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After Trauma, Maintaining Normalcy For Children


It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. Fred Rogers, better known as Mr. Rogers, was often asked by parents how to explain death to children. And so on his program one day, he decided to try and deal with that challenge. And here's how he started:

FRED ROGERS: When I was very young, I had a dog that I loved very much. Her name was Mitzi. And she got to be old, and she died. I was very sad when she died, because she and I were good pals. And when she died, I cried.

RAZ: Fred Rogers wrote a book about parenting. And in that book, he addressed grief. He had a singular way of communicating that idea directly to children.


ROGERS: (Singing) Sometimes people get sad, and they really do feel bad. But the very same people who are sad sometimes are the very same people who are glad sometimes.

RAZ: Last night, we read a blog post by LeVar Burton. He's the man behind "Reading Rainbow" and someone profoundly influenced by Fred Rogers. And in that blog post, he offered parents some advice.

LEVAR BURTON: Kids have an amazingly accurate radar for being aware of what's going on around them, even when the adults in their lives are pretending like nothing is happening. And so my experience is that you really are best served by being age-appropriately candid with children, especially when it comes to dealing with their fears. These events terrorize all of us - adults as well as children. And I can certainly remember from my childhood the way my imagination used to fill in the blanks, absent any concrete information from the adults in my world.

And so my advice to parents is always to let our kids know that whatever you're experiencing, it's OK - A - that B, we have to let them know that the person who's responsible for this is no longer a threat to anyone. You have to let them know that they're safe, and then you have to get back to your regular routine in life, especially during these times. We all crave structure. We all crave the safety.

In a world that seems completely and unbelievably unsafe, we will find comfort and safety in those routines that remind us that, you know, life is normal. We have to find a new normal, and we have to find a way to get through it every day. And getting through it with each other and supporting and loving one another is really what it's about.


RAZ: That's LeVar Burton. He's the executive producer and host of "Reading Rainbow," which ran on PBS stations from 1983 to 2009. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.