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Elmo Feels Your Pain: Tough Times Hit Sesame Street

Elmo says recession is scary! Me no like that mommy lost her job.

Source: Sesame Workshop

An economic recovery may be on the horizon, but families are still struggling with job losses, foreclosures and other hardships of the recession.

So, Sesame Street is rolling out a one-hour special in September called, “Families Stand Together: Feeling Secure in Tough Times,”to help families talk to their kids about what all of this means and to reassure them that they’ll be OK.

“It opens the door for families to have the conversation,” said Jean Chatzky, a personal-finance expert and author of “The Difference,” who appears in the special.

In tough times like this, parents fight more about money and all too often, they don’t realize that the kids are listening and the tension is scaring them, Chatzky explained.

The best thing you can do is have a pre-emptive talk with your kids about what’s going on, instead of waiting until they come to you crying or worse — worried sick.

The special is hosted by Al Roker, his wife Deborah Roberts and Elmo. It features four real families who are struggling financially, as well as Elmo’s family.

They talk about what adjustments the families are having to make, such as explaining to kids why the family is cutting back spending on items that aren’t necessities or why they have to move out of their house and into a smaller one.

“It’s an opportunity [for kids] to ask questions and to realize that they’re not the only one going through this,” said Jeanette Betancourt, VP of outreach and educational practices for Sesame Workshop.

Plus, the familiarity of the muppets will help younger children feel more comfortable.

For example, Elmo’s mom loses her job and they talk about how, since they have only one income now, they’re going to have to make changes such as eating at home more, getting movies from the library and only buying things they need, instead of things they want, such as toys.

For parents, it provides them with tips, for example, on how to explain why they can’t go to McDonald’s once a week any more and why they’re having to cut back, Chatzky said. And, it reminds them to reassure their kids that no matter what they’re going through, the parents will be there for them and take care of them.

“I think there are families who are looking for a script — they’re going to get one out of this,” Chatzky said.

It also offers tips on how kids can help, such as washing the car or washing the dog — “Anything that is a service that the family used to pay for but can’t really afford,” Chatzky said.

Plus, you also see communities coming together to help each other, she said.

It's hard to not be able to provide for your kids like you used to, but in the long run, Chatzky said, it will give kids a better appreciation for money.

The special will air on PBS on Sept. 9 at 8 pm ET.

After that, resources and material will be available for families online at www.sesameworkshop.org/toughtimes.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that produces Sesame Street, this fall will perform specific outreach in some of the country's hardest hit areas, including Michigan, California, Florida and Nevada.

This blog was brought to you by the letter “O” because everything is going to be OK!

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