The children’s show Sesame Street has been praised for addressing serious topics that might be difficult to explain to children. In its most recent effort, the show announced Wednesday that it is taking steps to address the topic of parental addiction, and the impact that can have on children.
In a new series of videos as part of the Sesame Street in Communities initiative, a 6-and-a-half-year-old muppet named Karli explains the struggles her mom is going through, and learns the importance of talking about your feelings with your friends. Karli was originally introduced to the show’s cast in May, in an episode addressing foster care. “Karli’s mommy has been having a hard time,” Karli’s foster parents explain in the episode, “So we are her foster parents or her for-now-parents. We will keep her safe until her mommy can take care of her again.”
The most recent videos with Karli show her and some of the adults in the show teaching Elmo about why Karli’s mom needs help, without naming a specific addiction. “Karli’s mom has been having a hard time,” one of the adults explains. “So, in order to help her get better, she goes to a meeting with her group.” Karli explains to Elmo, “My mom needs help learning to take better care of herself. So she talks to people with the same problem.”
In a New York Times interview, Sesame Street’s president of social impact and philanthropy Sherri Westin explained why the show sought to address such a serious topic like addiction. “Quite frankly, what we’ve learned over the last year was how much need there was and how little resources there are for some of the traumatic events that children are facing.” This isn’t the first time Sesame Street has introduced a new character to address a serious topic, either. Just two years ago, the show introduced Julia, a character with autism; before that, they had introduced Alex, a character with an incarcerated parent.
The Sesame Street videos featuring Karli are available for free on the Sesame Street in Communities website, along with resources for children and caretakers who may be experiencing a situation similar to Karli’s. The accessibility of Sesame Street’s content has been a point of contention in recent weeks, since it was announced that Sesame Street will be moving to HBO Max for its 51st season. Though episodes will still air on PBS several months after their initial airing on HBO, some fans have expressed their disappointment with the new paywall that may prevent immediate access to episodes for low-income families.