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Sesame Street Introduces Divorce To Young Viewers

After overcoming the largest scandal to hit Sesame Street, with Kevin Clash’s departure as the voice of Elmo, the legendary show is attempting to introduce the idea of divorce to it’s young viewers. All too common in American households, Sesame Workshop has chosen to approach the subject online via a 13 minute segment. The segment is part of a massive multimedia kit called Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce, which will include a guide for parents and an app. The initiative is geared toward military families. “We want kids to understand that they’re not alone, and that it’s not their fault,” says SW’s vice president of outreach initiatives, Lynn Chwatsky. “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 is not the first time that Sesame Street has tried to introduce the D word to it’s young viewers. In 1992, they tested the market by introducing it through the character, Mr. Snuffleupagus, as a child with divorced parents. They tested it on preschoolers and the idea backfired, with most of them confused about where Snuffy would live, and they did not think that his parents loved him. “It was really the first time we’d produced something, put all this money into it, tested it, and it just didn’t work. We thought we had it. We thought this was really revolutionary, and then it was just bad,” says Sesame Street researcher, Susan Scheiner. As a result, Sesame Street shied away from the idea for twenty years.

This time around producers and researchers have decided to go with the pink furry character, Abby Cadabby, whose parents have been divorced for some time. Those who watch the show do not know much about Abby’s parents until now. They set up the segment as Abby having two homes. “This one is where I live with my mommy,” says Abby, holding up her drawing, “and this one is where I live with my daddy.”

Sesame Street tested the program again with better results. The kids appeared to get it this time around. There was no crying and more smiles in the room. The kids even hummed along to the sign off song “They live in different places but they both love me”.

Other issues that have been covered include race, adoption, prison and death.

 

 

 

 

 

Asa Lovechild is an accomplished actress and singer out of New York City.

Follow @asalovechild

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4 comments

  1. I grew up in the age of Howdy Doody, so it's perfectly okay for you to ignore my rantings on this issue. I won't feel abused. But for the record, I am against introducing the issue of divorce to this audience via Sesame Street. Why do we feel compelled to try and solve all the problems under the sun with television? With children shows? I mean come on, can't we let these children just watch a tv show with no political or social meaning beyond inducing laughter and joy to kids, and especially to those who are going through divorce? Can't we just try and pass on positive values like love and caring for others and learning your ABC's without interjecting some "adult issues?" I know divorce affects children, but there has to be a better way to work with these kids without subjecting kids who may not be experiencing this to such a traumatic issue. Let's leave this to professionals and parents, not TV shows—Please! Just let these kids "escape" into the world of fantasy and laughter and happiness without turning Elmo's smile into a frown! My 2 cent worth!

    • We're living in a different time than ole Howdy. I do like the idea of kids being able to escape into a carefree world and just be kids. At the same time Sesame Street and Mister Rogers have always split things between teaching learning fundementals (like the alphabet and numbers) and touching on subjects that many of the kids have gone through, are going through, or may go through (like the death of a loved one when Mr. Hooper died). In this day in age when most marriages are resulting in divorce and more kids are being born outside of a legal marriage situation anyway, I say kudos to Sesame Street for trying to do their part in making sure that the kids who are facing the issue or will face the issue have a little more understanding about it than they otherwise might not have had.

  2. Not a good idea and to suggest they have moved past “Elmo” is a little premature in your analysis. Maybe the discussion should begin to really focus on who will pay for these “experiments” the time has come for CTW to be self funded

  3. after going over the ABC's a billion times lets talk about divorce? lol really are parents not over this with the kids when mommy and daddy split? most kids wont have to deal with this.(why not do some on the loss of a parent or friend or even a pet).

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