Continuing the Conversation Blog

“Kissing Cousins:" What Mr. Rogers and Daniel Tiger Taught About Sexual Abuse Prevention Wednesday, February 5, 2020



Okay, I’ll admit it. I didn’t like Mr. Rogers growing up. His slow pace and simplistic style seemed silly to me and ripe for ridicule. In fact, my Jr. High friends and I made fun of him much like you would imagine emotionally insecure adolescents might do. Someone would don a sweater and ask with slow paced speech and a big cheesy grin, “Can you spell stupid? Wink. I bet you can.” 


I didn’t feel the slightest need to defend dear Fred. Perhaps it was because I never saw Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood as a preschooler, Fred Roger’s target audience. Our TV received only three channels, which didn’t include PBS. 


Okay, I’ll admit it. Obviously, my adolescent friends and I needed the lessons Mr. Rogers taught.


Yet, with two movies released within two years, Won’t You be My Neighbor (2018) and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019), I lined up with most of you to get a better understanding of this man who had spent his life devoted to the well-being of children. I wanted to learn from him alongside of you. I especially wanted to see if Fred Rogers gave any lessons connected to prevention.


I was enthralled with both movies. I cried at both. I was inspired by both. True confession, I came home after the latest movie, read several articles about it, watched a plethora of YouTube videos with or related to Fred Rogers, and even watched his memorial service. I’ll admit it. I have a crush. If Fred Rogers were still with us, I’m pretty sure my husband would be concerned. On more than one occasion, Ken has walked into my office, looked at my computer screen and with one eyebrow raised said, “Fred . . . again?”


“Yep, Fred,” I replied smiling. “I mean, Mr. Rogers.”


Recently, I confessed my fascination with all things Fred to a girlfriend, who is a few years younger than I. She grew up in a broken home in a dangerous section of Philadelphia. She’s a bit crusty with an edge of cynicism . . . just the way I like her. I thought she’d roll her eyes. Wrong. She leaned in close, her voice a dreamy whisper, “Oh, I wanted him to marry my mother,” she said. Apparently, her TV received the signal from her local PBS station and Mr. Rogers hit his target audience. She grew up to marry a man who loves her like I imagine Fred Rogers loved his wife and children. I’d like to think Mr. Rogers Neighborhood gave my friend a glimpse of the possible to a little girl lost in the shadows of a chaotic home and unpredictable neighborhood. 


As one who is passionate about the safety and well-being of children, specifically in the area of sexual abuse prevention, I must believe in the possible—that prevention is possible. So, as I read and combed through all things Fred, I searched for what Mr. Rogers might have said about children regarding hugs and kisses. I mean, wouldn’t it be great to have Fred Rogers’ endorsement for one of our prevention tips specifically related to body boundaries?


It didn’t take me long. I found my prize: Season 4, Episode 5 (#1555). Fred takes us on a field trip to the zoo to visit the penguins, which is delightful. He even got to pet the penguins. So jealous! But it is during the trip to “The Land of Make-believe” where my hero, Fred, shares a timeless message, via his puppets, regarding prevention without even mentioning sexual abuse.


Daniel Tiger is invited to a cousin’s reunion, but he’s afraid to go because he heard the phrase “kissing cousins” and he thinks cousins must kiss. Being the shy, introverted tiger that he is, he tells Lady Aberlin that he doesn’t want to kiss his cousins. Lady Aberlin assures him that although some cousins might show their love by kissing, not all do. She also assures him that he doesn’t have to kiss people if he doesn’t want to, that there are many ways to show people you love them, and she lists them. All is well that ends well in “The Land of Make-believe” and Daniel feels empowered to go to the reunion, his boundaries set.


But then, my man, Fred, doesn’t end there. Fresh back from “The Land of Make-believe,” before he removes his classic sweater and sneakers, he looks straight into the camera and hits a prevention homerun with this message to adults and kids alike:


When I meet a child, I usually wait until that child offers to kiss me, or hug me,

and that way, I know who it is who likes to kiss or hug.



Hmmm, waiting on the child to offer a kiss or a hug. Respecting a child’s boundaries. Not expecting or demanding or forcing physical affection from a child. Teaching a child how to be respectful without disrespecting themselves. All prevention strategies and good advice for those of us tempted to squeeze the stuffing out of our favorite adorable kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews.


Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m in love with Mr. Rogers!



