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Understanding Addiction With Help From the Muppets

By Sara Butler

Sesame Street and Opioids

Image Source: Billboard

Sesame Street has been around for a long time. I remember watching it as a small child in the early 1980s. My daughters were both huge Elmo fans back in their toddlerhood. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone whose young life wasn’t touched by Sesame Street -- and you can, unfortunately, say the same thing about addiction.

Addiction is often viewed through the lens of adulthood. It’s an “adult” issue that must be tackled by adults. But if you’re one of the millions of Americans whose life has been impacted in some way by addiction, then you know all too well that it’s not simply an adult problem -- it’s a problem that impacts the entire family, even its smallest members.

Sesame Street is doing its part to bring this issue into focus for young children, but there are things you can do in your everyday life to make a difference for the children impacted by the scourge of drug addiction and abuse. Here are a few easy ways you can help.

Sesame Street Doing Its Part

Sesame Street has always tackled the tough issues and they aren’t shying away from substance abuse, either. According to Sesame Workshop, Sesame Street’s non-profit education organization, there are more than 5 million children under age 11 who live in households in which at least one parent has a substance abuse problem. That’s 1 in 8 kids. To say that it’s a topic that needs to be addressed is an understatement.

Digging even deeper into this issue and how it impacts those millions of affected kids, 1 in 3 will end up in foster care due to their parent’s addiction. That number has gone up by more than 50 percent in just the past 10 years.

In May 2019, a yellow-haired Muppet named Karli was introduced. She was living in foster care and finally revealed the reason why: Her mom is struggling with addiction. The introduction of Karli may seem like a small thing, but to children whose parents are grappling with drug addiction, it helps to break the stigma and help them realize it’s not their fault. Children need to hear that they are not alone, and Karli is doing her part to help them understand that.

What You Can Do

If you know a child being impacted by addiction of a parent, then there are things you can do to make a difference. Don’t be afraid to get involved and encourage them. For small children you can:

  • Help them with homework
  • Take them to a play date
  • Don’t shy away from talking about their parent when they bring it up
  • Encourage them to focus on their strengths
  • Be patient, especially if they are acting out and struggling with behavioral issues
  • Get them help if you notice they’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or are having issues coping

For older kids, you can:

  • Get them involved with a peer group that offers positive support
  • Help them with homework and other school-related activities
  • Nurture their interests such as reading, drawing, or sports
  • Encourage them to express their opinions
  • Connect them with therapy if you feel it’s necessary

The old adage that “it takes a village” to raise a child rings true when talking about helping children deal with addiction issues related to their parents. Sesame Street is doing its part, so follow their lead and work to end the stigma for children of addicts and help them through.

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