Sesame Street tackles divorce

or Um, why is this controversial?

Sesame StreetThere are a lot of articles I read that seem to provoke controversy. Some I understand and many I don’t. The latest to fit into the latter category is the fact that an upcoming segment of Sesame Street (which is only airing online, by the way, not on TV) will discuss divorce using one of their more recent characters, Abby Cadabby.

The issues regarding the segment (or the idea behind the segment because I doubt most of those complaining have even watched the teaser) seem to hold a few common themes – we should let kids be kids, television is not the place for kids to learn these things (or parents should be the ones talking to their kids), and the only preschool-aged children who should learn about divorce are those whose parents are getting one.

Televising a character with whom real-life children can relate is not keeping kids from being kids. This is a real issue. Real kids deal with this. I certainly don’t think we should talk to children the same way we talk to adults, but we shouldn’t treat them as if they’re stupid either. As a parent and a former teacher, I can assure you that children understand a lot more than we give them credit for. I would prefer to sit down and talk with kids about the real-life things they see and experience on a daily basis than to ignore them altogether, leaving kids to run wild with their imaginations.

So yes, parents should be the ones talking to their kids about these things, but why does it have to be one or the other? My ex-husband and I separated when my daughter was 2 ½ years old. I remember with perfect clarity the night my ex moved out. I remember trying to explain to my daughter that her daddy wasn’t going to live with us anymore and how she was going to have two homes. I would have loved to sit down with her and watch an episode of a show she already knew that showed a character she already loved who has gone through exactly what she was going through.

As for only discussing it with kids who have divorced parents, why is it not okay to explain different types of families to children? Having divorced parents is a lot more common now than when I was a kid. I felt like the only one in school whose parents didn’t live together. It was isolating at times because other kids just didn’t understand. Similarly, I didn’t understand kids whose families were different from mine. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to teach kids that families are unique and work in so many different ways.

One of Abby’s favorite songs as a toddler and preschooler was We All Sing with the Same Voice, or as she called it, My Hair is Black and Red (since that’s the first line). She used to make me sing it over and over and over and over again. (Oh, and it’s a song from Sesame Street.) The song is about how kids come from all different places, have all kinds of families, like all kinds of different things, but how they still have things in common. One of her favorite books was Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, also about the differences and similarities of children around world. Both have been excellent teaching tools and neither disallowed my kid from being a kid.

From Mr. Hooper’s death to dealing with fires and hurricanes, Sesame Street has always offered honest explanations to kids about real-life events, not to mention a cast that demonstrates real-world diversity. This segment on divorce is following a well-established path of talking to kids at their level about things going on in their lives, and I 100% support that.

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***Side note – my daughter walked over to the computer when I pulled up the YouTube video for We All Sing with the Same Voice, so I decided to ask her thoughts about this. I said, “What would you think if, when you watched Sesame Street, there was a character who had divorced parents?”

She responded, “Actually, I’d think I have a lot in common with that character and that we should play together.”

I told her about the upcoming segment and how Abby Cadabby’s parents are divorced. She gasped and said, “We do have a lot in common!” (If you’re new to my blog, my daughter’s name is Abby 🙂 )***

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8 responses to this post.

  1. I agree with you! Even if a kid’s parents are divorced, there’s nothing wrong with them finding out about other families! Once kids start interacting with other kids, they are going to be exposed to different family types and I think this is a great idea for teaching them!

    Reply

    • Exactly 🙂 . . . The episode was supposed to go online this past Tuesday, I haven’t checked it out yet, but I’ve never been disappointed with the way Sesame Street has handled anything.

      Reply

  2. Why…would people be opposed to the episode? haha. I completely agree with you. Kids need to know what’s out there whether or not it’s directly applicable. Plus, they’re not stupid. Half the times parents try to shield their kids from something, it turns out that their kids already found out about it in the wrong ways a few years ago.

    Reply

    • “Half the times parents try to shield their kids from something, it turns out that their kids already found out about it in the wrong ways a few years ago.”

      So true! I don’t try to shield my daughter, but she still catches me off guard when she starts talking about things I had knew idea she knew anything about!

      Reply

  3. Geez, divorce is SO common these days, I’d venture to say that it’d be downright irresponsible if your preschooler has not learned that there are many different definitions of families out there. I can’t believe this is even an issue!

    Reply

    • Thank you! I was shocked to read all of the comments that were so vehemently opposed to this. The article was posted on the Anderson Live FB page, and at least half of the comments were rants about how wrong this was.

      Reply

  4. “Real kids deal with this. I certainly don’t think we should talk to children the same way we talk to adults, but we shouldn’t treat them as if they’re stupid either.” Agreed! Kids today go through a lot and it helps them to know that other kids are going through the same things. I don’t see why this is so controversial either! People are just silly!

    Reply

    • What made the controversy over this even more ridiculous was the fact that it’s not even airing on the TV . . . it’s online, so parents would have to make the effort to watch it with their kids . . . there’s no chance of a preschooler just stumbling onto it unless he’s really smart and you give him unsupervised internet access . . . in which case, I think there’s a much bigger problem than a divorce segment on Sesame Street!

      Reply

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