How Muppets From Sesame Workshop Are Being Used To Help Young Kids Understand Parents With Addiction

The show has always helped kids understand the world around them, even the hard parts.

muppets at the New York Public Library Lester Balajadia / Shutterstock

"Sesame Street" first aired in 1969, featuring fuzzy, floppy monsters who taught kids about counting, spelling, and other educational topics. Along with its silly songs and teachable moments, "Sesame Street" has had a long history of helping kids understand more sensitive topics than the letter of the day, such as loss and grief.

Now, the show is taking aim at another major issue that affects kids’ lives: the opioid epidemic.


The Muppets from Sesame Workshop are helping young kids understand parents who struggle with addiction.

According to CDC data gathered from 2015 to 2019, over 21 million children live with a parent misusing drugs, and over 2 million children live with a parent suffering from substance use disorders. The CDC also found that there was a 30%  increase in drug overdose deaths in the US from 2019 to 2020. 

How Muppets From Sesame Workshop Are Being Used To Help Young Kids Understand Parents With AddictionPhoto: Keira Burton / Pexels 


Yet these kids are not alone. Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind the show, is working to give them and their caretakers resources to better understand parental addiction. 

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In 2019, Sesame Workshop announced a new Muppet, Karli, and an initiative to support families affected by addiction. Karli is a 6-and-a-half-year-old monster who was initially introduced to help kids understand the foster care system. Her storyline expanded to include the reason behind her entrance into foster care. Her mom had to go away for substance abuse treatment and is now in recovery.

Sherrie Westin, the President of Social Impact and Philanthropy for Sesame Workshop, explained the value of sharing educational information about addiction with kids, especially kids who are going through the experience themselves.


“Addiction is often seen as a ‘grown-up’ issue, but it impacts children in ways that aren’t always visible. Having a parent battling addiction can be one of the most isolating and stressful situations young children and their families face,” Westin stated. 

She touched on Sesame Workshop’s commitment to helping kids grasp the harder parts of life, noting, “Sesame Street has always been a source of comfort to children during the toughest of times, and our new resources are designed to break down the stigma of parental addiction and help families build hope for the future.”

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Karli’s presence on 'Sesame Street' helps kids who have parents struggling with addiction by providing a reflection of their lived experience and offering ways to cope.

In one clip, Karli tells Elmo about the meetings her mom goes to in order to stay healthy. The learning moment shared between the muppets highlights the incredible value of community support when navigating addiction.


Sesame Workshop shares resources geared specifically to young kids, like storybooks, coloring books, and conversation guides. These resources help kids and caregivers understand that they are not alone, even when it feels like they are. They help reduce shame, build resilience, and give kids language to discuss the tough things they’re going through.

How Muppets From Sesame Workshop Are Being Used To Help Young Kids Understand Parents With Addiction Photo: Ksenia Chernaya / Pexels 


It’s not just adults who are affected by addiction, or any other hardship, young kids feel them, too. To feel safe and protected, they have to be included in hard conversations in a developmentally appropriate way. 

The existence of a muppet whose mom is battling addiction is nothing short of radical in its commitment to caring for and supporting kids in the same situation, who can now see their own lives reflected at them on screen and, in turn, feel less isolated and alone. 

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers parenting, pop culture analysis, and all things to do with the entertainment industry.