Fred Rogers was a regular and important part of my childhood and continues, well after his death, to continue to serve as an inspiration. Recently the Huffington Post re-ran a picture of "Mr. Rogers" with some advice his mother gave him on how to cope with tragedy. Many have found it helpful as they think about how to talk with their children about tragedy. Typical of his style, the advice is simple, practical, and clear:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.
I'll put the picture below, as well as embed a very brief video of Fred Roger's offering counsel to parents to pay attention to the fears and concerns of their children and promise to keep them safe when scary things happen.
The Fred Rogers Company has posted more advice and counsel related to parents helping their children. I'll share below several of their "helpful hints" as well as provide a link to the original page and larger article.
- Do your best to keep the television off, or at least limit how much your child sees of any news event.
- Try to keep yourself calm. Your presence can help your child feel more secure.
- Give your child extra comfort and physical affection, like hugs or snuggling up together with a favorite book. Physical comfort goes a long way towards providing inner security. That closeness can nourish you, too.
- Try to keep regular routines as normal as possible. Children and adults count on their familiar pattern of everyday life.
- Plan something that you and your child enjoy doing together, like taking a walk, going on a picnic, having some quiet time, or doing something silly. It can help to know there are simple things in life that can help us feel better, in good times and in bad.
- Even if children don't mention what they've seen or heard in the news, it can help to ask what they think has happened. If parents don't bring up the subject, children can be left with their misinterpretations. You may be really surprised at how much your child has heard from others.
- Focus attention on the helpers, like the police, firemen, doctors, nurses, paramedics, and volunteers. It's reassuring to know there are many caring people who are doing all they can to help others in this world.
- Let your child know if you're making a donation, going to a town meeting, writing a letter or e-mail of support, or taking some other action. It can help children to know that adults take many different active roles and that we don't give in to helplessness in times of worldwide crisis.