Teaching kids about trauma with Elmo, Big Bird and everyone's favourite Cookie Monster


“When children experience trauma it can affect them in many ways. They can have big feelings that can seem overwhelming at times. But children need to know they’re not alone,” says Alan from our favourite kids television show Sesame Street, reminding us that we have the power to help our children through difficult experiences and events that they may have to face.

In South Africa, children often witness abuse at a very young age, with violence against women and children in our country constantly increasing, particularly in the home. According to the SA Medical Research Council, 40% of men assault their partners daily and 3 women in South Africa are killed every day by their partners. The UCT Children’s Institute also reported that up to 34% of children have experienced some form of sexual and physical abuse by the age of 18.

These numbers are frightening and extremely disheartening because we know that it can and will, in most cases, have lasting and damaging effects on the young and impressionable child.

Sesame Street has taken it upon themselves to help kids deal with traumatic experiences with some of our favourite characters from the show. Launched shortly after the Las Vegas mass shooting, this initiative uses age-specific free printables, reading material, workshops and a series of videos, all to help kids to let out their feelings and manage their frustration as they deal with trauma.

Sophia, for example, teaches a frustrated Rosita a safe way to vent and let out all her anger by telling her, “Hitting a pillow is safe. No one gets hurt. And it can really help let your big feelings out.”

“Wack away,” she says.

The Count teaches the hilarious and hungry Cookie Monster to “count, breathe, relax” when he needs to calm down.

Elmo builds blanket forts to help him feel safe and secure.

And Alan tells Big Bird to think of his “safe place” every time he’s feeling sad, angry, confused, or a terrible and puzzling combination of them all.

This new initiative can certainly help children deal with their emotions in healthy and simple ways. We particularly love that these techniques of letting out pent-up anger are very simple and can be practised at home.

They can also be applied to the most basic situations like when you’re feeling despondent after an exam that you studied really hard for, or exhausted and despairing after a long day at the office. They therefore teach not only children how to deal with their emotions, but adults how to help and deal with their own feelings as well.

“They need us grown-ups, family and friends to help them through,” explains Alan on helping our children.

“You can lend an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, or even offer words of hope. There’s always something you can do to make a difference in the life of a child.”

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Do you have any tips you'd like to share with us that you've found have helped you or your child deal with trauma? Tell us by emailing to chatback@parent24.com and we may publish your comments.

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