Dave Stancliff As It Stands blog: Signs of the times–Sesame Street introduces 1st Muppet with jailbird dad blogarama.com

Monday, June 17, 2013

As It Stands blog: Signs of the times–Sesame Street introduces 1st Muppet with jailbird dad

muppet

         Good Day World!

Oh, how the world has changed in the last four decades! I remember my three sons watching Sesame Street when they were little.

The thing that stands out to me between now and then, is the innocence lost – both in programing and in the real world.

It’s not that the Muppets didn’t deal with real life situations in it’s early years, but they were far from controversial. It was more like a silly kid show with a message of kindness towards others. Today’s Muppets have been getting a hefty dose of reality. The world in Sesame Street got a little harsher recently when the creators introduced Alex, who has a dad in jail.

I guess it’s just a sign of the times. Here’s the story: 

Those friendly, fuzzy Muppets from “Sesame Street” have helped kids open up about all sorts of serious subjects, from hunger and divorce to military deployment.

But they’re now tackling a much more unexpected issue: incarceration. Meet Alex, the first Muppet to have a dad in jail. One in 28 children in the United States now has a parent behind bars -- more than the number of kids with a parent who is deployed -- so it’s a real issue, but it’s talked about far less because of the stigma.

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For more than 40 years, “Sesame Street” has been helping kids tackle tough topics like death and divorce. With one in 28 kids having a parent behind bars, the show will now be tackling the topic of understanding jail time.

That’s why the Sesame Workshop says it created the “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration” initiative, an online tool kit intended to help kids with a parent in prison find support and comfort, and provide families with strategies and tips to talk to their children about incarceration.

Alex is blue-haired and green-nosed and he wears a hoodie – you might think he’s just another carefree inhabitant of Sesame Street. But there’s sorrow in Alex’s voice when he talks about his father.

“I just miss him so much,” he tells a friend. “I usually don’t want people to know about my Dad.”

It’s easier for kids to hear such things from a Muppet than an adult, creators of the initiative noted.

“Coming from a Muppet, it’s almost another child telling their story to the children,” said Jeanette Betancourt, vice president of outreach and educational practices at the Sesame Workshop.

Alex will not be part of the regular cast on “Sesame Street,” but he’s playing a central role in the online tool kit.

Children of parents behind bars often feel sadness, shame and guilt about the situation, so they need to know they are loved and that the incarceration is not their fault, said Carol Burton, executive director of Centerforce, a non-profit dedicated to supporting families impacted by incarceration.” (Full story here)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

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