The parent's view
In these challenging times, I am reminded of a quote by a celebrated American children’s television show host, Mister Fred Rogers:
“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.’”
(You can see Tom Hanks bring this wonderful man to life in the recently released film, ‘It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’).
In times like these, it can be easy to get bogged down in the bad news – the declining state of the economy, some people’s self-interested actions like hoarding toilet paper, and so on. When big, scary events happen in our world, we can understandably feel a lack of control, a lack of certainty and even a lack of hope. Sometimes, this can lead to us being reactive, to behaving in a way we might not otherwise behave when the seas of life are calmer. And sometimes, scary situations bring out the very best in us. Ultimately, it comes down to whether we allow ourselves to be driven by fear and anxiety or choose to be led by our values.
An important part of being led by our values during stressful, uncertain times is acknowledging any negative emotions we are experiencing and then managing these emotions as best we can. Talk to your children about the negative emotions they are feeling right now. Help them understand that negative emotions are an important part of everyday life and a normal response to scary things. Negative emotions give us clues about what is going on inside of us or around us. They motivate action and can instigate important change. But it is important that we are conscious of the next right step we want to take when we have those feelings. We might, automatically, feel angry that people are hoarding essential supplies, making it difficult for others to live with a sense of security. Anger rises up naturally for all of us at times – we don’t choose that emotion, but we can choose how we respond to it. We can notice the emotion, acknowledge it, connect to our values and then choose a response that is aligned to the type of person we want to be.
In order to be led by our values, we must know what those values are in the first place. As we spend a greater amount of time with our families while in isolation, we have a rare opportunity to reflect deeply together on some bigger questions in life:
Returning to the Mister Rogers quote, it speaks volumes to the household he grew up in – one in which hope, perspective, kindness and love were important values to his family. They saw the good in the world and in others, and were helpers themselves.
When you look back on this time as a family, what do you hope to remember? Will you look back in regret, wishing you hadn’t helped empty the grocery store shelves or become upset with the assistant when supplies had run out? Or will you be proud of the choices you made – splitting your pack of toilet paper with a stranger in the grocery store car park, giving groceries to a family affected by the economic downturn, or maybe checking in with your local aged care centre to see if any residents wanted to chat on the phone with a stranger? If we let our values lead our actions, we can all be helpers in ways that are true to who we are and who we want to be.
In this printable worksheet, you will find a guide to:
- Identifying your family values
- Being a helper when things are scary
We hope this worksheet will be valuable to you and your family during this time. If you would like to be inspired by the other helpers of the world, consider checking out ‘The Kindness Pandemic’ Facebook group.
Jennifer Hanson Peterson
Mum and Consultant at the Institute of Positive Education