After a pre-taped segment on divorce tested horribly with confused pre-schoolers twenty years ago, producers of Sesame Street have avoided the D word on air until now, after 44 years on the air.
As Jessica Bennet from Time reports, for the past two years researchers, writers and producers have been working on how to bring up the subject now, in 2012, when the divorce rate is higher than ever and the D word is a fact of everyday American life.
It will be revealed that the parents of Abby Cadabby, a sparkly fairy, have been divorced for some time. The big reveal comes when she and some friends are drawing some pictures of their home. Elmo and Rosita are surprised to learn that Abby has two houses. She confidently explains that she lives in one with her mommy and another one with her daddy. Gordon elaborates by sayiing that “Divorce means Abby’s mommy and daddy aren’t married anymore.”
This is in stark contrast to the pre-taped segment in 1992 with features Snuffy (a.k.a. Mr. Snuffleupagus) as the upset child of parents going through a divorce. “My dad is moving out of our cave,” Snuffy confides to Big Bird one afternoon while crying. “I’m not sure where,” he continues, crying. “Some cave across town.”
You can imagine how well that went down with the 5 and under crowd.
But I think the approach this time is much better. And, it’s about time. Divorce is a very real issue that millions of children deal with every day, many of them preschoolers and yet, as Time reports, resources are shockingly scarce for that age group so many kids are left confused and maybe even blaming themselves. So while it’s better late than never, the theme won’t be airing on TV. It will debut on online on Sesame Workshop as “part of a massive multimedia kit called Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce, which includes a storybook (Two Hug Day), a guide for parents and an app, funded as part of a larger initiative geared toward military families.”
Producers say they while they want to tackle divorce directly they want it to be understandable and not so scary. They tell Time, “We want kids to understand that they’re not alone, and that it’s not their fault…These kids love and adore Abby. So to know that she’s going through something similar to them, something challenging, it’s like, Wow. It makes it O.K. to have a whole range of feelings.”
This isn’t the first time Sesame Street has tackled a touchy subject. The show has taken on race, adoption, love, pregnancy, incerceration and death. “A lot of people want to shield kids from the tougher issues,” Chrissy Ferraro, a writer on the show, says “My feeling is, the more information the kid has, the better.”
A blog post on SesameWorkshop.org states “Since its inception Sesame Street has been committed to tackling the challenges that young children face, no matter how difficult or unorthodox it may be to discuss those topics with children. With this commitment in mind, Sesame Workshop is taking on the subject of divorce, an emotional trial many children go through. Yet many parents are uncertain how to reassure or even explain what is going on to their children.”
What do you think? Is it about time the muppets starting talking about divorce or is that something that should be left to parents to explain? Is it best to start it out online before moving it to the actual TV program? Is it something you’d like your children to watch and does your marital status come into play or is it something you want your pre-schooler to see regardless of whether you’re married or divorced?
The initiative won’t be available until Tuesday. After that you should be able to find it on SesameWorkshop.org.
You can watch a portion of what you’ll catch if you tune in online below:
You can also find Monica on her personal blog, The Girl Who.
Read more from Monica on Babble: