“Look for the Helpers”

04.16.2013, 12:43 PM

mister rogers helpers quote


In the wake of yesterday’s tragedy in Boston, Huffington Post Parents ran this article, which they had previously run following the Newtown School shootings, quoting the incomparable Fred Rogers on how best to engage children when horrific events unfold in the news.  Aside from the quote above, which I think is wonderful, the advise he gives is very sensible – limit a child’s exposure to television, internet, and radio news, model calm behavior in front of children, and go out of your way to affirm your love and care towards your child as they process the traumatic event.  The included link to his website leads to further advise for parents.

A good deal of research has taken place in the U.S. in the years following 9-11 about the psychological implications of large-scale natural and man-made disasters.  Parts of these studies have focused on the resilience of young people, and the factors that contribute in helping them process traumatic events.  A 2004 NYU Medical Center newsletter highlights the important link between children and the adults in their lives when it comes to positive outcomes:

In a study of post-traumatic stress in Israeli preschool children 30 months after SCUD attacks, the psychological well being of mothers and other family members was the best predictor of the child’s mental health.11  When families and mothers ‘did well,’ so did their children. Conversely, families and mothers who showed negative post traumatic reactions to the attacks had children who showed similar negative outcomes.

I highly recommend checking out both articles, as they are great resources for parents, teachers, and those who interact with Children regularly.

6 Responses to ““Look for the Helpers””

  1. Diane M says:

    Thank you.

    The article on resilience is a good reminder of the importance of taking care of yourself so your children will do well and the importance of community in supporting children.

    A thought on resilience and recovery – it can work so differently in different children/young adults. Some people will go down to the depths and feel it all and talk about it and then go on. Others can’t handle it and will hold it at arm’s length to deal with later.

  2. [...] yes – and what Mister Rogers said. Related [...]

  3. Matthew Kaal says:


    I think you are right to recognize differences in reactions from individual to individual. I thought the video in the link did a good job of pointing out that a parent should listen to how their children are reacting to an event, and tailor their response accordingly.

  4. Diane M says:

    Yes, Mr. Rogers is great.

    I followed advice not to keep the TV on after 9/11 and I think it helped me, too, not just the kids.

  5. Matthew Kaal says:

    My parents treated different major tragedies differently as my siblings and I matured. I remember being allowed to stay up late to watch the news coverage of the ’94 Northridge quake, and checking out books on earthquakes from the library to learn more about earthquakes, likewise with volcanoes (St. Helens was still looming large in popular imagination then) and hurricanes (Andrew was the storm everyone talked about), but my parents made sure we didn’t watch coverage of the Oklahoma City Bombing (instead talking with us about it). We lived in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics, so hearing about that bombing was inevitable, and we visited the site in Centennial Park to pay our respects about a week after it happened.

    We were all teenagers when 9-11 happened, and the TV stayed on. For me personally, the access to images and information, the witnessing, was important and helped me process what was happening. I think my mom, in the moment, recognized this and made a decision, which was the right one for our family. It was frightening and traumatic, but the uncertainty of not having information would have been much worse.

  6. Diane M says:

    @Matthew Kaal – “We were all teenagers when 9-11 happened, and the TV stayed on. For me personally, the access to images and information, the witnessing, was important and helped me process what was happening.”

    I think that is generally the right approach with teenagers. They are old enough to process the information and too old to be insulated from what has happened.

    Of course, it all varies by the person. Some people do better with more information and some don’t.