Sesame Street does a wonderful job of helping children deal with serious real life issues like death, illness, and now the incarceration of a parent, something that happens far too often with 7 millions adults currently locked up. According a the PEW Charitable Trusts report more kids have a parent behind bars than one deployed, with 1 in 28 kids in this situation.
Alex, the felt character created to education children about this experience appears in an online toolkit that includes videos and documents full of tips, stories, and activities for children with an incarcerated parent and their family, teachers, caregivers and friends.
“I just miss him so much,” Alex tells a friend with emotion in his voice. “I usually don’t want people to know about my Dad.” Hearing this kind of emotional honesty from a muppet is kind of like hearing it from another kid, and helps the child feel validated in their feelings, and understand that it’s not their fault that their parent is in jail.
US radio host Alex Jones is critical of the Sesame Street project, calling it a “propaganda program designed to help children accept the fact that daddy is in jail” by dangerously telling kids that “all you have to do is talk about your feelings, draw a few pictures, write letters to your dad, and toddle off to visit him in jail every now and then and everything will be all rainbows and lollipops.”
Sure those things won’t fix everything and make everything all right, but these are great suggestions to promote healing and to help children deal with situations like this the best they can.