There's no question that the late Fred Rogers was an incredibly calming, nurturing presence in the lives of countless children over a period of decades (and even in the lives of parents who relied on the TV personality for a daily distraction). But Mr. Rogers is an especially important role model for little kids who worry about all the scary, unfamiliar things in the big, wide, world: With his soft voice and kind face, he had a way of making everything seem okay. So what are the best Mr. Rogers Neighborhood moments for your anxious child?
Mr. Rogers would stop at nothing to make kids feel safe and secure. When a little blind girl who tuned into the show regularly wrote a letter to the host expressing her concern that his fish went hungry when he didn't mention feeding them, Mr. Rogers made a point of narrating mealtime for his fish on every episode after that, according to The Huffington Post reported. (Awww!)
As Good Housekeeping reported, Mr. Rogers was a child development specialist who understood that talking about feelings and getting fears out in the open is the healthiest way for kids to deal with them.
"Whatever is mentionable can be more manageable," he said.
Words to live by, like so many other quotes from Mr. Rogers. If your little one is feeling nervous or worried about growing up, let these clips work that Mr. Rogers magic.
1When He Reassured Kids About Not Going Down The Drain
Learning to use the potty is anxiety-inducing in a multitude of ways, and Mr. Rogers addressed all of those worries — particularly the very common concern that perhaps one might end up getting flushed down that potty. While crouching beside a toilet, Mr. Rogers pointed at the drain and explained that "no person could ever go down there." Phew!
2When He Taught Kids That What's On The Inside Matters Most
It's natural for kids to worry when they're not as tall as their friends or when they don't look the same as everybody else they know.
"There isn't a whole lot we can do about our outside sort of growing. Some of us grow tall and some of us grow short. Some of us have one color skin and some of us have another," Mr. Rogers said.
"That's all outside sort of stuff. But we all have insides, too. And our insides have a different way of growing... We can always try to remember that we're much more than one thing. We're much more than our arms or our legs or our eyes or our skin or our hair. We're even more than our thoughts. When you put us all together, we're a beautiful, marvelous, spirited, lovely, wonderful one of a kind."
3When He Showed Kids That The Hospital Isn't So Scary
In "Mr. Rogers Gets A Tonsillectomy," kids got a sneak peek into a super common (but still potentially terrifying) experience: Going to the hospital to get your tonsils out. Interestingly, as Mental Floss reported, this episode was directed by the late horror movie master George Romero — it was even his first paying gig!
“He was a beautiful guy," Romero said of Rogers.
"He was the sweetest man I ever knew. What you see is what you get. That was Fred. He was dedicated to educating kids and telling them ‘There’s nothing wrong with you. I like you just the way you are.’”
4When He Told Kids That It's Okay To Show Love In Different Ways
Some kids aren't as comfortable talking about their feelings as others. Mr. Rogers made sure that these children understood there were other ways to express affection when he told them:
"There are many ways to say I love you. There are many ways to say I care," he said (listing such examples as cleaning up and drawing pictures).
"As you grow, I trust that you are finding many more ways to show and tell people that you love them," he said. "Those are the most important things that you'll ever learn to do. Because loving people and animals and the world we live in is the most important part of being alive."
5When He Gave Kids Permission To Feel Angry
Sometimes it's scary to feel angry or upset, but Mr. Rogers let kids know that these feelings are normal — and there are ways to get them out.
"I found that if I played the piano when I was angry, [my parents] didn't mind that," he said. "And then little by little, I'd see the music would be sounding less and less angry. So it seemed the more I played, the more anger got out of me, and I felt better about everything."
6When He Told Kids That Winning Isn't Everything
The emphasis in our society on winning and always being the best can be way too much pressure for anxious kids. That's why it was so huge when Mr. Rogers came out with the following truth:
"Being the best loser takes talent, just as being the best winner does."
"Whether you're first or middle or last, what's important is that you're you. And people can like you just the way you are."
7When He Opened Up To Kids About Grieving
Even kids who aren't anxious in general have a hard time dealing with death. At a time when grown-ups still tended to shelter kids from tragedy, Mr. Rogers tackled the topic head on... in the most gentle, comforting way imaginable, with a story about his childhood dog.
"I was very sad when she died because she and I were good pals. And when she died, I cried, and when my grandmother heard me cry, she came and put her arms around me because she knew I was sad. She knew how much I loved that dog."
"If you ever have a pet that dies or you're sad about something that you've lost, it helps to say that you're sad," he said later in the episode.
"Often it even helps to cry. Let people know how you feel."
(Wise words for sad adults, too.)