“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Mr. Rogers
Mr. Rogers and his absolute loveliness are forever entrenched in my soul. You can find a Mr. Rogers episode anywhere and his words of wisdom and comfort will always apply. The world is scary and we just want to look for the helpers. Except…we’re not looking for the helpers because it’s time to be the helper.
But how can we be the helpers when we’re still frightened and confused ourselves?
Don’t hide the world from them.
It’s our first instinct as guardians to shield our littles from all that’s ugly in the world. I know it’s mine. Tell me though; how is that helping them? Watching a 24/7 news channel is probably not the best way to let your 8 year old know about current events, but share with them what’s happening. Of course they’re going to be scared. Answer their questions. Be honest when you don’t know the answer, and then look it up together. Let’s all acknowledge that keeping our children in the bubble we love isn’t helping them. We just have to show them what’s happening: bad, good and all in between.
Admit you’re scared too.
Allowing our kids to see our own vulnerabilities is not a weakness: it’s human. How else are we supposed to be the safe haven they need…that we want to be? Honestly, this works so well in our house. My son knows he can can come to me with his fears and concerns and he will not be judged or mocked or spoken to in any way but with respect. It’s my time to be the helper. I let him know when I’m concerned or worried or even upset with what is going on in our lives (that includes our nation/world). I’m not ashamed to cry in frustration or anger at the state of the world in front of him. I was so angry and upset about yet another murder of a black man when George Floyd was killed. Those tears became a learning moment for both of us. Together, I went over our ugly history and that led to the talk of racism. Utilize your fears and frustrations: turn that into an opportunity to teach your children and shape the better society we all desperately need.
There comes a time when your child will realize you don’t have all the answers. Sure it sucks, but whatever. That’s life. There’s no shame in not knowing it all. Hell, the world is crazy and there’s too much going on to know what all is actually going on. Why not, once again, take that and turn it into a learning moment? I will freely admit when I don’t have all the answers to questions the boy asks. I mean, come on… he asks some pretty weird questions. Right now even more than ever, we are learning together. Documentaries and Google have become members of our household. We are reading and growing and learning. Figuring it out and learning together just reinforces your bond with your child and helps them to understand that the learning just really never ends. In addition to getting answers to whatever question they may ask, you’re showing them that you are dedication to being better yourself. We should all commit to always bettering ourselves.
Let the world be a work in progress.
Again, we shouldn’t give our children the delusion of a perfect world. Yes, of course I want my son to have as wonderful a childhood as possible. Home should be – and is – his safe place. But I do admit to him that sometimes issues we are facing as a society is flat out trash. Why the hell would I do this? Well, to make him want to do better. I let him know that while the world out there may be full of awful people, we can be better. By learning and using our gentle hearts and empathetic pain towards those under fire, we can make the world better. We can be the allies our friends and yes… strangers… need. By understanding why what is happening is happening and by understanding why there’s so much pain and anger, we can be a friend and fight with them.
I will be the helper.
In honoring Mr. Rogers’ legacy, I will be a helper. When children are looking for the helpers, they can look to me. I will be there when a child, my child looks to me and asks “why”. He will always know that he has a safe place with me. I will take his hand and walk him to a better place – even if we have to create that better place ourselves.
The world may currently be a disaster and seemingly full of awful and hateful people, but by being who our children need in their lives and learning together, they can realize that it’s okay. As full of hate as the world may be, it is even more full of love and caring people. And that love and care? It starts with you, my friends. Actually, no. It starts with us. It’s time to be the helper.