New York, NY- For four decades Sesame Street has been instrumental in helping inform children about their world, offering lesson on practical things like math and English and even tackling subjects like diversity, tolerance. But until now they have shied away from tackling the subject of divorce and the pain it causes for children.
If you are an American child it is likely that you grew up watching Sesame Street. A large majority of children eagerly anticipated the time when they got to watch their beloved puppets. Though Big Bird, Oscar and Elmo are teaching it just seems like fun.
Sesame Street has successfully interspersed rudimentary lessons with lessons about culture, gender, race and even death in the attempt to help children understand the world outside their homes. But in decades of broadcast they had not presented the subject of divorce to their young viewers.
In 1992, when the divorce rate reached over 40 percent, Sesame Street Workshop produced a well-researched segment about divorce with Mr. Snuffleupagus, Snuffy.
After months of speaking with psychologists, researchers and experts in the field of divorce, Sesame Street filmed their segment on divorce, but it was just too sad. When they tested it, children were worried were Snuffy was going to live, they worried his parents no longer loved him. This sent the children in a tailspin and they then thought their parents were going to get a divorce. It was in short a disaster, and the segment was shelved. Since that time Sesame Street had left the subject alone, until now.
In the 20 years since Sesame Street first tried to tackle the subject of divorce, the divorce rate has risen to 50 percent, so they could no longer ignore the impact it has on children.
Sesame Street Workshop, the non-profit responsible for the show, announced Tuesday they were launching a new initiative, “Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce” to help children cope with their changing family life, The Huffington Post reported.
Part of the initiative includes a filmed segment where Abby, the aspiring fairy, must explain to her friends Elmo and Rosita that she has two homes, one where she lives with her mommy, and one where she lives with her daddy. Sometimes things don’t work out, Gordon explains, even though parents try and try.
The video won’t air on the show, but it is available online as part of their divorce toolkit, which includes information for both parents and children. They also recorded a song “Big Feelings.” In addition the songs and videos, Sesame Street offers activities for children and advice for parents to help changing families understand this sensitive subject.
Lynn Chwatsky, vice president for Sesame Street Workshop’s outreach program told Time that the program will help 1.5 million children whose lives will be affected by divorce.
“We want the kids to understand that they are not alone and that it’s not their fault,”Chwatsky said, “These kids love and adore Abby. So to know that she is going through something similar to them, something challenging, it’s like ‘Wow.’ It makes it OK to have a whole range of feelings.”
Though everyone knows divorce has many negative effects on both the parents and the children, the fact that Sesame Street took so long to feature the topic shows how hard this subject can to approach and explain to a young mind.