When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me. “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.
Fortunately, for most of us the world is not so full of disaster. Your child is unlikely to experience much of it except on TV, and frankly I don’t think that’s such a bad place to get some initial exposure as long as you’re there with them. It doesn’t have to be television: passing the scene of a traffic accident or witnessing the business end of a fire department call to a neighbor’s house would serve just as well. Viewing disaster at a distance gives parents an opportunity to calmly lay down a little philosophical groundwork to prepare for when tragedy strikes closer to home.
Brilliantly, Mister Roger’s mom came up with looking for the helpers. It was a simple observation that comforted him throughout his life.
When children from the Woodland Park community experience frightening events such as accidents, emergency illnesses, or a death in the family, parents usually prepare me with a little back story and an assessment of how their child is handling it. More often than not, the child is clearly eager to get back to the normalcy of school, but I always take a quiet moment during the day to broach the subject with the child. Sometimes they let me know, in their own ways, that they’re not ready to talk about it. But more often than not they do talk, and in what they say I always hear their parents’ voices putting things in perspective.
It might not always seem like it, but they’re listening.