Kids have Deep Thoughts and Feelings, Too!

Kids Have Deep Thoughts and Feelings, Too! Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein

Kids worry all the times. Their thoughts, feelings and emotions are as real and central to being alive as ours are. Mr. Fred Rogers knew that intimately and sent his entire career helping kids via TV know that they were special and he liked them just the way they were. That message must never stop.

However,maybe often, in the hustle and bustle of living and getting kids ready for school, driving them to after school activities, thinking about braces, homework, calling them out on minor offenses, worrying about how we will pay the bills, and sometimes much more serious dilemmas: someone is ill, dad lost his job, the marriage is falling apart, my kid is being bullied, there was another shooting in a public school, a cousin overdosed on drugs, etc. we have no time to process the inner life of our kids.

But the inner life exists and begs to be heard. Questions about how grown-ups handle serious issues such as school shootings bother kids on a daily basis. Perhaps your kid wonders how it is that you and daddy go to work feeling safe in your offices and why is it that kids who are unable to really care for themselves to to school in buildings were people can suddenly attack them and their teachers with automatic rifles?

Kids are deeply affected by how other kids are treated, even a news item like kids being separated from parents at our borders can create feelings of despair, confusion and worries about how we handle children in our country. Also, kids wonder how and why people end up seriously addicted or dead. And don’t forget faith and religion, a topic older than that Bible. Kids wonder if there is an after life, why good people get hurt or killed, etc.

Let’s not be blind sighted. We may not have all the answers to ‘deep’ questions that have plagued sleepless nights of many for thousands of years, but we can be attentive to our children psychologically, spiritually and even politically. Here are a some suggestions:

Create a time for your family to share good news, good deeds, disappointments, concerns and questions. Creating a setting where people who love each other can sincerely listen and respond to anything from trivial good news to serious concerns will help your kids, whether they are 2 or 22 feel safer to share what is really on their minds. No put downs if possible and your job is to truly listen and create this space. That means no phones on, and maybe a treat, such as a favorite dessert. It also means you being honest and sharing your memories about ‘deep’ thoughts and concerns, and taking seriously what your kids bring up. Listening is only the first step. Action, where required is the next.

For example, in this film clip: t

Kids Have Deep Thoughts and Feelings, Too! from Barbara Holstein on Vimeo.

he girl was very unsatisfied listening to her minister as he wasn’t talking about the issues on her mind. Ideally if she could have shared these feelings with her parents, they would try to come to some helpful conclusions. What they would decide is as unique as each family, but solutions could be to not force the girl to go to services right now, find a different church, discuss some of the ‘deep’ issues of life at home, take some social actions as a family in town, etc.

Beyond this film clip, if news events, from school shootings, to overdoses, to separation of kids from parents at border crossings upset or concern your kids, set a good example. Maybe call or write your senators and congress people with your kids present. Maybe write a letter to the editor of your local paper with your kids giving some suggestions. Talk about the importance of voting. Show them how a democracy works by you participating in the process.

‘The Truth, a New Film’ , Wonder Woman and Selfies

As a psychologist I am concernced that by age 12 the angst and hormonal storm of adolescence often takes over and girls put less effort into their academic studies, while at the same time get caught up in the over sexualized aspects of our culture. Too soon many tweens and teens are less enthusiastic about their talents and academics. That combined with self-esteem problems, often intensified by an atmosphere that encourages bullying, can lead to all sorts of problems from eating disorders to experimentation with drugs, to suicide.

Our girls are in desperate need of a role model. Perhaps Wonder Woman is that role model. A series of articles in the New York Times, including one by Jessica Bennett, ‘Wonder Woman’s Real Power’ make clear how important it is for girls to have role models that give them the message that: I am a leader, and you have also the traits that get you to this level. Bennett’s article concludes, “…we don’t want girls to strive only to be superheros. But we do want them to believe the have the strength to be one….”

How do we overcome girls being exposed to too few role models that excite, enhance and confirm a girl’s hopes and dreams as to what she can become, combined with a society that is less than kind in all sorts of ways, including peer pressure as exemplified by bullying.

One of the newest and most intriguing ways to overcome these societal flaws is the use of the Selfie. Selfies are not just an instrument for vanity, pranks or to record a meal out with friends. The Selfie, particularly the video functions that Selfies allow, are amazingly suited to offset a lack of role models and such actions as bullying. For example, KIRO7 reported ‘Bellevue girl bulled at school asks for help, Facebook post goes viral.’ What could be more moving than seeing this young girl, Alison Grande, tell her story via a Selfie video gone viral? And she didn’t even talk, just used cards that she held up to tell her story? At my last check she had reached more than 670.000 people.

Selfies are one of the nirvanas of hope for all of us who want to turn your kid or all kids into super heroes of life as they grow up.

Like Alison, kids can use Selfies as a means of sharing concerns via social networks or just between family, when it may be easier for a child to share in a video what is bothering her. Kids really talk when they make a Selfie, not just the one word answers parents so often hear.

As a psychologist and a filmmaker, I have developed a new way to use Selfies in film, for artistic, educational and mental health purposes. I have developed what I call ‘Selfiesasfilm’ which is a merging of the Selfie video with a film crew. The advantages are many. For example, the stars of my films thus far have been teens. When they film themselves, privately, and then see that video film become part of a film that has drama, meaning and purpose, they are given incredible positive feedback. They see themselves already as powerful role models and realize their work will assist other young people feel better about themselves and have more courage about their future. SelfiesasFilm is a powerful learning tool for all: the actors, the audiences, educators, mental health professionals and parents.

For example, my #SelfiesasFilm ‘The Truth, A Short Film’ is filmed by Cassidy Terracciano using phone to make selfie videos and also a film crew. The result is an intense, personal story told by the ‘girl’ in the film. She shares all the angst of growing up, including a first crush, a best friends, family fighting, family getting ready to move, fears about adolescence, etc.

I am so excited to announce that this film is now available for streaming at This means that you and your family can watch it anytime and use it to discuss all sorts of issues that we all have, some serious, some lighthearted and fun. I know you will find this 16 minute film something you want to see again and again! Feel free to write to me at!