The long-running children’s TV show, Sesame Street, is tackling a tough topic for the first time in its more than 40-year history.
Some wonder why it took them so long to address divorce.
Sesame Street provides videos and a guide, both for kids and their parents, with what it calls, “Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce.
Principal Pete Castillo, of Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy in Denver, has been an educator most of his life.
But even he could have used some help when going through a divorce four years ago.
“The biggest complication was having the kids, at the time they were 2-and-a-half and 4-and-a-half…I really wish I had something like this,” he says.
That something is a series of Sesame Street videos dealing with divorce.
“This one is where I live with my mommy. And this is the one where I live with my daddy.” Says the Muppet character, Abby Cadabby about her two houses. ‘But, Abby why don’t you all live in one house together?’ questions a bewildered Elmo. ‘Well, because my parents are divorced,’ says Abby. ‘Divorced? What does divorced mean?’” Elmo asks.
Abby explains to her friends what divorce means.
She also learns it’s okay to feel all kinds of mixed emotions.
“You can feel mad, or bad or scared, or sad, all at the same time too,” sings Sesame Street actor Gordon.
And she’s told even though her parents won’t be together anymore, her parents don’t love her any less. Abby’s friend Birdie is in the same situation.
“Mom’s tree is over there. Dad’s in another tree. They live in different places but they both love me,” sings Birdie.
“One of the things that is problematic for children is to believe the divorce had something to do with them.
Child clinical psychologist Shawn Worthy says the videos help children understand they’re not alone.
“It’s great to see that representation on screen. It’s great to see ‘I’m not the only one that has to go through this.’ Social support is a really big psychological aid for many people, for families and children. So to feel I have that support would be very helpful to kids,” says Worthy of Metro State.
That’s something Principal Castillo knows too well.
Many of the more than 800 kids at his school have dealt with the tough topic firsthand.
“It’s so important to relay a very simple concept to kids that this happens. And it doesn’t happen rarely, it happens frequently,” says Castillo. “We are not talking about a taboo subject anymore. We talk about something that affects at least 50-percent of the population,” says Castillo.
Sesame Street first tried to address this issue in 1992 with Snuffleupagus’ parents divorcing.
But when they tested it on preschoolers, some were so upset, they broke into tears.
Two decades later, they try again, but you can only find the videos online.
Between 40- and 60-percent of new marriages will end in divorce.
People now divorce two-and-a-half times as much as adults 20 years ago, and four times as much than 50 years ago.
Some people say the next topics Sesame Street should tackle are step-parents and same-sex parents.
You can find the videos at: sesamestreet.org.