“D” is for Divorce: Sesame Street Finally Tackles the Tough Topic — Sort Of

February 27, 2013  |  

For more than 30 years, the furry, lovable monsters on Sesame Street have helped kids around the world understand some of life’s not so sunny subjects, from AIDS to death. One topic the people at the Children’s Television Workshop just can’t get right—divorce.

With a nationwide divorce rate well over 50 percent, it may seem as if the big yellow bird has had his head in the sand about the issue. But as it turns out, Elmo and company have tried to tackle this tough topic before.

Years ago, an episode was made in which Snuffy’s parents ended their marriage, but because a test group of children were still confused about the concept of divorce after watching it, the show was scrapped.

Take two….

Once again, Sesame Street is making an effort to address the subject that affects so many children throughout the country, but this time, the divorce episode will be brought to you by the letter “I,” as in “Internet only.”

Why did the second attempt at airing the episode go wrong?

After yet another focus group left children miffed about divorce, the folks at the Children’s Television Workshop realized that a critical component was missing– parents.
As experts explain, most children watch the show by themselves, which makes is difficult for them to grasp such a complex, emotional subject. But because parents are more likely to supervise their preschooler’s Internet time, it made more sense to use the show’s website as the platform for the lesson.

On the Sesame Street website, parents are offered “tips and activities to help you comfort your child and make him feel more secure as he adjusts to his new life.” So with the help of Abby Cadabby, Elmo, Rosita, and Gordon (who never seems to age), children are able watch Cadabby as she talks to her friends about her two houses, the “grown-up problems” that led to her parents’ divorce, and her fears about the split being her fault.

Regardless of their reasoning, some parents are still calling for the episode to be aired on television, like divorcee and mom-of-three, Melissa Chelist of StorkGifts. Chelist, like many others, believes that showing characters with divorced parents on a regular basis will help to remove some of the stigma associated with divorce, and further reinforce the fact that there are many different types of families.

Abby Cadabby is a very prominent character on Sesame Street, but it’s not yet clear whether her parents’ divorce will be mentioned on the show at all.

“Just like with the topics of AIDS and death — along with other sensitive topics — there needs to be education and awareness,” says Chelist. “This needs to be amongst all the kids, not just those directly affected.”

MommyNoire Community Chat

Where do you stand on the issue? Should Sesame Street air the divorce episode, or do you feel that it’s best to keep the material online as a resource for parents who are going through a divorce to explain the matter to their children? Sound off in the Comments section below. We want to hear from you!


Photo courtesy of Sesame Street

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