After overcoming the largest scandal to hit Sesame Street, with Kevin Clash’s departure as the voice of Elmo, the legendary show is attempting to introduce the idea of divorce to it’s young viewers. All too common in American households, Sesame Workshop has chosen to approach the subject online via a 13 minute segment. The segment is part of a massive multimedia kit called Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce, which will include a guide for parents and an app. The initiative is geared toward military families. “We want kids to understand that they’re not alone, and that it’s not their fault,” says SW’s vice president of outreach initiatives, Lynn 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.”
This is not the first time that Sesame Street has tried to introduce the D word to it’s young viewers. In 1992, they tested the market by introducing it through the character, Mr. Snuffleupagus, as a child with divorced parents. They tested it on preschoolers and the idea backfired, with most of them confused about where Snuffy would live, and they did not think that his parents loved him. “It was really the first time we’d produced something, put all this money into it, tested it, and it just didn’t work. We thought we had it. We thought this was really revolutionary, and then it was just bad,” says Sesame Street researcher, Susan Scheiner. As a result, Sesame Street shied away from the idea for twenty years.
This time around producers and researchers have decided to go with the pink furry character, Abby Cadabby, whose parents have been divorced for some time. Those who watch the show do not know much about Abby’s parents until now. They set up the segment as Abby having two homes. “This one is where I live with my mommy,” says Abby, holding up her drawing, “and this one is where I live with my daddy.”
Sesame Street tested the program again with better results. The kids appeared to get it this time around. There was no crying and more smiles in the room. The kids even hummed along to the sign off song “They live in different places but they both love me”.
Other issues that have been covered include race, adoption, prison and death.
Asa Lovechild is an accomplished actress and singer out of New York City.