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"Sesame Street" deals with divorce

By Julie Stanchieri

I've just learned of a new initiative by Sesame Street to help explain dealing with divorce to children, parents, caregivers and extended family members.

There is a website and toolkit which includes videos, reading materials, a mobile app, and more so that people involved in divorce know how to approach the issue with young children. While it's aimed at children, there are also materials for parents and caregivers.

"Divorce can be a big challenge for both children and parents," the Sesame Street website states. "Though times may be difficult, children can emerge feeling loved and supported. You can all grow through these family changes and discover just how strong you really are. You are not alone. Family, friends, neighbors, and others are there to offer support."

The subtle message to parents is important. By focusing on delivering a message about divorce which is child-focused, parents are less likely to engage in harmful behaviours which most commonly lead to disputes in court. For example, if a parent is focused on answering a child's question regarding divorce in a way which will comfort the child, he/she must be using language which is not aimed at alienating the child from the other parent.

Courts don't have any patience for people who don't "get it" and try to gain an advantage in custody/access disputes by talking badly to the child about the other parent. We see this play out time and time again in various custody and access decisions. Sesame Street's approach is brilliant because the by-product of these tools, which are aimed at children, is that they will also be educative for parents and assists them in resolving their disputes out of court.

The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) is working with Sesame Street to produce these products. The AFCC is an interdisciplinary and international association of professionals dedicated to improving the lives of children and families through the resolution of family conflict.  You can find links through Sesame Street directly at sesamestreet.org/divorce or through the AFCC website.

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