“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for our children (and for each other) is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” – Fred Rogers –
One of the things Fred Rogers was teaching us, was that children are aware of much more than we may realize. This includes not only the conversations others have but even more so the moods they can sense.
He went on to explain that when the world feels uncertain and when the news are scary, the way to help children is by helping them know that they are safe.
Fred Rogers assumed that sometimes they will not be able to make sense of the news, that is that they need to learn to do that through someone they can trust. Meaningful and intentional conversations being the best means to do so.
Another point he made was that children need to know that you are always open to their questions. But also to what they know and understand. By engaging in an open and curious conversation with them, he described how the real question could come up. Not the one you thought they would have.
He wanted them to be able to name their feelings with others. The sheer fact to be able to name them meant that they could be felt. But he saw beyond as anything mentionable can become manageable. It’s the unsaid and unheard that can’t be dealt with.
Rogers never assumed that anyone needs to have an answer to everything. He knew that this isn’t possible. He also knew that sometimes that’s due to being overwhelmed, being unsure what to say, or simply being struggling with a situation. But that didn’t matter to him, because being present and listening with ears and heart is enough. And often the only thing that is needed in that moment.
These last few days reminded me of how it feels to be a child who doesn’t understand. Who senses the mood but can’t put an explanation to it. Who finds that the situation is scary.
I did have to let me feel it though. Because as an adult I’m supposed to know, I’m supposed to be able to read the mood, I’m supposed to make sense of things. Isn’t it?
The world we are in has changed. In the desire for quick and fast information, we’ve reduced the percentage of trusted information available. Assuming that expressing oneself should be possible everywhere established a high number of conversations that have little to do with meaningful.
The slowness of well researched and written newspaper articles and even more so the conversations these foster has been a relief these last days. They’ve helped me develop a new language. It’s the same children need. Someone they can trust and who helps them make sense of the situation as they experience it.