Rediscovered Mr. Rogers Footage Helps Parents Talk To Kids About Violence

by Ashley Austrew
Originally Published: 

This 1981 Mr. Rogers clip has some profound things to say about violence.

You might have noticed there is some crazy stuff going on in the world. The Los Angeles Unified School District shut down this week over a terror threat, just a few weeks before that there was a mass shooting in San Bernardino, and right before that, there was another mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado. Go back even further and you have the terrorist attacks in Paris, the Oregon community college shooting — it’s been a very traumatic and difficult year.

Most of us have no clue how to process these horrific acts of violence, and we’re at an even bigger loss when it comes to explaining them to our kids. That’s why this recently resurfaced 1981 footage of Mr. Rogers is making such a splash.

It’s a video of Mr. Rogers that was filmed right after John Lennon was shot. In it, he talks about why people do bad things and how it’s okay to feel scared and even angry about it sometimes. He says, “There are people in the world who are so sick and so angry that they sometimes hurt other people.” Then, he talks to some kids about violent acts and explains that people committing violence can make us feel sad and angry, but it’s important that we “know what to do with our anger so we don’t have to hurt other people.”

It’s an important video because talking to children about this stuff is so, so difficult. My oldest is four years old, and I’m never sure what to tell her about things in the news, or if I should even bring it up. We don’t watch a lot of television, so she’s remarkably unaware of all the bad things that go on, but I also worry that I’m actually making her more vulnerable by trying to preserve her innocence. The bottom line is: on some level, kids need to know what’s going on and they need help processing the information.

Of course, Mr. Rogers doesn’t make it all doom and gloom. Contained in this video is also a hopeful message in the form of an abbreviated version of his famous “helpers” quote:

“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 say. You’ll always find somebody who is trying to help.”

The clip is only about three minutes long, but even just being provided with this brief jumping off point for conversation is helpful. Gun violence, terror, crime — these are all unfortunate parts of our parental reality. At least there’s the hope that if we can learn how to lean on one another and express our frustrations and our pain, we can prevent the next generation from being as lost and scared as we are.

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