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Generational Trauma And Breaking The Cycle: Why Turning Red Is A Must-See For Parents Too
  • This article is spoiler-free!

    When the Turning Red trailer came out, my kids kept asking when we could watch it. That was months ago, when the Philippines was still doing the “are-we-open-or-are-we-closed?” dance.

    So when Turning Red finally hit the cinemas, our kids qualified to be vaccinated received their second dose, and there were no age restrictions to movement in the country, I heard a chorus of angels singing.

    We hit a trifecta. It was the perfect time to bring our kids back to the cinema experience.

    Little did I know that Disney Pixar’s Turning Red would be so pivotal for me, more than my kids. I’m still unsure how I got out of the cinema without crying.



    What it’s about (no spoilers)

    Turning Red is an animated movie about 13-year-old  Meilin “Mei” Lee, an obedient daughter trying to navigate through puberty, cultural expectations, and her newfound ability to turn into an oversized red panda any time she feels extreme emotion.


    The movie is set in Toronto, Canada in 2002 which flew past my kids’ heads but was an absolute delight for my husband and I who grew up in the same generation. The tamagotchis, boy bands,  and that infamous light blue deodorant stick were undeniable markers of our youth. 

    Mei could have been a kid from a lower batch in school.

    Utang na loob and Turning Red

    Filipino families know the burden Turning Red plays up in Mei’s life all too well. We create Tiktok content about it. Children are forever indebted to their parents because of how difficult (and expensive–we didn’t forget, mom) it is to raise a child.

    We easily joke na nakapag-uwi ka lang ng isang test na mababa ang grade, hahainan ka na ng mahabang listahan ng sakripisyo para lang makapag-aral, makakain, at makatulog ka ng maayos.

    And now that we’re parents too, we don’t frown at mama Ming Lee’s long sermons and guilt trip. It’s true (we’re looking at you, gas prices). But maybe we won’t be guilt-tripping our kids into obedience.

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    Hello, generational trauma

    And therein lies the magic that is Turning Red, especially for today’s parents. Articles and reviews have cropped up locally and internationally identifying a common theme: generational trauma.

    Encanto didn’t shy away from it. Turning Red visualizes it so powerfully too.


    Generational trauma is defined as trauma that extends from one generation to the next. “It can be silent, covert, and undefined, surfacing through nuances and inadvertently taught or implied throughout someone’s life from an early age onward,” says licensed clincal psychologist and parenting evaluator Melanie English, PhD, to Health.

    Turning Red’s generational trauma is a major plotline. And just like the tightly-knit Latino family of Encanto and the honor-driven Chinese Lees, the Juan and Juana deal Cruzes will say in this movie: #relate.

    How many times have we caught ourselves repeating the exact same behavior we hated as children and exhibited by the adults in our lives? 


    Or perhaps we’ve said, before our kids were born or they grow up to be toddlers: “Hindi ko ito gagawin sa anak ko, kasi ito ang ginawa sa akin,” yet we fail our own promises? 

    Call us ‘cycle breakers’

    One of the most striking scenes of Turning Red happens toward the end, once the movie’s conflict has been resolved. The generational trauma is addressed and a powerful visualization of breaking the cycle occurs.

    As a millennial parent, my mind flooded with all the parenting content I’d been consuming. How do we break the cycle of the parenting that raised us? The one that broke us before it built us up?

    Our kids could have easily identified as Mei, but honestly, she’s more like us. She is us.

    As parents, we’re willing to try a different path from the one our parents have tread. And it isn’t to say that how we were raised was entirely bad or ineffective. We merely recognize what recent studies in child development says, such as the downside of saving our kids from all hardships. Rather, we allow age-appropriate challenges.

    We parents have the influence–the responsibility–to break the cycle of generational trauma for our kids. Because as all parents know, no matter the generation, our kids are always worth the hard work.

    Catch Turning Red in cinemas.

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