Helping a child process and overcome fears can be a difficult task for a parent. After all, kids have big emotions and are often scared of things that adults have long learned to shrug off, like flushing the toilet or sleeping with the lights off. That's why a favorite character or television personality can act as an intermediary, helping kids understand their feelings are normal and giving parents a script to work with. Mister Rogers was one of those characters, and luckily, there is a collection of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood moments on being scared because the host of everyone's favorite show always knew exactly the right thing to say. With all of the children's television programming available today, Mister Rogers is still the best at talking to children in an honest and gentle manner about fears and other difficult topics.
In today's world, when many parents are upset about what they read in the news, kids may have a higher than usual sensitivity to scary news stories. They may feel afraid of phrases they overheard on the radio such as "nuclear missile" or "chemical weapons." Mister Rogers has an answer for that, as he does for dealing with death, feeling like an outcast, and other common predicaments kids face. My personal favorite is his song about being too big to go down the bathroom drain, which is a fear my toddler has grappled with.
1. Advice On Dealing With Scary News Stories
In this well-known clip, Mister Rogers shares the advice his mother gave him when he was a child who would get upset about bad news stories. Look for the people who are helping those who are hurt, he says. There are always helpers. Beyond this great piece of wisdom, Mister Rogers points out that negative stories are often the ones that make it into the news. This could be a good talking point with your child: the world isn't as scary as the news makes it seem. Let's brainstorm all the positive things we've seen or heard about in the past week.
2. Coping With Fears Around Death
In this heartwarming clip, Mister Rogers describes his feelings after his beloved childhood dog died, including his fear of burying her because he wanted to pretend she was still alive. It's a great video for a child (or adult) grappling with any kind of loss, from the death of a pet or the loss of a favorite object, the death of someone close to them.
3. Fear Of Being A Mistake
In this video, Daniel Tiger talks and sings about his fear of being a mistake or a fake because he isn't like others. This would be a good clip for kids who are afraid they won't make friends or fit in at school because they are different from peers they perceive to be better. Lady Elaine tells Daniel he is "just fine as you are."
4. Fear Of The Bathtub Drain
My 4-year-old has the fear that Mister Rogers addresses in this song, "You Can Never Go Down The Drain." You may be small, he says, but no one is small enough to go down the drain. Listen to the song enough times with your child so that the two of you can sing it together at bath time or when you need to flush the toilet, another common (and related) fear trigger for many kids.
5. However You Feel Is Fine
"Everyone has lots of ways of feeling and all those ways of feeling are fine. It's what we do with our feelings that matter," says Mister Rogers in the beginning of this clip on respecting whoever you are inside. While he doesn't address fear specifically, parents can use his message of honoring feelings to tell kids it's all right to be afraid and let's think of some things you can do with those feelings, like getting a hug from Mom.
6. Express Your Feelings Through Art
Mister Rogers talks about drawing a "very messy picture" once when he was sad, then transitions into talking about how you can express any feeling with art in different mediums. Artistically-minded kids might enjoy this tip, finding solace in drawing your fears or otherwise rendering them through art.
7. Mister Rogers Goes To The Hospital
In this longer clip, Mister Rogers explains the process of going to the hospital for a tonsillectomy, from start to finish. While some of the details, like an old landline, will be obsolete, it's still a reassuring look at a trip to the hospital for a child who is afraid of an upcoming operation or other medical procedure.
8. I'm OK; You're OK
This video features a fun elephant dance from Mister Rogers and a song about discovering he was OK just as he is. When it comes down to it, that pretty much sums up the theme running through much of Mister Rogers' work: I'm OK; you're OK. For a child dealing with strong feelings of fear and other emotions, this is always a helpful message.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.