’s journey offers valuable insights to foster parents: Honesty becomes a pivotal element in the journey she takes. Just as Barbie’s evolution is anchored in her sincere engagement with her emotions, foster parents have the unique opportunity to guide children through their emotional landscapes with authenticity.

By openly sharing their own challenging emotions, foster parents can create a safe space for children in foster care to explore their feelings without judgment. This act of vulnerability provides crucial permission for children to experience and process through emotions that are overwhelming. It validates their emotional responses and enables them to build a foundation of resilience as they navigate the challenges of their lives.

In contrast to the traditional narrative of concealing difficult emotions, foster parents can empower children in their care by showcasing that confronting and embracing big feelings is not only acceptable, but also beneficial. This approach fosters emotional intelligence, empathy, and a healthier understanding of self.

Ultimately, Barbie’s journey from innocence to self-awareness mirrors the path children in foster care often undertake. Just as she charted her own course to wade through complex and confusing emotions, foster parents have the chance to guide children in foster care toward emotional growth by providing an environment of honesty, understanding, and unconditional support.

Just as Barbie found relatability with her audience, foster parents can forge genuine connections with children they care for by sharing their own emotional struggles and triumphs.

While it might be a little unconventional to draw correlations between a movie about Barbie and the foster care community, I hope some of these reminders help each of us slow down to consider our own journey.

How do we handle our own emotions?

How welcoming are we of hard emotions in our homes?

How can we better support those in our care to help them move closer towards healing?

Quinn Brewer

Quinn is the Communications Director for our National team here at TFI. He loves good stories no matter what shape they take, including video games, books, and podcasts. He is passionate about creative ministry, helping to communicate the work God is doing to the world. He and his wife Emily were married in May of 2020 and love spending time with their dog Koda, doing ministry with college students at ISU, and eating good food.

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