Q&A: Al Roker and Deborah Roberts help “Families Stand Together”
A new PBS primetime special, Families Stand Together: Feeling Secure in Tough Times, hosted by Al Roker, Deborah Roberts and Elmo, aims to help families with children, ages two to eight, experiencing difficult economic circumstances by offering strategies and tips that can lead to positive outcomes for their children’s physical and emotional well-being during this tough economic climate. Roker and Roberts, who are married and have children of their own, spoke to me about the program.
Q: Why did you do this special, “Families Stand Together,” with Sesame Street?
Roberts: I have been such a fan of Sesame Street and I have always looked enviously upon any celebrity that gets to interact with the Muppets. I thought the special was infinitely responsible and wise. I thought ‘Wow, this is a combo of great things, a primetime special that’s important at this moment, and a television show like Sesame Street that has such an impact.’ I thought there’s no way to not do this.
Roker: It’s Sesame Street. Who doesn’t love Sesame Street? It’s a chance to hang out with Elmo! It’s a great topic, lots of people are dealing with this, and if Deborah and I can help, we’re happy to do that.
Q. There are a lot of programs that offer strategies for adults who are trying to deal with the recession … what makes this show different?
Roberts: What makes it different is that it offers advice on a couple of levels, to children and parents. Children are dealing with this recession through their families; children are experiencing and worrying about it, and there’s great advice to help children weather the storm. There’s also advice to help parents to be there for their children. It’s not just geared to children, but also to families, to embrace these tough times and what they call for. There’s one family in the program who had to cut back; the father lost his job and his daughter loves to read. She had a great idea with her mother to sell her old books to buy new ones. Families can walk away from this program with a good image and good advice.
Q. What is the best advice you would give a parent who’s lost a job, or struggling with the recession?
Roker: Look for whatever help your community offers. Whether it’s church, financial assistance, therapy … you have to look for something. And you have to include your kids; you can’t do this without making sure the family’s involved. You also have to make sure that what you tell your kids is age-appropriate – don’t show them a budget, for example. But you can help them understand what’s going on. Hiding it is not the way to go.
Roberts: Number one, don’t underestimate what the children might think about it, and number two, to be creative — whether that means financially, or finding way to make the money go further and still have a good time. One military family has come up with movie night at their own home; they have popcorn, and the kids enjoy it. It’s not like they’re missing out on the experience of going to the movies — parents are finding ways to be creative, in a way that comes up positive for their children.
Q. You have children of your own — what did you take away from working on the show?
Roberts: Fortunately, we are not struggling yet in this economy, but there are ways that our children can enjoy what we have, and ways that we can incorporate what these families do on the special into our own family. There are ways that we can do things to be creative with what we have, and it’s fun to work on a project and activity. My husband and I thought that we can do that with our kids. We can have that atmosphere at home, and we’ve employed these ideas from the program in our home. The silver lining is that we get closer as a family, and we pull together.