Mr. Rogers and His Ten Steps for Helping Children Navigate Through TragedyEva Glettner
The Boston bombing has left all of us in a state of shock. As a parent, I hate having to explain to my children that evil exists and it’s completely nonsensical. With this particular tragedy, I am treading very lightly and need all of the help that I can get. I turn to Mr. Fred Rogers and hopefully his wisdom and knowledge will help you navigate these treacherous waters as well.
1. Remember that children can read your facial emotions without you uttering a single word.
Mr. Rogers says “Children sense when their parents are really worried, whether they’re watching the news or talking about it with others. No matter what children know about a “crisis,” it’s especially scary for them to realize that their parents are scared.” I admit that I’m scared, but I’m going to remember that my kids really need me to be strong. I owe it to them.
2. Don’t watch the news in front of your children.
You won’t believe how many people forget this rule when they get caught up in their emotions.”When there’s tragic news, the images on TV are often much too graphic and disturbing for young children.” I know that I have a hard time digesting the evening news and for that reason alone, I’ve stopped watching it. Be cognizant of how the news makes you react. I guarantee you that pre-bedtime anxiety will not serve anyone well.
3. Remind children that your job is to keep them safe.
The world that we live in is a scary, scary place. Children are entirely dependent on us for their well-being and comfort. Mr. Rogers says “They (children) need to hear very clearly that their parents are doing all they can to take care of them and to keep them safe.” Try to verbalize it daily.
4. Remind your children that there are lots of people in this world that work to protect us. They are the helpers.
Point out police officers, paramedics, fire fighters, and other grownups making a difference. This is a reassuring concept for both children and adults.
5. Cut our kids some slack.
After hearing about a tragedy of any sort, our children may have some behavior regression. This is all normal. Things like whining and separation anxiety are to be expected. Mr. Rogers says “Little by little, as we adults around them become more confident, hopeful and secure, our children probably will too.”
Mr. Rogers says that “physical comfort goes a long way towards providing inner security. That closeness can nourish you, too.” Sometimes, the best thing that we can offer our children is a warm hug. It may not seem like much, but it is powerful.
7. Don’t Practice Avoidance
If you haven’t heard your child speak about the tragedy, don’t assume that they don’t know about it. They usually know more than we think, and this information is distributed third and fourth hand. “If parents don’t bring up the subject, children can be left with their own misinterpretations. You may be surprised at how much your child has heard from others.”
“Try to keep yourself calm. Your presence can help your child feel more secure.”
9. Be proactive
If you donate blood, make a donation, or write an email to a congressman, involve your children. “It can hep children to know that adults take many different active roles, and that we don’t give in to helplessness in times of worldwide crisis.”
10. Don’t Forget To Be Silly
Take your child to the park or out for ice cream. “It can help to know there are simple things in life that can help us feel better, both in good times and in bad.” It’s a helpful reminder for adults, too. Take a deep breath and remember that our children need us to show them that everything is going to be okay, even when it feels like it won’t.
*All of Mr. Rogers’ parenting gems are from The Mister Rogers Parenting Resource Book. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.