Sesame Street's Latest Helps Children Process Trauma

Oct 9, 2017 at 1:39 p.m. ET
Image: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Thank goodness for Sesame Street — and all of its residents. The latest launch from Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit branch of the long-running TV series, is a first-ever collection of videos and materials designed to assist parents and caregivers who are trying to help little ones cope with horrific events in the world as well as deal with adverse circumstances at home. The launch is timely, with so many children — and all of us grown-ups — trying to make sense of the recent worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

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This initiative is linked to Sesame Street in Communities, a program that was launched to help parents and caregivers of children (particularly the most at-risk, vulnerable kids) empower them to handle painful events. According to the Sesame Street in Communities website, "When a child endures a traumatic experience, the whole family feels the impact. But adults hold the power to help lessen its effects. Several factors can change the course of kids’ lives: feeling seen and heard by a caring adult, being patiently taught coping strategies and resilience-building techniques, and being with adults who know about the effects of such experiences."

Here's one video where Elmo talks about his blanket fort as a way of feeling safe and secure.

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A statement released by Sesame Workshop about the new program provides the sobering (but not surprising) stats of ACEs — adverse childhood experiences — from analysis of the 2016 National Survey of Children's Health. Nearly half of American kids (half!) under the age of 18 have endured at least one kind of adverse event in their lives. ACEs include everything from divorce to parental incarceration to experiencing natural disasters to witnessing domestic violence to being the target of abuse. And according to Sesame Workshop's statement, these traumatic experiences can "disrupt a child's brain development and increase the risk of short-term and long-term physical, social and emotional issues."

As parents or caregivers, it's easy to feel helpless in the face of tragedies, but there's plenty we can do — and this fantastic initiative from Sesame Workshop aims to empower adults to make the world feel safer for the little ones we love. Sesame Street in Communities states, "You have the power to help kids feel safe and learn to cope. On this site you’ll find materials and resources to help you do that."

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The accessible, relatable videos are as sensitive and warm and caring as you'd expect from anything Sesame-created. Characters and settings — like Elmo in his blanket fort — are familiar ones, and language is beautifully age-appropriate. Take a look at some of the other compassionate scenes the company has created to combat the fears that many of us, kids included, are feeling right now

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Other topics covered by this video initiative are how to feel safe, how to handle anxiety and even family preparation for a hurricane, flood or other natural disaster.

Sesame Workshop wants you to know that you're not alone trying to help the kids in your life make sense of all the darkness in the world. And there's a lot that can mitigate stress and trauma in our kids, such as the presence of other loving adults as well simply listening to our children and encouraging them to express themselves fully and often. They need us; that's for sure — and it seems like we parents need Sesame Workshop too.

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