Sesame – Kids With Parental Addiction

parents addicted

Sesame Workshop helps kids face parental addiction

In the United States, there are 5.7 million children under age 11, or one in eight children, living in households with a parent who has a substance use disorder—a number that doesn’t include the countless children not living with a parent due to separation or divorce, incarceration, or death as a result of their addiction. One in three of these children will enter foster care due to parental addiction, a number that has grown by more than 50% in the past decade. The trauma of parental addiction can have lasting impacts on a child’s health and wellbeing, but children can be incredibly resilient; the effects of traumatic experiences can be mitigated with the right support from caring adults.

Sesame Street has always been a source of comfort to children during the toughest of times, and now they have a new Muppet, Karli—whose mother struggles with addiction. Created in consultation with experts in addiction and early childhood development, these engaging bilingual resources model strategies to help children overcome the trauma of parental addiction. Most important, they help build resilience, while providing age-appropriate messages and tools for those caring adults to help children cope.

Sesame Workshop, is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street. The initiative features Karli, a 6 ½-year-old. In new videos and other content, favorite Sesame Street characters like Elmo and Abby Cadabby learn what Karli is going through and help their friend to cope. The resources, which are part of the Sesame Street in Communities program and freely available on www.SesameStreetinCommunities.org, deliver the words children need to hear most: 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.

parental addictionKarli was first introduced in May 2019 as the face of the Sesame Street in Communities foster care initiative. Karli’s storyline expands to include the reason she was placed in foster care: her mother had to go away for treatment, but now she’s in recovery. The new resources, which help children like Karli understand the situation and cope with big feelings, include:

  • 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 and Chris about her mom’s meetings and the special kids-only meetings where she gets to spend time with other children going through the same thing. 
  • Monster Music: After her mom returns home from treatment, Karli shares a special moment with Abby Cadabby.
  • 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 was a grown-up problem and that her mom loves her no matter what.
  • Activities and articles for parents and providers, including a digital coloring quilt interactive, a new Play, Talk, Imagine! storybook, and helpful answers to children’s difficult questions. The new resources are designed to promote engagement between children and caring adults in their lives. 

According to Jerry Moe, National Director of Children’s Programs at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, and key advisor on the new initiative. “There have been precious few resources to help young children, so this initiative is a game-changer for the important work we do with kids at Hazelden Betty Ford and for professionals everywhere on the front lines of our nation’s addiction crisis. For 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.”

This initiative is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Joan Ganz Cooney Fund for Vulnerable Children. They’re active in more than 150 countries, serving vulnerable children through a wide range of media, formal education, and philanthropically-funded social impact programs, each grounded in rigorous research and tailored to the needs and cultures of the communities they serve. For more information, please visit www.sesameworkshop.org.

Feature Photo credit: Sesame Workshop/FlynnLarsen

 

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