In a powerful new initiative launched by the creators of “Sesame Street,” the show’s beloved Muppets are teaching kids how to cope with trauma and stress.
Rosita shows how punching a pillow can help relieve pent-up frustration, and the Count describes how counting helps calm his nerves. Big Bird is seen in one video learning to use his imagination to find his “safe place,” and Elmo shares how he builds blanket forts to seek solace when he’s scared.
The video series is part of a wider Sesame Workshop initiative ― which includes free online reading materials, games and activities in both Spanish and English ― aimed at equipping children, caregivers and social workers with tools to help kids overcome traumatic experiences.
The project was launched on Friday, days after the massacre in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. It was released the same day that new federal survey was published showing how almost half of all American children under age 18 have encountered at least one adverse childhood experience, or ACE, in their lifetime. ACEs are defined as stressful or traumatic events, and can include physical or emotional violence, poverty, natural disasters and terrorism.
ACEs have been linked to “risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, low life potential and early death,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC describes early experiences of children as “an important public health issue.”
Several psychologists, educators and ACE experts are listed as advisers to the Sesame Workshop initiative. One of them ― Ann Thomas, CEO of The Children’s Place in Kansas ― told NPR last week that she hopes the materials will help create a “sense of safety, consistency and predictability” for kids who are feeling scared and under stress, and will also empower adults to connect better with children experiencing trauma.
“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,” Thomas said. “When it’s your child, you don’t want them to hurt. Sometimes we want to say, ‘get over it.’ It’s hard to be with a child in that pain.”
Learn more about the “Traumatic Experiences” initiative on the “Sesame Street in Communities” website here.