New Sesame Street character helps kids deal with effects of substance use disorder

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – It’s one of the most difficult experiences a child can ever go through, being separated from a parent or loved one due to substance use disorder.

Dr. Marianna Linz is a professor and chair at Marshall University’s Psychology department. She says she loves Sesame Street and thinks this is a great way to help children understand what they or their peers are going through.

“They’ve always addressed and tackles the tough issues in a way that’s so developmentally appropriate,” Linz said.

The new character, Karli, is in foster care while her mom is away getting help with substance use disorder.

Within our region, there are more than 6,000 West Virginia children in foster care, nearly 15,000 in Ohio, and a little more than 8,000 in Kentucky, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Center.

Linz says because this is such a traumatic event in a child’s life, it’s important they have support in as many places as possible.

“Them knowing that they’re not alone, that they’re not weird, that their parents are not horrible, that this is something we can talk about,” Linz said. “We can bring it out of the shadows and we can understand it, I think, can be very powerful.”

Linz says when we don’t talk to kids about tough topics they tend to fill the gaps of what they don’t know with misinformation that often leaves them feeling scared and isolated.

Sesame Street says the motivation behind adding Karli to the cast is because, “Children struggling with the effects of their parents’ addiction need the support of safe friends, family members, and other children dealing with the same problem.”

The episodes are currently only online. Each episode teaches kids that it’s okay to talk about their feelings, addresses addiction as being a sickness, and offers comfort and hope with words and songs of encouragement.

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