I had no idea that Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street and I had so much in common. Other than the fact we both like the color pink, Abby also comes from a home with divorced parents. This week, the Sesame Workshop will be debuting a 13-minute segment online entitled Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce, part of a multimedia kit that includes a guide for parents and an app. The segment, aimed at preschoolers, helps kids normalize divorce along with help from Abby, Elmo, Rosita and Gordon, who talk about how and why Abby has two houses.
This is the first time that the muppets have tackled the heavy topic of divorce, because when they tested a segment about the subject two decades ago, children in the focus group found it very upsetting. From Time Magazine:
You can pretty much guess where it goes from there: Gordon explains why divorces happen. Viewers learn that sometimes divorce can be “for the best.” We are assured that Snuffy and his sister Alice will always be loved. And yet when Sesame Street tested the segment on preschoolers, just weeks before it was scheduled to air, it was nothing short of a disaster. The children didn’t know where Snuffy was going to live. They didn’t think his parents loved him. Some worried their own parents might get a divorce. They cried. “It was really the first time we’d produced something, put all this money into it, tested it, and it just didn’t work,” says Susan Scheiner, a longtime Sesame Street researcher, who worked on the segment. “We thought we had it. We thought this was really revolutionary, and then it was just bad.”
So many of our children grow up with Sesame Street, and so many of us are divorced, it makes sense that Sesame Street tackles a subject that so many families are all-too familiar with. I wish I had a video like this when I went through my own divorce to help my son deal with all of the conflicting emotions and fears that all kids experience when their parents split up. Divorce isn’t fun for anyone, kids especially, and if furry muppets can help reassure them about their parents love for them and their place in the family that can only be a good thing. Hell, my parents divorced when I was 16 and I could have been reassured by the muppets! The Little Children, Big Challenges series will also focus on topics such as sibling rivalry, relocation, and bullying.
Although I think it’s fantastic Sesame Street is dealing with the topic of divorce, I’m all too curious about how (and if) they will address the topic of Elmo. I can still remember when Mr. Hooper died (growing up I had the coolest cardboard replica of Mr. Hooper’s store! I wish I still had that toy. I loved it so much.) and how Gordon was there to help explain his death to me and Big Bird. That Gordon, he is the best.
(photo: Sesame Street)