'Sesame Street' Addresses Addiction With Newest Muppet


“Sesame Street” has done it again, introducing another character to help more families relate to the children’s show. This time, they’ve brought in a mother struggling to overcome addiction.

Between homelessness, divorce, autism, and incarceration, “Sesame Street” isn’t afraid to tackle the tough questions in a way that’s digestible for young children. 6-year-old Karli, introduced to the show back in May, was the first “Sesame Street” character to grapple with being in foster care.

Now, young fans of the show are learning a little more about Karli’s past, which includes having a mother struggling to overcome her experience with addiction. The storyline makes a couple of things clear: addiction is an illness, and it’s not the child’s fault.

Sherrie Westin, the president for social impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, spoke to TODAY about their decisions to weave tough storylines into the largely upbeat children’s show. “What Karli does is she helps bring to life an issues that a lot of people think of as a grown up issue, and don’t understand the impact on young children,” she says.

“In the United States, there are nearly 6 million children under the age of 11 living with a parent who has a substance abuse problem,” she continues. This staggering number has led “Sesame Street” to launch a new parental addiction initiative.

While Karli’s character makes it clear that she can’t fix all of her mother’s problems, she offers up ways to cope with them and manage her own emotions through stress relief exercises that kids can explore.

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