'Sesame Street' Compassionately Tackles Muppet Coping With Mom's Addiction Battle

by Kaitlin Kimont

Addiction affects millions of people and, of course, millions of families as well. And while it's not the easiest subject to talk about with children, the beloved PBS children's show Sesame Street addressed addiction in a recent segment with thoughtfulness, understanding, and compassion.

In the new segment, which is part of the Sesame Street in Communities project and aired on Oct. 9, Karli, the lime green muppet with yellow pigtails who's in foster care, opens up about her mother's struggles with addiction with character Chris Robinson and Elmo. "Thanks Chris for watching me and Elmo while my mom's at her meeting," Karli, who's voiced by Haley Jenkins, says.

"What meeting did Karli's mom have to go to?" Elmo asks. "Well buddy, Karli's mom has been having a hard time, so in order to help her get better, she goes to a meeting with her group. They all sit in a circle," Chris explains to Elmo, who says he likes "singing-circle time in school" and asks if Karli's mom also sings songs in a circle.

"No, they talk about grown-up problems," Karli tells Elmo. "She goes every day so that she stays healthy. You see, well, my mom needs help learning to take better care of herself so she talks to people with the same problem."

Chris then chimes in to explain that "everybody there is having the same kind of hard time, so they talk with each other about it." Elmo then says talking about his problems helps him, too. "When Elmo talks about a problem that Elmo's having, it helps Elmo feel better," he says.

Karli agrees and then shares with Elmo that she goes to a "special kid's only meeting." She explains, "Our parents all have the same problem. We sit in a circle and at the end, we hold hands and we wing." The segment wraps up with Karli, Elmo, and Chris all holding hands.

Sesame Street often tackles difficult topics that can be hard for kids to cope with and understand. For example, Karli was first introduced back in May to highlight the "stories and unique love of foster families," according to CNN. In the past, Sesame Street has also addressed complicated topics like death and grief.

The latest segment addressing addiction — entitled "Lending a Hand" — is especially relevant today, and will hopefully help end the stigma surrounding the subject and help kids know they're not alone, which appears to be Sesame Street's aim. "Children struggling with the effects of their parents’ addiction need the support of safe friends, family members, and other children dealing with the same problem," the segment's description reads.

Addiction is a disease, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and it impacts millions of people every single year. Although addiction is perhaps more common than many may realize, as PBS reported, research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has found that many do not get treatment. Sesame Street's focus on Karli's mom receiving treatment and going to her support group meetings to overcome her addiction reinforces the fact that help is available and offers a hopeful, positive look at a challenge many families face.