Death. Incarceration. Race. Sesame Street has never shied away from the tough issues. One issue they haven’t addressed, however, is divorce.
According to Time, they tried once before. In that quickly shelved segment, Snuffleupagus, a.k.a. Snuffy, discussed his parents’ impending divorce between sniffles to Big Bird. Daddy was moving out the cave because of something called a divorce. Big Bird and Snuffy were confused. The toddlers that made up the focus group were traumatized, and asked if their parents were going to get divorced as well.
The new segment, which will be available online as part of a kit that includes a storybook, a guide for parents, and an app, takes a much different approach. Abby Cadabby, a pink fairy Muppet, draws pictures of both of her parents’ houses. The other Muppets are confused by the living arrangements, so Abby and Gordon explain the concept of divorce and that Abby’s parents still love her just as much as before. There’s no crying or confusion. And it seems to have worked, at least in focus groups.
While the Muppets are a great start to the conversation, watching a short television segment probably won’t be enough for your children. FindLaw’s KnowledgeBase suggests that you keep the following additional tips in mind as well:
- Make it clear that the children are not the cause
While you may know what the problems are in your marriage, and may know the causes of the divorce, kids may not understand those issues. Some issues, such as infidelity or addiction, probably shouldn’t even be discussed with the kids. In any case, you should make it clear that the children played no role in the downfall of the marriage.
- Don’t disparage the other parent
Us adults understand. You are angry and need to vent. The last place you should vent, however, is in front of the kids. The kids shouldn’t hear you speak negatively about the other parent, especially if they have to maintain a relationship with both parents. They may feel pressured to take sides or to love the “good” parent more than the “bad” parent.
- Treat kids like kids
This is a debatable tip. Many parents think that honesty and openness with the children is the best policy. However, certain things, like infidelity, financial worries, and hurt feelings, should be kept to yourself. Kids are kids, not your adult friends. They don’t need the stress of being your confidant while dealing with their own emotions regarding their parents’ divorce.
Beyond the tips and videos, it’s important to remember that while the marriage has dissolved, the co-parenting has not. The better your relationship with your ex-spouse, the more likely you are to not traumatize the children. That ex is going to be in your life at least until your children become adults. Focus on a good working relationship and minimizing animosity.
- Consult a Chicago Family Law Attorney (FindLaw)
- ‘Sesame Street’ advises kids about divorce, but not on TV show (FindLaw’s Chicago Sun-Times)
- How to Talk to Your Children About Your Pending Divorce (FindLaw’s KnowledgeBase)
- Happy Holidays are Coming, but Parents Have Different Religions (FindLaw’s Chicago Family Law Blog)