Here’s a great intervention idea from reader Martha Nodar aimed at empowering young girls and helping them express themselves. Ms. Nodar earned a gift certificate to childtherapytoys.com for her submission. Learn how you can do the same!
Disney’s film “Frozen” is not only a heartwarming fairy tale of two sisters, but also a visualization of the impact that loss may have in one’s life. An early bond between two young sisters, Elsa and Anna, is severely interrupted by the misunderstanding of two parents who did not know what else to do to protect their younger daughter from their oldest daughter’s extraordinary powers. Rather than negotiating a middle ground, the parents, led by their fears, opted for an all-or-nothing strategy and isolated the siblings from each other.
Bettelheim (1976) argues that fairy tales are a safe vehicle through which children may learn how to cope with their environment. He champions the symbolic form as a tool in attempting to resolve early wounds. Siblings who may have been separated from each other as the result of divorce or family hardship may identify with the sisters’ separation. Anna grows up deeply wounded by the separation from her sister. Anna and Elsa are robbed of their childhood, including having the ability to play with each other. Each experienced the loss of their sister and also their playmate.
Viorst (1986) suggests that losses are necessary for growth. Audiences witness Anna’s growth and determination to reach out to her sister. Another theme that may be found in “Frozen” is the notion of frozen emotions and frozen defense responses in a futile attempt to survive a loss. For instance, Elsa chooses isolation and avoidance—unhealthy responses, most likely learned from her parents who decided that isolating Elsa from Anna was the best way to keep them safe. “Frozen” is about family dynamics which may be explored in the sand.
Sand Tray Activity for Girls:
- Offer the sandplayer the option to place miniature characters of the film “Frozen” in a sand tray
- Have the sandplayer create a scene using the miniatures
- Encourage the sandplayer to talk about her experience with a sister (if applicable), a female cousin, or a girl friend
- Ask the sandplayer if she can describe how Elsa must have felt because she had powers that rendered her different than others
- Depending on the sandplayer’s age and cognitive maturity, ask “What would you have done differently if you were Elsa or Elsa’s parents?”
- The sandplayer’s parents may be invited to also participate in the activity to explore their parenting strategies in different situations
Disney has given us not only the opportunity to celebrate sisterhood in the biological sense, but also to highlight a theme not commonly observed in Hollywood or in real life—two females helping each other. Instead of the expected rivalry, the end of the film takes us by surprise when we learn that Anna’s true love is the love she feels for her sister rather than romantic love. An alliance between Anna and Elsa is pivotal for creating the relationship they both long for and for thriving in a much healthier environment. Anna and Elsa bridged their differences and created a better world for themselves and for others around them. “Frozen” is about what we do (nurture) with what we inherit (nature).
Bettelheim, B. (1976). The Uses of Enchantment. New York, NY: Knopf.
Viorst, J. (1986). Necessary Losses. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.