Sesame Street has been evolving like so many other kids programs today, in an attempt to both diversify its character roster, and expand upon the kinds of topics that modern kids have to face. It's that latter agenda that has given rise to a new Sesame Street storyline, one that examines one Muppet character trying to deal with a parent's struggle with addiction. That character is Karli, who will appear in an online-only segment that will teach younger kids all about dealing with parental addiction, through video segments featuring both muppet and human characters. The series is part of the "Sesame Street in Communities" initiative that was launched by the Sesame Workshop non-profit behind the show.
The series sees "Elmo and other muppets learn about addiction, 'a sickness — but not the kind you catch like a cold,' and how to help their friend Karli cope with her mother getting treatment for her “grown-up problem." One segment that's (heartbreakingly) titled "It's Not Your Fault" helps children confront the guilt that may come with seeing a parent struggle with his/her addiction. Another segment introduces Salia, ten-year-old real-life girl who is also struggling with parental addiction, and becomes a supportive friend for Karli:
"When my mom was having a hard time, I had lots of big feelings," Karli says. "I felt like I was the only one. Now, I met other kids like Salia and we can talk about it together."
Salia offers child-friendly examinations of parental addiction and what to do about it, in a language that kids can respond to, using her own experience with the issue as example:
“It feels good to help other children who went through what I went through,” Salia tells the audience. “I’m proud of Mom and Dad for asking for help and not using drugs and alcohol anymore.”
Sesame Workshop exists to tackle these very uncomfortable (yet very real) topics children must face in life, with past topics including homelessness, foster care, imprisonment, or even death. As for the topic of parental addiction, here's what Sesame Workshop president of social impact and philanthropy, Sherrie Westin, tells Yahoo!:
"Karli first and foremost will help children who have a similar situation to feel less alone — and that’s so important to children whose parents are struggling ... For a child to know that it’s OK to talk about, and for a child to know that it’s OK to ask for help and for a child to know that it’s not their fault and that other children are experiencing this too is hugely important."
Catch Karli and Sesame Workshop, online.