“Sesame Street” has tackled numerous important and mature topics over the years -- ranging from deployment, death, AIDS and divorce. This year the fuzzy Muppets will be helping children cope with having an incarcerated parent or loved one.
Meet Alex, a hoodie wearing, blue-haired, green-nosed Muppet whose dad is in jail. Nonprofit Sesame Street Workshop created the character as part of the “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration” program. The nonprofit hopes that Alex will give kids with an incarcerated parent a voice and support. According to the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development, the number of U.S. children with a parent incarcerated as of 2007 is at least 1.7 million.
“I just miss him so much,” Alex tells a friend of his dad. “I usually don’t want people to know about my dad.”
“Coming from a Muppet, it’s almost another child telling their story to the children,” explains Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Street Workshop vice president of outreach and educational practices.
While Alex won’t be a regular character on “Sesame Street,” he will be active in the “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration” online tool kit.
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“The incarceration of a loved one can be very overwhelming for both children and caregivers. It can bring about big changes and transitions,” reads a statement on the page. “In simple everyday ways, you can comfort your child and guide her through these tough moments. With your love and support she can get through anything that comes her way. Here are some tools to help you with the changes your child is going through.”
Meant for young children between the ages of 3 and 8, the page features online videos for children, and tips for guardians to help kids cope with the incarceration of a loved one.