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Sesame Street has aired an episode which deals with the sensitive issue of divorce for the first time.

A scene on the issue had been originally written for the show in 1992 – but was a disaster when tested before an audience of pre-schoolers who misunderstood and became upset.

The idea was shelved until this year – when writers came up with a slot featuring a fairy called Abby Cadabby whose parents have been divorced for a while. The 13-minute segment will be aired online today.

In the scene, Abby, a fun-loving pink fairy with sparkly hair, holds up two drawings of houses – one where she lives with her mommy and the other where she lives with daddy.

When her friends Elmo and Rosita ask why Abby has two homes, the adult Gordon explains to the muppets that: ‘Divorce means that Abby’s mommy and daddy aren’t married anymore.’

Abby adds that their divorce used to make her ‘sad and mad’ but that things have become easier with time.

The divorce rate in America is 50 per cent making it a common issue in young children’s lives.

Lewis Bernstein, VP of Sesame Street who has been with the show for 30 years, explained that from the very beginning, the team said that they would never talk down to children. Divorce was first broached by writers and researchers in 1992.

One day on Sesame Street, the elephant character Snuffy tells Big Bird:’My dad is moving out of our cave…because of something called a divorce.’

The scene was tested on pre-schoolers – to disastrous results. Children panicked and didn’t know where Snuffy would live and fretted that their own parents would get a divorce and not love them.

This time around, seasoned Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro told Time: ‘Writing about divorce is not easy. My approach was from the point of view of Abby whose parents have gone through a divorce in the past, so that it is not a new, raw emotion.’

The 13-minute segment appears as part of a multimedia project by Sesame Workshop, the non-profit that operates Sesame Street.

It also means that it is up to parents – depending on the family’s circumstances at the time – whether they want their children to see the divorce scene.

The show has a history of courageously bringing up subjects that Mr Bernstein admits ‘sometimes you think you wouldn’t want to touch with a 10ft pole’.

In 2002, Bill Clinton appeared in a UNICEF public service announcement alongside Kami, an HIV-positive character from Takalani Sesame – South Africa’s version of the show.

Other issues that have been covered include race, adoption, prison and death. An episode where Big Bird loses his home in a hurricane was re-aired in the weeks after Hurricane Sandy.