There are so many life lessons that are taught in the popular movie franchise Star Wars and these give us powerful lessons on helping children become emotionally intelligence Jedi’s. These movies can inspire and motivate us to become better people for our societies. We can use the special influence of the Star Wars films to teach kids to harness their emotional strengths, become one with The Force, and carry on the legacy of the Jedi Order. These mirror our everyday phrases of choosing between a thumbs down choice and a thumbs up choice of behaving.
At Kids College we teach our little Jedi’s the power of mindfulness and meditation. How to feel the force of all of our emotions as we are connected as a society. How to be emotionally intuitive to the people around us by sensing disturbances in the force. We teach Jedi mind tricks to be emotionally aware of others and help them in meaningful ways. Our Jedi’s can also learn that we are all privy to the whole spectrum of emotions and how to face our dark sides.
On this quest toward training the next generation of Jedi, may the Force be with all of us.
What is a Jedi
Jedi are the hero of the story as a member of the mystical knightly order in the Star Wars films, trained to guard peace and justice in the Universe. The Jedi is a concept that’s become synonymous with goodness or the heroic, and is ubiquitous in Star Wars.
In the Star Wars universe, every Padawan has to go through the Jedi Trials before becoming a Jedi and a full member of the Jedi Order. After years of training under a Jedi Master, Padawans (young student learner) deemed ready by their teachers face trials to test their skills and, if they succeed, they are knighted.
Sometimes, performing extraordinary feat or demonstrating incredible courage can earn a Padawan the title of Jedi Knight. It is not just boys who are jedi, Rey is a girl who starts off a scavenger and becomes a Jedi hero
What is the Force
In the Star Wars’ movies, it becomes clear very quickly that the Force is an awesome power that everyone wants. But what exactly is the Force?
The Force is the power we get from any emotion whether it comes from the light side or the dark side. From love, joy, and surprise to anger, sadness, and worry, nothing is “good” or “bad.” These emotions are only messengers, and all are part of the Force.
Very plainly, The Force = The Power of Emotions.
The Jedi’s intensive discipline and training allow them to wield the force, an energy field made up of all living things that connect the galaxy. Jedi never use the force for attack, but knowledge and defence.
The lightsaber is the weapon of a Jedi, an elegant weapon of a more civilized age. It can be used to cut through blast doors or enemies alike. Using the Force, a Jedi can predict and deflect incoming blaster bolts, and reflect them. Generally speaking, red lightsabers are typically used by Sith or Dark Side users, while blue lightsabers are often wielded by Jedi or Light Side users.
The story of the original trilogy focuses on Luke Skywalker’s quest to become a Jedi, his struggle with the evil Imperial agent Darth Vader, and the struggle of the Rebel Alliance to free the galaxy from the clutches of the Galactic Empire. just like any other great film, much of the success of the Star Wars franchise is due to its story. On the surface, the Star Wars story premise is that of the classic conflict of good versus evil.
One of the best things about Star Wars is that there are so many ways to enjoy it beyond the films. Imaginative and engaging stories that expand the universe can be found in the comics, the LEGO cartoons, animated series like Clone Wars and Rebels, and even as a set of Little Golden books for early readers.
It’s a big, fun universe out there, so let your kids take their time and pick their own path.
Your padawan is ready to begin with the basics; nothing too scary.
Five lessons on mental health that Star Wars taught us
The tools and philosophies of the Jedi (and the Sith, as well) can be explained and practiced in ways that can help children battle anxiety, negative thoughts, perfectionism, anger, fear, loneliness, and so many other emotional enemies.
Movies help shape us. They can inspire and motivate us, and our kids, as well. So many of us have been especially touched by Star Wars, and one of the reasons is that we already feel drawn to the power of the Force.
We feel the allure of the personal peace and emotional balance it offers. Your kids feel it, too.
What follows are five Jedi powers we can all possess, and that we can give our children.
We can use the special influence of the Star Wars films to teach kids to harness their emotional strengths, become one with The Force, and carry on the legacy of the Jedi Order.
The five Jedi Powers
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Feeling the force
- Sensing disturbances in the force
- Jedi mind tricks
- Facing the dark side
“All his life he looked away. To the future. To the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. What he was doing.” -Yoda
Anxiety can be especially confusing for kids, and one of the hardest things for parents to help their kids overcome. Anxiety is a fear response brought by our thoughts. It hijacks our memories, using our past experiences to make us feel afraid of things that are behind us.
It uses our ability to anticipate future events, colours those events in negative ways, and makes us afraid of things that may never happen. More often than not, anxiety does not take place in the present, which is why a Jedi works so hard to live in the now. They strive to be mindful.
1 – Mindfulness and Meditation
One of the Jedi tools for overcoming anxiety and achieving mindfulness is meditation. In A Phantom Menace, notice how Qui-Gon takes a break from battling Darth Maul so that he can meditate and calm his anxiety and fear. Rey does the same when she and Kylo Ren lock sabers at the end of The Force Awakens. In the pilot episode of The Clone Wars, an army of battle droids finds Yoda meditating in a canyon. And in The Empire Strikes Back, we learn that even Darth Vader meditates (the big black pod he sits in is called the Meditation Chamber)
When you watch the films with your kids, make note of those meditation moments and talk through them. Describe how the Jedi are focusing on their breathing and getting in touch with their true emotions.