Carolyn Byers Ruch is the founder of Rise and Shine Movement and author of the children’s books, Ana’s Song and Bobby Gilliam, Brave and Strong, both tools for the prevention of childhood sexual abuse. She has spent the past ten years championing the issue of childhood sexual abuse and has received training certificates from some of the leading organizations dedicated to protecting children. A former teacher and mother of seven, her life has been enriched through adoption and foster care.




Share This Blog:

Would your child keep a
secret from you?


Get our FREE video:
What If? Conversation Starters 
or never miss a post!



We're moms, just like you, who want to help parents protect their kids from childhood sexual abuse.

You may also like...

"If," a Poem for Prevention
Monday, November 15, 2021

She's Already Won the Gold
Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Talking to Our Kids about Sex and Sexual Abuse. It's More Than Just the Facts.
Monday, February 22, 2021

When Your Nothing Is Everything
Thursday, April 16, 2020

Children Know the World Is...
Wednesday, March 18, 2020

So, What About Sleepovers?
Wednesday, November 6, 2019

How to Teach Our Children about Sex While We Are Still Their Heroes
Wednesday, April 24, 2019

How to Protect Our Special Needs Children from Sexual Abuse
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What If My Child Won’t Talk to Me?
Saturday, June 23, 2018

THANK YOU for donating to Rise and Shine Movement's 5th Annual Stuffed Animal Drive
Thursday, May 24, 2018

One Essential Parenting Decision You Will Never Regret
Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Rise and Shine Movement's 5th Annual Stuffed Animal Drive
Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Processing the Larry Nassar Childhood Sexual Abuse Case
Thursday, January 25, 2018

Confident Parenting In A "Me, Too" World
Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Are You and Your Children Free To Be?
Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Three Questions Matt Lauer Should Ask His Children
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

When You Catch Your Child “Playing Doctor”
Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Blush-free Family Movie Nights
Friday, July 14, 2017

How You Can Build a Relationship with Your Son by Talking about Porn
Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Day an Innocent Search Turned Up an Image My Son Can’t Erase: 5 Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe
Thursday, April 20, 2017

How to Speak about Porn and Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Child
Thursday, April 13, 2017

How You Can Help Protect Your Son's Innocence By Talking About Pornography
Thursday, April 6, 2017

Will Your Son Know What To Do When Someone Shows Him Porn?
Friday, March 31, 2017

Do Your Children Love Our Stories?
Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Why It’s Good for Your Child to Hurt: A Lesson from a Sexual Abuse Survivor
Saturday, January 7, 2017

A New Website, A New Video -- Our gifts to you!
Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Two Fearless Questions to Ask Your Child After a Playdate
Thursday, June 23, 2016

4 Things Perpetrators Don't Want Fathers to Know
Monday, June 13, 2016

April Awareness Month Wrap Up
Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Tip Four for Protecting Your Kids from Sexual Abuse (April 2016 Sexual Abuse Awareness Campaign)
Monday, April 25, 2016

Tip Three for Protecting Your Kids from Sexual Abuse (April 2016 Sexual Abuse Awareness Campaign)
Monday, April 18, 2016

Tip Two for Protecting Your Kids from Sexual Abuse (April 2016 Sexual Abuse Awareness Campaign)
Monday, April 11, 2016

Tip One for Protecting Your Kids from Sexual Abuse (April 2016 Sexual Abuse Awareness Campaign)
Monday, April 4, 2016

2016 Stuffed Animal Drive Underway!
Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Winner Is (Our Bobby Gilliam Book Giveaway)
Monday, February 1, 2016

It's a Bobby Gilliam Book Giveaway!
Monday, January 25, 2016

Why Should I Talk To My Kids About Porn?
Friday, January 22, 2016

Prevention Strategies Around the Holidays
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Your Best Defense Against Childhood Sexual Abuse
Friday, September 18, 2015

Could Josh Duggar Be Your Son? Four Things You Need to Know
Friday, May 22, 2015

Measuring Success for CSA Awareness
Thursday, May 21, 2015

Is Your Child's Summer Camp Safe? Three Questions You Should Ask
Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What If Question Four
Monday, April 27, 2015

Bear Drive Huge Success in 2014
Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What If Question Three
Monday, April 20, 2015

What If Question Two
Monday, April 13, 2015

Protecting Our Kids from Sexual Abuse
Thursday, April 9, 2015

What If Question One
Monday, April 6, 2015

What If Conversation Starters
Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How Moms Can Make A Difference
Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Children Don't Tell Because They Protect
Thursday, October 16, 2014

Children Don't Tell Because They Trust
Thursday, October 2, 2014

Children Don't Tell Because They Love
Monday, September 29, 2014

When a Story and a Calling Converge
Thursday, September 25, 2014