Published Date: 11/04/19
Many of us grew up watching Sesame Street and while it’s a fun show for children, it takes on important issues and through their use of music, stories, and loveable characters, the Sesame Street family helps children on a much bigger scale than people might realize. This past Spring, Sesame Street introduced Karli, a 6 ½ year old muppet who was placed in foster care and now we learned that it was because her mother was getting treatment for addiction. This is part of the Sesame Street in Communities program which has free bilingual resources for parents, caregivers, and providers. The message they are delivering to children who are affected by parental addiction is, “You are not alone. You will be taken care of. Addiction is a sickness and, as with any sickness, people need help to get better. And most importantly: It’s not your fault.”
Addiction affects lots of families, as many as 1 in 8 children are living in a household with a parent who suffers from a substance abuse disorder. Of those 5.7 million children, one in three will enter foster care as a result of parental addiction. Sesame Workshop is a non-profit organization, created to help children and they worked with experts in addiction and early childhood development to help children who are affected by addiction by providing age appropriate messages.
Some of the topics and tools that Sesame Street uses are:
- What is Addiction?: Elmo’s dad, Louie, explains that addiction is a sickness—but not the kind you catch like a cold.
- Lending a Hand: Karli tells Elmo about her mom’s meetings and the special kids-only meetings where she meets with other children who are in a similar situation.
- It’s Not Your Fault: Karli tells Elmo that she used to feel like her mom’s addiction was her fault, but has learned that it is a grown-up problem. She has nothing to do with her mom’s addiction and she knows that despite it all, her mom loves her.
Sesame Street also uses live films including a film about Salia, a 10-year-old who has been through a similar experience. Karli and Salia share tips with others like talking about your feelings with a close friend, breathing deep, and drawing feeling flowers. Children learn through play and interactive games like Karli’s Coloring Quilt help young children work through their feelings. In this particular game, children learn the “7 Cs” such as I didn’t Cause the problem, I cannot Control it, and I cannot Cure it etc. The 7Cs were developed by a member of the board of advisors of the National Association for Children of Addiction, Jerry Moe.
Sesame Street in Communities is a wonderful resource for children and their caregivers and they have FREE printables, videos, activities and more to help children who are dealing with homelessness, foster care, divorce, handling emergencies, healthy eating, grief, and more. These resources are designed to promote engagement between children and their caregivers. As Joe Moe stated, “Children who connect to Karli, hearing, ‘It’s not your fault- you are not alone, and there are safe people and places that can help,’ opens a path to hope and healing. This Sesame Street in Communities resource fills a huge void for millions of families hurt by addiction and helps kids be kids again. You can access videos featuring Karli on YouTube and by visiting www.sesamestreetincommunities.org
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