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New Sesame Street Initiative Teaches Children Strategies for Coping With Trauma

Sesame Street has been a valuable resource and dear part of many childhood experiences. The show’s worked as a platform for learning to read and write, understanding characters from different kinds of backgrounds, and introducing conversations that parents can sometimes struggle to have with children. For many generations, Sesame Street has strived to promote curiosity and kindness among kids in accessible and fun ways.

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Now, the show is going to take on another important subject: trauma. In response to the prevalence of those who have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACE), which includes “poverty, abuse and neglect, domestic violence, divorce, and mental illness or substance abuse on the part of a caregiver,” Sesame Street offers some guidance. The initiative, titled Sesame Street in Communities comes out today with “[free] materials, including videos, books and games,” to “help parents and caregivers, in turn, help young children cope with traumatic experiences.”

In the video above, for example, Cookie Monster and the Count share a breathing exercise where you count while blowing your fingers like birthday cake candles. In another, Elmo talks about how creating a fort helps him feel safe after being scared and worried. “Just remind yourself, ‘I can feel safe!’ And then go to your safe place,” Elmo says.

Not only is this a great set of resources for adults and children alike, it’s especially powerful to see characters as iconic and beloved as the Sesame Street gang validating childhood trauma and offering advice. To hear that sometime the cheery Elmo can also get scared or that Rosita gets angry as well isn’t only comforting, it gives children the message that it’s ok and normal for them to go through feelings that can often seem overwhelming and hopeless.

One consultant, Ann Thomas is CEO of The Children’s Place told NPR, “I think one of the biggest values of this material is as a bridge for adults to take grownup issues and put them in developmentally appropriate words to help children heal.” The website also helpfully includes informational breakdowns, like “What is trauma?” with experts and sources. There’s even a printable page that lists other places parents and children can go if they find themselves in need of more focused help.

I tried the Cookie Monster/Count breathing just a few moments ago and it’s simple, yet very effective. Sesame Street in Communities is definitely a great resource to keep in mind, and it’s inspiring to watch how seriously the show takes it’s young audience.

(via NPR, image: screencap)

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