'Sesame Street' introduces new character whose mom has an opioid addiction
Sesame Street has always been one of the most progressive children's television shows that never shies away from dealing with some of the more challenging aspects some young viewers may encounter in their lives. For example, the show was praised all the way back in 1983 for how they dealt with actor Will Lee's (who played the beloved Mr. Hooper) death, and even back in July 2o17, they introduced Julia, who is the first Muppet with autism on the show.
Now, the iconic puppet show has introduced a new character - a green, golden-haired female called Karli, whose mother has an opioid addiction.
Per the Guardian, the show felt it was time to introduce Karli after research found that around 5.7 million children in the US under the age of 11 live in a home with a parent struggling with substance abuse.
Kama Einhorn, a senior content manager with Sesame Workshop, commented on the landmark decision, saying: "There’s nothing else out there that addresses substance abuse for young, young kids from their perspective.
Einhorn added that the character will offer struggling parents a way to explain to their children what they’re going through, and also provide them simple strategies to cope. Einhorn continued: "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."
The brave decision to introduce Karli is all part of the Sesame Street in Communities resources, which provide online child activities and assistance to parents. Writing on their official Twitter page, Sesame Street said:
"Addiction is seen as a 'grown-up issue' but it impacts children in ways that often aren’t visible. Take a look at our new resources that help the whole family cope and build hope for the future."
Check out the video below to see Karli and Salia's stories:
Segments like the one above were recorded at a small studio in the not-for-profit organization’s Manhattan headquarters. Karli is voiced and manipulated by puppeteer Haley Jenkins, and was joined by a young girl by the name of Salia whose parents are currently in recovery.
"Hi, it’s me, Karli. I’m here with my friend Salia. Both of our parents have had the same problem – addiction," Karli says the viewers.
Ten-year-old Salia Woodbury then says, "My mom and dad told me that addiction is a sickness", to which Karli adds:
"Yeah, a sickness that makes people feel like they have to take drugs or drink alcohol to feel OK. My mom was having a hard time with addiction and I felt like my family was the only one going through it. But now I’ve met so many other kids like us. It makes me feel like we’re not alone."
Check out Salia's full story below:
"Right, we’re not alone. And it’s OK to open up to people about our feelings," Salia says.
Sesame Street wants to show children that there are many ways to feel better about their anger and sadness, such as art and breathing exercises.
Creators of the show have also revealed how they prefer to use the word "addiction" in comparison to "substance abuse" and "recovery" instead of "sobriety", as these terms are easier for children to understand.
Karli had already been introduced as a puppet in foster care earlier this year, but this new backstory will allow viewers to understand why her mother had to leave her in care.