Who doesn’t have memories of Big Bird singing to them through the TV screen as they sat pretzel-legged on their living room carpet? Or Oscar the Grouch grumbling from the garbage can as they munched on a peanut butter sandwich?
For more than 50 years Sesame Street has been bringing joy into the lives of both children and adults alike. The characters also taught us some valuable lessons, and even helped us get through hard times.
Currently, they are addressing a topic we are all too familiar with – the opioid crisis. In a series of new segments, six-year-old Muppet Karli reveals she’s been living in foster care because her mother is struggling with addiction. She will tell her backstory in online-only segments as part of the Sesame Street in Communities initiative. You’ll see some of your other favorite Sesame Street characters like Elmo and Abby Cadabby learn what Karli is going though and help their friend to cope.
An estimated 5.7 million U.S. children under the age of 11 live with a parent battling a substance abuse disorder. That’s one in eight kids. Those statistics don’t include children who have been separated from a parent due to circumstances like divorce, incarceration or death related to their addiction.
“Addiction is a family disease and no one goes untouched. Here at Cumberland Heights, we believe in whole family healing which includes children. It’s really great that the broader community (even Sesame Street) continues to grow in its work to understand addiction. Children need our support to learn about the disease, to learn it’s not their fault and to know that they’re not alone in their experiences. There is hope and healing!” said Kristy Roll, Director of Family Services at Cumberland Heights.
The new segments have gotten a lot of attention on social media, and it isn’t always positive. Here are just a few comments made on a WSMV-TV news post on the series:
“Kids should have the right to grow up being a kid, not learning how to deal with their irresponsible parents through a show that was made to help them start their life and mingle in school.”
“This is why I’m glad my kids are too old for this kind of programming. What is wrong with you people that you think that kids need a character to normalize this kind of situation?”
“When did Sesame Street become so serious? Let kids be kids!”
Cumberland Heights’ Chief Clinical Officer Cinde Stewart-Freeman says unfortunately, addiction is an issue for all of us and programming like this can only help.
“While I understand an adult’s desire to protect their child’s innocence, I think this is an illusion. Children already know more, see more and hear more from their peers, TV, social media, etc. than at any other time in our history. It may make us uncomfortable, but we owe it to our children to help them be prepared,” said Stewart-Freeman.
You can watch more of the online segments by clicking here.