The world is buzzing about the upcoming episode of “Sesame Street” that will address the sensitive topic of divorce. There were 3.4 divorces per 1,000 population in the U.S. in 2012 according to DivorceRate.org, and the separation of parents can be devastating to a child, so the Muppets on “Sesame Street” are handling the issue the way they’ve handled things like death, AIDS awareness and natural disasters in the past.
The online exclusive segment runs about 13 minutes and is part of the multimedia campaign “Little Children, Big Challenges.” Some other components of the campaign include tips and an app for parents and games, a storybook and music for children.
“Young children face new challenges at every age and stage — that's why it's so important to help them build the skills they need to become resilient,” reads the Sesame Street website’s description of the multimedia kit. “With self-confidence and the ability to express themselves, little ones will be able to handle whatever may come their way … and will just keep getting stronger."
This is the second time that Jim Henson’s famed kids’ show took on the issue. In the early 90’s, the “Sesame Street” gang filmed a divorce episode about Mr. Snuffleupagus dealing with his parents’ divorce.
The episode was scrapped after poor reactions from test audiences, but has been resurrected in a new, less intense form. The original concept was for Snuffy to be handling the divorce throughout the episode, but the new version sees Abby Cadabby, an upbeat, brightly colored, soon-to-be fairy who has already handled her parents separating, and addresses how she felt going through it.
"It is not a new, raw emotion," says Christine Ferraro, a “Sesame Street” writer in the Tumblr Storyboard video below. Putting the divorce behind Abby’s character makes it so children can see how it gets better, rather than how terrible it can initially be.
Lynn Chwatsky, Sesame Workshop’s vice president of outreach initiatives oversaw the project explains why the “Sesame Street” crew decided to readdress this issue 20 years after flopping on it.
“We want kids to understand that they’re not alone, and that it’s not their fault,” says 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.”
“A lot of people want to shield kids from the tougher issues,” says Ferraro. “My feeling is, the more information the kid has, the better.”