The beloved PBS children's classic certainly has "evolved" since my childhood days...
As Liz reported yesterday, PBS' "Sesame Street" is moving on from ABCs and 123s to offer its young audience bigger life lessons, including coping strategies for when mom and/or dad winds up in the slammer.
At the show's site, "tool kits" offer tips for caregivers, including explaining the concept of incarceration in a kid-friendly way. I was particularly struck by this one:
When explaining where an incarcerated parent is, you can say, "Daddy is in a place called prison (or jail) for a while. Grownups sometimes go to prison when they break a rule called a law."
Is it me or does this make it seem like jail time is par for the course?
It's nice that Sesame has stepped forward to try and help kids left behind by parents serving time. Being removed from a parent can be seriously traumatic for kids and lend itself to developmental problems of their own. These are kids who need support.
That said, however, I've watched each of the videos produced by Sesame Workshop for the campaign. It strikes me that there's no real advice offered for teaching kids lessons in right vs. wrong; there's no guide for driving conversations about what crime has been committed and/or how mommy or daddy could have acted differently. Instead, the focus seems to be on alleviating the stigma attached to having a parent in prison:
It's essential to be supportive of innocent kids caught in these terrible situations, but I think it's just as important to make sure they have the tools needed to avoid the same fate as their parents -- a moral education and established expectations of responsibility. Otherwise, it doesn't seem like we're doing this kids any great service.