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Sesame Street addresses the opioid crisis with Muppet whose mother is in recovery

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Photo: Zach Hyman (HBO)

The Hollywood Reporter reports tonight that Sesame Street—which has, from its inception, embraced its role of socializing, teaching, and just generally instilling vital survival skills in all the children it was created to serve—has begun working to help kids who have been affected by America’s opioid crisis, and substance abuse and addiction in general. The material—which, like the show’s efforts to address issues like the foster care system, homelessness, and being HIV positive, will air online, rather than in the show proper—is aimed at helping kids to understand what it means when their parents and caregivers are struggling with addiction.

Per THR, the material in question focuses on the Muppet character Karli, previously introduced to help relate to kids who were living in the foster care system. In the clips, Karli does things like talk to a live-action girl whose parents are also dealing with addiction, talk to other characters who remind her that her parents’ problems are not her fault, and teaches kids techniques to help manage “big emotions” like anger, stress, and fear. (Elmo also gets involved, because of course he does; his dad Louie teaches him that addiction is a sickness.)


These lessons were designed by Sesame Workshop in association with therapists from the Hazelden Betty Ford Children’s Program, as part of an effort to provide support to preschool-age children, who often have few resources to help them cope with the unstable situations created when the adults in their lives are struggling with addiction. “For everything we’ve done—from military families to homelessness — it’s all about how to make children free to talk and to give parents the tools to do just that,” said Sherrie Westin, president of global impact and philanthropy for Sesame Workshop “They tend to avoid it and it’s what they need more than anything.”

All of Sesame Street’s similar outreach and support materials are available online; they include links to other resources, as well as suggestions for parents and caregivers on how to talk about these topics with their kids.