Once your child buys into the idea of meditation as a Jedi power, you might discuss with them these other ways to be more mindful.
Anxiety activates the sympathetic nervous system, and as such, feelings of worry are often felt in such places as the stomach, chest, and throat. Breathing with visualization can calm the nervous system and begin to kick a child’s logical brain back into gear.
Try this: Obi-Wan instructs Luke to close his eyes and, “Stretch out with your feelings”; Yoda says, “Allow the force to flow through you.” When your son or daughter worries, have them close their eyes and ask them where they are feeling the worry or the Force flowing inside of their body.
Now, ask your children to breathe into the place in their body where they feel the Force. While they take a deep breath, ask them to imagine what the Force actually looks like. What color is it? What consistency is it? Maybe it looks like a dark cloud. Once they have the visual, ask them to breathe the Force out. To support your child during this process, you can use phrases like, “I am here, and you are completely safe, my young Jedi. This feeling will pass.”
2 – Feeling the Force
“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” -Obi Wan Kenobi
The Force is similar to the concept of common humanity, which is the idea that all humans are part of a collective experience. We are bound together by our flaws, by the highs and lows of life, by our wide range of emotions. We are connected by our joys and pains. In those ways, we are never alone.
Our experience is not just tied to other humans, but all living things. Trees give us air to breathe. Plants and animals give us sustenance. And we, if only as a byproduct of our life cycles, help nurture other living things. We all share a living energy. We’re all bound together as part of a living network, a “symbiotic circle,” as Obi Wan explained to the Gungans.
What does that mean for our kids? According to Dr. Kristin Neff, common humanity is one of the key components of self-compassion. Do you have a child prone to negative self-talk? Does he or she have unhealthy perfectionist habits? Understanding that people, as a whole, are not perfect, and that we are all a part of that imperfect human experience, might help relieve some of that self-inflicted pressure.
Furthermore, Dr. Kelly McGonigal explains that when people feel alone with their stress, when they internalize it and don’t see it as part of the collective human experience, they are less likely to seek support, and more likely to become depressed and engage in avoidance tactics.
Jedi’s are part of a network conversations
When watching the films, pay attention to how Jedi can sense each other’s presence, even when they are not close; they are aware of the common abilities that that connect them. Find examples of how the Jedi, too, are flawed, imperfect, and how they support each other and depend on each other when they make mistakes. They, too, are a network.
When your child is emotional, show them that you understand their pain and explain that you’ve felt the same way. When kids learn how the Force binds them to others, they may feel less pressure to be perfect, less alone with their emotions, and more at one with humanity.
3 – Sensing Disturbances in the Force
“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” -Obi Wan Kenobi
“I sense great fear in you, Skywalker. You have hate. You have anger.” -Count Dooku
A Jedi can sense emotion in others. They know when their friends are hurting. When Luke is training with Yoda on Dagobah, he loses all his focus when he suddenly senses the emotions of his friends, Han and Leia. “They were in pain,” he tells Yoda. Point out to your kids how recognizing feelings and emotions in others makes a Jedi more responsive, better able to help.
And what is understanding the emotions of others if not empathy?
There are lots of reasons to value empathy. A child who possess empathy is more grateful, more compassionate, more polite, is a better listener, and is more generous. Amy McCready suggests in her book The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic, empathy can be taught, or, at the very least, “nurtured.” And being in possession of a Jedi power might just be the motivation a child needs to be more sensitive to what others are feeling.
Jedi empathy training games
There are games we can play with our kids to help them develop a stronger sense of empathy. Next time you’re out shopping or stuck in a waiting room, have them try to quietly guess what strangers are thinking or feeling. Are they in a good mood or a bad mood? Are they feeling rushed or are the patient?
4 – Jedi Mind Tricks
“The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.” -Obi Wan Kenobi
The notion that the Force only influences the weak-minded is an unfortunate characterization of a Jedi’s persuasive powers. Nonetheless, a Jedi can use his or her Force abilities to have a quiet influence, to make people believe things, or say things, they otherwise wouldn’t. Jedi do it by understanding the minds of others, seeing people’s (or aliens’) thoughts, and asserting their quiet, subtle powers.
Susan Cain, in her book Quiet, explores the myth that leaders need to be loud and charismatic to be effective. In contrast, she, and the research she cites, suggests that the most effective leaders are often the quietest. They are introverts. They spend most of their time listening and thinking, gathering information about those they are leading, and making thoughtful, respectful decisions based on their findings. It’s a quiet influence. Studies found that people were much more likely to follow to a leader when they thought their own voice was being heard: introverts are most likely to do that. There is real potential for the quiet and the thoughtful to affect the minds of others.
Talking about Jedi mind tricks
You can also make other people’s perspectives and emotions a regular dinner table topic. “Who did you notice was happy at school today? Why was that?” “Who did you notice was sad at school? Is there anything we can do to help?” Just make sure they don’t feel they always need to be heroes and fix people’s problems. Often a Jedi’s greatest power is simply knowing, understanding, and giving people the right amount of space.
