The long-running show Sesame Street has recently created a muppet who talks about a very important and tough subject–incarceration.
Muppet Alex is featured in the show’s online teaching kit called “Little Children, Big Challenges,” which aims to help kids whose parents are in prison.
“My dad’s in jail,” says Alex. “I don’t like to talk about it…most people don’t understand.”
An adult friend tells him: “Actually, I do understand what you are going through. When I was about your age, my dad was incarcerated, too.”
The friend then explains to the other kids what incarceration means: “Incarcerated is when someone breaks the law–a grown-up rule–and they have to go to jail or prison.” She proceeds to sing about how he’s not alone; that many children are like him.
Watch the video here: http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/incarceration
A report by the Pew Charitable Trusts says that 2.7 million children have a parent behind bars–one in 28 children in the United States now has a parent in jail.
This is not the first time that the the children’s show is discussing a tough topic. In the past, it has discussed issues like poverty, hunger, divorce, military deployment, and death.
“The incarceration of a loved one can be very overwhelming for both children and caregivers. It can bring about big changes and transitions. In simple everyday ways, you can comfort your child and guide her through these tough moments. With your love and support she can get through anything that comes her way. Here are some tools to help you with the changes your child is going through,” explained the Sesame Street website.
Alex will reportedly not be a regular part of the show, but will play an important role in the online tool kit.
“There are several million children impacted by incarceration in this country … No one is paying attention to them,” said Carol Burton, the executive director of non-profit organization Centerforce, which supports families affected by incarceration.
This has sparked a lot of discussion about the US government and the status of correctional supervision in the country.
“Congratulations, America, on making it almost normal to have a parent in prison or jail,” said Mike Riggs of Reason.com.
“Sesame Street isn’t the problem, but hopefully the very existence of this video and online toolkit can help wake people up to the way that excessive incarceration is destroying families and hurting the most vulnerable children,” said Slate reporter Amanda Marcotte.