Divorce on Sesame Street
National statistics have the divorce rate in America hovering around 40 percent. Millions Main Street couples are contemplating the end of their marriages. Now, divorce has come to Sesame Street.
A new video starring Muppet “Abby Cadabby,” talking about her parents’ divorce debuted last month online, but Sesame Workshop – the non-profit group behind Big Bird and all his pals – has no plans to air it on the popular public television show. Instead, they offer a series of modules including videos and songs and tips for both kids and parents of divorce.
“Children of divorce often have questions that they may not know how to voice,” Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president for outreach and educational practices at Sesame Workshop, told the Chicago Tribune. “Or they come up unexpectedly and the parent may be caught off-guard and not know how to answer them. We really try, in these resources, to say, ‘It’s OK that these questions come up and it’s really important to help your child know they’re not alone,'” Betancourt said. “Some things will change, others will stay the same. We offer some basic facts that help children cope.”
The divorce modules are part of the Workshop’s “Little Children, Big Challenges” series, offering tips for parents guiding their 2- to 8-year-old children through life’s treacherous terrain. All in age-appropriate ways.
“Divorce can be a big challenge for both children and parents,” the site reads. “Though times may be difficult, children can emerge feeling loved and supported. You can all grow through these family changes and discover just how strong you really are.”
The multimedia kit, at the Sesame Street website, includes content such as “Two-Hug Day,” an online storybook about a boy who divides his time between his mom’s and dad’s houses; songs that help children understand their feelings; a guide for caregivers, extended family and friends; and tips for parents on getting their children to talk about the divorce – comforting them when they’re struggling and reaching out to key grown-ups in their lives for guidance and support. There’s even an app for that.
A group of educators and clinical psychologists advised Sesame Workshop, including JoAnne Pedro-Carroll, an internationally renowned researcher and author who has advised members of Congress and the White House staff on divorce issues, and Robert Hughes Jr., the head of the department of human and community development at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“Sesame Street” the television program’s producers have been hedging on wither to tackle a subject as complicated as divorce. They produced an episode where Snuffleupagus, a huge, furry elephantine creature struggles to cope with his parents’ divorce, but test audiences didn’t respond well, producers say, so plans to air it were scrapped.
“It wasn’t the best way to deliver this kind of information,” said Betancourt. “Children who weren’t experiencing a divorce suddenly started having questions about it. This is a very targeted program, distributed through outreach or community engagement for families specifically experiencing divorce or separation and looking for resources.”
The online approach was decided to be a better delivery method, serving families that directly sought out the information.