5 – Facing the Dark Side
“That place … is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go.” -Yoda
“Be mindful of your feelings.” -Mace Windu
“How will I know the good side from the bad?”
“You will know when you are calm. At peace. Passive.” -Luke Skywalker & Yoda
Yoda instructs his pupils that anger, fear, and aggression are the dark side of the force. But he does not say to run from them. Instead, a Jedi is to face those emotions, not in order to fight them (a Jedi does not seek conflict), nor embrace them (Vader embraced his anger and never let go) but only to understand them. A Jedi spends time with with all emotions, listens to them, learns from them, and is always mindful of what he or she is feeling. They lean in.
It’s often said that suffering = pain x resistance. Pain, as we discussed, is a part of our common humanity. It’s a part of life. Suffering only happens as a result of battling pain. The same might be said of anger. Or fear. Or anxiety. Denying, avoiding, or fighting those emotions will only make a young Jedi hurt more. And THAT is the path to the dark side. Yoda tells us, “Named your fear must be before banish it, you can.” A Jedi doesn’t fight, nor run from emotions. They get to know them.
At the end of Return of the Jedi, watch how Luke handles his emotions while fighting Darth Vader. Luke is afraid. He is angry. But he doesn’t run away. At certain moments during the lightsaber duel, you can see how those emotions influence him. Point out those moments to your child. See how the messages Luke receives from his fear and anger influence his decisions? Still, he rarely loses composure. He stops and reflects on what he is feeling, and he stays mindful. In the end, the most dominant emotion is his compassion for his father.
If your child feels anxious, the way around the discomfort is straight through it. We must teach our children not to deny, avoid, or squash parts of their emotional experience. Long-term avoidance of emotions can actually spark and perpetuate depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. When we choose not to face our worry, we are left much like Darth Vader, enslaved by our pain.
The alternative to avoidance is acknowledgement. I understand helping your child acknowledge his or her anxious feelings instead of shutting them down is not an easy choice. Sometimes it’s easier to just say, “Don’t worry so much. Please trust me, it’ll be fine.”
As a parent myself, I completely understand this path. Sometimes we don’t have the emotional bandwidth to support a child’s chronic worry, especially when it seems our love and reassurance are not having a positive effect. Anxious emotions are often big emotions that can be uncomfortable for the entire family.
All that said, when you parent an anxious child, you seek one thing above almost anything else for your child: inner peace. Toward this goal, acknowledgement is the stepping stone.
Wave hello to worry
Next time your children worry, tell them they are Jedi Knight and Jedis acknowledge the Force (an emotion) when they feel it. They can wave hello to their worry and say, “Hey, worry. I see you’re back. I’m a Jedi. I understand you’re trying to tell me something.”
Let’s teach kids their worry is trying to send them a message, but the message is encoded. As a Jedi, the way to get to the secret message is to be mindful when we feel worried. This means understanding worry has a purpose, acknowledging it, leaning into it, and then making a logical decision on how to proceed.
Jedi James visits
We had a special visitor come to see us in the Imagineers room; Jedi James flew his star cruiser into Kids College to work with the Schoolies and Kindies on some Lightsaber training.
Jedi training emphasises the importance of self-discovery and self-awareness. By learning to use their lightsabers with control and precision, children can develop a sense of pride and mastery that contributes to their sense of identity. It also emphasises the importance of responsibility and service to others. By learning to use their lightsabers to protect and defend others, children can develop a sense of connectedness to their community and a desire to contribute positively to their world.
Jedi James emphasised the importance of physical and emotional health with his training encouraging the children use their bodies and minds in a disciplined and focused way, our Imagineers developed a sense of wellbeing that contributes to their overall health and happiness. We focussed on learning the importance of persistence and determination. By beginning the workshop with pool noodles before escalating to plastic version, red version and finally a wooden sword the children were instructed and modelled to use their lightsabers with skill and precision, children can develop a sense of confidence and a desire to engage actively in their learning experiences.
In addition to connecting to the EYLF outcomes, Jedi training and lightsabre combat can provide a range of other benefits for children’s development. These include:
- Developing physical coordination and gross motor skills
- Building strength and endurance
- Fostering creativity and imagination
- Enhancing problem-solving skills and strategic thinking
- Promoting teamwork and collaboration
- Providing opportunities for social-emotional learning and self-regulation
As you can see, Jedi training and lightsabre combat can be powerful tools for supporting children’s learning and development. By connecting these themes to the EYLF outcomes, we can help children make meaningful connections to their learning experiences and develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in all areas of their lives.
National Quality Standards
4.2.2 Professional standards. Professional standards guide practice, interactions and relationships
5.1.1.Positive educator to child interactions. Responsive and meaningful interactions build trusting relationships which engage and support each child to feel secure, confident and included.
5.2.2 Each child is supported to regulate their own behaviour, respond appropriately to the behaviour of others and communicate effectively to resolve conflicts.
Kids College Philosophy quote
‘We aim to support children’s overall sense of wellbeing and increase their emotional intelligence through the love and dedication each of their own unique learning journeys.’
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