Time magazine has a piece on Sesame Street selling divorce to children: D Is for Divorce: Sesame Street Tackles Another Touchy Topic. The article describes Sesame Street’s first attempt back in 1992 to convince children that divorce is something positive. In that attempt Snuffleupagus tearfully explained that his father was being expelled from the family home and that he didn’t know where his father would ultimately live. The whole thing blew up in testing when the preschoolers recognized it for the traumatic event it really is:
Viewers learn that sometimes divorce can be “for the best.” We are assured that Snuffy and his sister Alice will always be loved. And yet when Sesame Street tested the segment on preschoolers, just weeks before it was scheduled to air, it was nothing short of a disaster. The children didn’t know where Snuffy was going to live. They didn’t think his parents loved him. Some worried their own parents might get a divorce. They cried.
Since their intent was to paint a happy face on the demolition of families Sesame Street pulled the segment and scrapped the idea for twenty years. Recently they took another shot at it, and instead of portraying a character dealing with the news that their parents are divorcing they portrayed it from the perspective of a happy little girl drawing pictures of the two houses she lives in. They did get one part right; daddy’s house is tiny while mommy lives in a giant home. They also got something else right; this time the segment isn’t slated for the main show but is only available online where parents can decide if they want to play the segment for their children.