When our office found out about this new episode, we were shocked to think that this was the first time Sesame Street was going to touch upon this important issue that affects millions of children around the world. But after a little research, we found out that Sesame Street hadn’t totally overlooked the issue at all. In fact, in 1992, Sesame Street scripted and shot a show about Snuffalupagus’s parents divorcing. It went something like this:
“My dad is moving out of our cave,” Snuffy confides to Big Bird one afternoon, distraught after knocking over a house built of blocks. “I’m not sure where,” he continues, crying. “Some cave across town.”
Big Bird, naturally, is horrified. “But why?” he asks his friend.
Snuffy blinks his long, dark eyelashes and pauses. We know what’s coming. Well, he explains, “because of something called a divorce.”
When Seasame Street tested the episode with preschoolers the results were terrible. Many preschool viewers were so upset they cried! The children were confused, they didn’t know where Snuffy was going to live. They thought his parents didn’t love him anymore. Sesame Street quickly scrapped the project and the show never aired.
This new episode features the a happy-go-lucky fairy, a series regular, named Abby Cadabby. Abby talks about her parents’ divorce (in the past tense) and how she splits her time between her mom’s house and her dad’s house. Abby sings about her “big feelings” about it all and subtly reassures her audience members that “it gets better.” Sesame Workshop will debut the 13-minute segment online – part of a massive multimedia kit called Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce, which includes a storybook (Two Hug Day), a guide for parents and an app, funded as part of a larger initiative geared toward military families
Divorce is a difficult for everyone, but for children in particular, it can be hard to deal with those “big feelings,” and experts say that the Sesame Street divorce episode could be a great vehicle for children to identify and bond with characters who are going through the same “feelings” they are. The new special divorce episode is available online at SesameStreet.org.