Big Bird Is Here to Help

By Matt Gruenburg, December 6, 2017

This week brings news of more wildfires in California. Already nearly 200,000 people are without power in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and thousands could be forced to evacuate.

The last few months have brought more fires to California, along with hurricanes to Houston and Puerto Rico. These events—and many others that don’t generate headlines—can cause stress and trauma among the children and families who live through them.

But Big Bird is here to help. So are Abby Cadabby, Rosita, and their other friends from Sesame Street.

The Sesame Street muppets were recently on ABC’s Good Morning America, demonstrating stress-reduction and self-calming techniques to the show’s host, Michael Strahan. Abby Cadabby showed him how to clench his fists and release them to help calm himself. Big Bird talked about how, when he has “big feelings,” he pictures a safe nest with his teddy bear and some of his grandmother’s home baked bird seed cookies.

Video: Beloved ‘Sesame Street’ characters teach children how to deal with trauma

And we know the past few weeks have been stressful for families out there. This morning, “Sesame street” in communities is launching a new plan to help children deal with that stress and it’s great to have sesame workshop Sherrie Westin and good friend pediatrician and CEO of Robert wood Johnson foundation, Dr. Richard Besser with us.

The Muppets, along with Sherrie Westin from Sesame Workshop and Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, were there to talk about Sesame Workshop’s first-ever comprehensive initiative designed to help children cope with traumatic experiences. The initiative is a major new addition to Sesame Street in Communities, a program to help community service providers, parents and caregivers give children, especially the most vulnerable, a strong and healthy start.

The initiative includes new, bilingual content including videos, storybooks and digital activities, all featuring the iconic Sesame Street muppets. These resources present universal coping strategies that help children feel safe and become more resilient in a range of situations, and give caring adults the tools they need to foster nurturing connections.

The resources could not be more timely. New data also published this fall show that traumatic experiences are extremely widespread among U.S. youth. Nearly half of children in the country have had at least one Adverse Childhood Experience by the time they turn 18.

Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, can be things like witnessing or being a victim of violence, having a parent or caregiver who abuses drugs or alcohol, or the death or incarceration of a parent.

In the long-term, ACEs can derail a child’s healthy physical and mental development. Children who experience more trauma are at greater risk for some of the leading causes of death: obesity, cancer or heart disease.

And no child or family is immune. ACEs impact youth across racial, ethnic, geographic and income lines.

But helping children build resilience can disrupt that cycle and help get them on back on a healthy path. The new research showed that children who have ACEs but learned to stay calm and in control despite facing challenges were much more likely to be in engaged in school than peers who did not have those skills.

I’m not immune from feeling stressed at times, I don’t think anyone is. As I start to look toward the end of the year and what will come next in 2018, I’m glad that there are resources out there like Sesame Street in Communities, helping support those families who need it the most.

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