Photos © Sesame StreetDesigned for families with children ages 2-8, this hour-long, primetime special, airing on September 9, 2009 at 8 PM, is hosted by Elmo, weatherman Al Roker, journalist Deborah Roberts, financial expert Jean Chatzky, and parenting and relationship expert Dr. Joshua Coleman.
In the story, Elmo’s mommy has lost her job and gently communicates the situation to Elmo. His family finds ways to save money by, for example, eating at home more often, and borrowing movies from the library instead of going to the theater. And while they won’t be able to buy everything they “want,” they’ll still work together to get what they “need.”
The special includes documentary footage of families and their children who are living through difficult economic challenges. Through the family stories, viewers can learn that even when times are tough, there are ways families can feel grounded and keep having fun with limited resources - simply by sharing quality time together.
Jean Chatzky explains the need for such a program: “In these difficult financial times, we find that parents often lack the words to explain what is going on to their children, and that prevents them from having the necessary conversations. Through Families Stand Together, we’re able to give the families profiled in the special — and the many others watching from home — the tools they need.”
The four families featured in the special hail from diverse backgrounds and varied geographic locations. They share their stories and struggles confronting significant financial changes due to the economic crisis, resulting in loss of employment and income, the need to relocate, and “feeling the pinch” of making tough lifestyle changes that impact their home.
A father from Detroit is laid off from one of the Big 3 automakers during the auto industry meltdown. His wife’s salary is the family's only income. She works long hours and feels tremendous pressure to keep things going. They have four children, ages 7, 12, 13 and 14. But their attitude remains positive with the credo, “What separates you from poverty are your parents and family.”
In another story, a 16-year veteran of a major pharmaceutical company in suburban New Jersey is laid off and must support a family of eight solely on unemployment. Having had financial stability for so long, it has been a major transition supporting a large family and caring for six children, five of who are under the age of six. Mom is looking for work , and the oldest child, age 17, helps to care for his younger brothers and sisters. The family is thankful that they have each other.
In southern California, a father of two tween boys loses his high-paying job and now works in a position that pays only one-third of his previous income. The family is forced to sell their possessions and move into a small motor home. It is a tough road for the family, but they hang onto the belief that health and happiness are the most important aspects to life, and find other rewards that a simpler life can yield.
In a story surrounding a military family, an active-duty Air Force father tries to support his wife and five children after relocating from a military base in Utah to a civilian location in Miami. The high cost of living in Miami without the support of a military base proves challenging for this family of seven. The children range in age from eight months to eight years of old.
Sesame Street produced the special in association with David Letterman’s production company Worldwide Pants Incorporated and Lookalike Productions.
Jean Chatzky is an award-winning journalist, best-selling author, and the financial editor for NBC’s Today, a contributing editor for More Magazine, a columnist for The New York Daily News, and a contributor to The Oprah Winfrey Show. She blogs daily at JeanChatzky.com.
Dr. Joshua Coleman
Dr. Joshua Coleman is a psychologist with a private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a Senior Fellow and incoming Co-Chair of the Council on Contemporary Families, a national consortium of noted researchers, academics, clinicians and social workers. He has served on the clinical faculties of The University of California at San Francisco, The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology, and the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group.
This initiative is made possible by generous support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Families Stand Together™ developed by Sesame Workshop, with generous support from CPB.