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.
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...
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
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