Sesame Street Tackles Addiction With Help From New Muppet Karli

By Victoria Kim 10/11/19

Karli was introduced this year as a muppet in foster care who is living with her “for-now parents” while her mother is in treatment.

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Sesame Street's newest muppet Karli
Sesame Street's newest muppet Karli Photo via YouTube

It’s not easy explaining substance use disorder to a child. But in the upcoming 50th season of Sesame Street, the children’s show approaches the sensitive subject with Karli, a new muppet who is in foster care.

Karli was introduced in May as part of the Sesame Street in Communities initiative, aimed at helping families navigate difficult subjects with kids like autism, divorce and homelessness.

Karli is a muppet in foster care who is living with her “for-now parents” Dalia and Clem while her mommy is away. “Karli’s mommy has been having a hard time, so we are her foster parents or her for-now-parents,” Dalia explained in a video titled “You Belong.”

“We will keep her safe until her mommy can take care of her again.”

Karli's Mom Returns

In a clip from September, we learn that Karli’s mom is back. “Elmo knows that Karli’s mommy was away for a while. But now she’s back,” Elmo says, sitting next to his dad on a park bench. “Karli’s mommy looks and acts different than she did before.”

When Elmo asks why she had to go away, his dad replies, “Karli’s mommy has a kind of sickness. And she had to get some help.”

He continued, “Karli’s mommy has a disease called addiction. Addiction makes people feel like they need a grown-up drink called alcohol or another kind of drug to feel okay. That can make a person act strange in ways they can’t control.”

Elmo pauses, then asks, “But, why doesn’t she just stop?”

His dad explains, “It’s not something you can just stop doing. Not without help from the right grown-ups.”

Karli's Mom Goes To Support Meetings

We learn more about Karli’s mom in a recent clip, where she and Chris (the nephew of Gordon and Susan, two original residents of Sesame Street) explain to Elmo that her mom goes to meetings to talk about her problems.

Chris says, “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.”

Karli adds, “They talk about grown-up problems. 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.”

Karli reveals that she also goes to “a special kids-only meeting. Our parents all have the same problem.”

Resources For Parents, Guardians

The Sesame Street in Communities website offers a range of resources covering other topics like traumatic experiences, self-care and community violence.

Check out their resources about Parental Addiction here.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr