Although divorce levels have been high and rising for decades, it certainly seems like a milestone that beloved children’s program Sesame Street has finally tackled the issue of divorce and children. In a series of videos available online, character Abby Cadabby discusses her “big feelings” about her parents’ separation and receives support from Gordon and other cast members. Two other segments interview real kids–an 11 and 10-year-old–who are children of divorce.
“We’ve always had a social component where we try to address issues in kids’ lives,” Susan Scheiner of Sesame Workshop told TODAY.com. Divorce is one of the most common major life transitions children experience, with 40% of children living in a divorced household. It is impossible to address the major experiences of growing up without covering it, whether to help children through their parents divorce, or help them develop empathy for their peers.
Some critics object to the programming, saying that a TV show shouldn’t be teaching their children about such a sensitive subject. In fact, the content will not be broadcast and is part of an online program designed to help children of divorce cope with the challenges and emotions of separation. The Sesame Street “Little Children, Big Challenges” initiative offers the Abby Cadabby videos along with a suite of activities. The project is funded in part by several military family organizations, a population with high rates of divorce and parental separation.
“Divorce can be a big challenge for both children and parents,” explains the introductory page to Little Children, Big Challenges. “Though times may be difficult, children can emerge feeling loved and supported. You can all grow through these family changes and discover just how strong you really are.” In the toolkit are videos addressing common effects of divorce on children such as feelings of guilt, abandonment, and depression. It also includes tips for parents and caregivers, activities and worksheets.
The programing is very well done. It is supportive and positive, yet honest and doesn’t gloss over the difficulties of the experience for children. All video segments emphasize that, in the end, the changes become easier to handle. While things will never be the same again, both parents still love the child very much and happy families can exist in all sorts of configurations. Since the characters of the program are safe and familiar to your children, using them to discuss divorce can be a gentle way of introducing the topic and help children feel supported through the process.