Meet Karli and Salia, a young muppet and 10-year-old girl whose lives have been directly impacted by addiction
For any parent who has experience with addiction – whether personally or via a close friend or loved one – broaching the topic with your children can be quite difficult. After all, drug addiction and alcoholism aren’t something most children (let alone many adults) are equipped to understand. In one of their most important segments ever, Sesame Street — who has addressed everything from autism to foster care — has managed to seamlessly tackle the topic of addiction, presenting it in an extremely relatable and digestible manner for even the youngest of kids.
That being said, get the box of Kleenex out, because this one is a tear-jerker.
In the clip, Karli, a new muppet voiced by Haley Jenkins, expresses her gratitude toward Chris (Chris Knowings) for helping watch her and Elmo while her mother is “at her meeting.” Elmo, being the most inquisitive muppet on the street, asks what kind of a meeting she is at.
Chris explains that she is “having a hard time.” “So in order to help her get better, she goes to a meeting with her group,” Chris continues. “They all sit in a circle.”
Elmo mentions that he likes singing in a circle at school, but Karli explains to him that this kind of circle is different. “They talk about grown up problems. She goes everyday so that she stays healthy. You see, my mom needs help learning to take better care of herself,” Karli responds.
Later on, Karli reveals that she goes to her own support meetings for children whose parents are struggling with addiction. “Our parents all have the same problem,” Kari says, with Chris adding that “holding the hand of a friend can really help you feel better.”
“My new friend Salia is a very special friend. Her mom and dad had the same problem as my mom — addiction,” explains Karli in the next segment. “When my mom was having a hard time, I had lots of big feelings. I felt like I was the only one, but now I’ve met other kids like Salia, and we can talk about it together.”
Salia, 10, then tells her story. How she went to go live with her grandparents after her parents had to “go to a place to help them feel better” to battle their addiction demons. “Addiction is a sickness — it makes people feel like they need drugs and alcohol to feel okay,” Salia explains. And they can’t stop doing it and they aren’t acting like themselves. “They were gone for 60 days and it felt like 60 years.”
Viewers then meet her beautiful parents. “We had to leave for 60 days to go get help because we wanted you to have a good life, but first we had to take care of ourselves so that we could do that,” her mother explains.
“For any sickness people need treatment to feel better. My mom and dad got treatment so that makes me feel happier for them,” continues Salia.
The young but incredibly mature little girl then practices meditation with her mother, something her mom picked up while in rehab. She also explains all the other helpful tools she has learned about while dealing with her parents’ addiction struggles, which include writing down her feelings, art therapy, spending time in nature, and playing with her friends.
“Going through tough times is harder for families but when they get to the end of it, they end up stronger,” she concludes the heartwarming video.
If you made it through both segments without any feels, then you might not have any experience with addiction. However, as someone who has personally struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction and has over 15 years of sobriety under my belt, these segments were everything. Because I got help a decade before my first child was born, I haven’t really been forced to discuss addiction in depth with my children. Occasionally, I will mention something about my sobriety, but I don’t think it really resonates with them, mostly because they are still really young and probably don’t even know what alcohol is.
However, they are going to watch these segments ASAP, as I couldn’t do a better job explaining addiction to them.
Even if you don’t think your children need to be educated about addiction yet, think about this: drug and alcohol abuse is rampant in our society, and children are suffering. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, one out of every eight children — 8.7 million total — in the United States lived in a household where at least one parent has a substance abuse problem. Even if your child isn’t one of them, it’s extremely likely one of their friends is.
Give your children the knowledge they need, not only to stay away from drugs and alcohol, but to be better friends to those children who already know far too much about it firsthand.
For more addiction resources, head on over to the Sesame Street website.