I didn’t have a TV growing up but when I would go visit my Grandma and Grandpa for the summers as a kid I would always watch Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. He was riveting to 6-year-old TV-less me. Now that I am older and have worked with kids for over 20 years I know why. He understood childlikeness. He understood the hopes and fears of kids and he understood how we in many ways never grow past those hopes and fears we just learn how to ignore or indulge them. We have lost the art of civility in our country and have lost our ability and capacity for wonder. It is something that as a nation we need to fight for. We need to face our fears and regain the hope that cynicism has destroyed.
Our kids are growing up seeing more painful things on TV and social media than many in previous generations never experienced in a lifetime. How as parents do we shield our kids without being overprotective? How do we talk to them about the scary things they have seen or experienced?
Mr. Rogers gives us the following advice that is so typically Rogers: that is both pithy and profound.
- Ask your kids how much they know about the situation they are asking about. We find that their fantasies are very different from the actual truth. (Address their fears and give them hope.)
- What children need to hear most is that they can talk to us about anything. (We need to listen more than give quick answers or false assurances.)
- We will do all that we can to keep them safe in any scary time.
Kids need our presence and our promise to do all we can to protect them more than the need perfect answers to impossible questions. Don’t avoid hard conversations or difficult questions show up and give kids your full attention and then assure them that you will protect them as much as you can in every situation and God will be with them in every situation and perfectly protect them. Kids like us need assurance far more than they need pat answers.