A familiar face helped us deal with a tragedy-filled world in 1981. He still does.
Whatever happened in the news today, this will help.
There have been a lot of tragic, hard-to-understand things in the news lately.
It can feel like the world is falling apart around us, with barely any time to make sense of it all.
When you're a parent, you know there's another dimension to these hard-to-stomach news events. Not only do you have to cope with them, you have to find a way to explain it all to your children.
Senseless mayhem has always been going on. For a generation of kids and parents, there was an amazing resource available to help them out, and all you had to do was click on the television and his calm, welcoming demeanor would appear.
Mister Rogers (aka Fred Rogers) in his time on the air was a great source of caring guidance on how to process such unsettling topics. In an episode that first aired in 1981, he laid out some amazing, still-relevant tips for kids and adults facing bad news.
1. He wanted to make sure children had a supportive adult to help them feel strong enough for these conversations.
When possible, it's always best for a child to have the stabilizing presence of a trusted caretaker for the big stuff in life. By inviting his young viewers to find one before jumping into this conversation, he's making sure the children have a resource if they have more questions about this stuff.
“Please get a grown-up that you love to watch this program with you because we’re going to talk about some sad and scary things.”
2. He tried to help kids understand why people do such nasty things.
In the video below, you can notice how he avoids calling the people who do terrible things "bad" themselves. He discusses their behavior and their possible motivations. And he helps kids understand that there are other ways they can deal with their own feelings than to damage others.
"There are people in the world who are so sick or so angry that they sometimes hurt other people. And they’re usually the ones who end up in the news. Remember hearing about John Lennon being shot in New York, and President Reagan and his friends in Washington, and the Pope in Rome, and the young people being murdered in Atlanta and other places? Well the people who are doing these terrible things are making a lot of other people sad and angry. But when we get sad and angry, you and I, we know what to do with our feelings so we don’t have to hurt other people."
3. He checked in with some schoolkids to hear their thoughts and feelings, something that the kids at home could relate with.
During the segment, a girl told Rogers how she once reacted to news of a shooting. "When I heard about when that one man got shot in the head I ran upstairs to my bed and started praying for him, that he’d stay alive," she said.
Another girl mentioned that she thought some people are just trying to pay everybody back for the painful things in their lives.
4. Then he passes on his favorite advice that his mother gave him when he was a boy.
"When I was a boy and I would hear about something scary … I’d ask my parents or my grandparents about it, and they would usually tell me how they felt about it. In fact, my mother would try to find out who was helping the person who got hurt.
'Always look for the people who are helping,' she’d tell us. 'You’ll always find somebody who’s trying to help.'"
This quote has resurfaced in the past few years on social media, bringing great comfort to adults and young people when the news takes a turn for the worse.
If you have a few minutes, watching this can be comforting and nostalgic. You may even want to show it to the kids in your life!
So that's what we do in times like the ones we keep hearing about today, everyone. We look for the helpers. And if you can't find one, be one.