Sesame Street Addresses Issue of Parental Addiction

Elmo's new friend has a mother with a problem
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 10, 2019 12:18 AM CDT
Sesame Street Tackles Opioid Addiction Crisis
This Aug. 6, 2019 photo shows puppeteers Haley Jenkins, left, and Leslie Carrara-Rudolph performing with their "Sesame Street" muppets Karli and Abby Cadabby, respectively, for segments about parental addiction in New York.   (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Sesame Street is taking a new step to try to help kids navigate life in America—it's tackling the opioid crisis. Sesame Workshop is exploring the backstory of Karli, a bright green, yellow-haired friend of Elmo's whose mother is battling addiction. The initiative is part of the Sesame Street in Communities resources available online. Sesame Street creators say they turned to the issue of addiction because an estimated 5.7 million children under age 11 live in households with a parent who has a substance use disorder, the AP reports. "There's nothing else out there that addresses substance abuse for young, young kids from their perspective," says Kama Einhorn, a senior content manager with Sesame Workshop.

It's also a chance to model to adults a way to explain what they're going through to kids and to offer strategies to cope. "Even a parent at their most vulnerable—at the worst of their struggle—can take one thing away when they watch it with their kids, then that serves the purpose," Einhorn says. In segments recorded this summer, Karli, voiced and manipulated by puppeteer Haley Jenkins, was joined by a young girl—10-year-old Salia Woodbury, whose parents are in recovery. The online-only segments with Karli and Salia are augmented with ones that feature Elmo's dad, Louie, explaining that addiction is a sickness, and Karli telling Elmo and Chris about her mom's special adult meetings and her own kids' ones.

(Read more Sesame Street stories.)

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