Sesame Street Tackles Adverse Childhood Experiences

A special initiative from Sesame Street, called Sesame Street in Communities, has created videos, worksheets, and educational tools to help children deal with trauma.

A study that began in 1995, the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, established that trauma experience, particularly repeated or multiple sources of trauma, can have long-term health impacts on one’s physical and mental health, and even contribute to shortened life expectancy. Addressing the impacts of trauma early, building resilience, and changing the context to remove children and families from traumatic environments, can really make a big difference in making sure people who have experienced traumatic events can bounce back and live the healthiest lives they can.

I can’t remember when I first heard about the ACEs study, I may have been in high school or college, but it immediately made so much sense to me. I have family members who grew up with a lot of trauma, and it gave so much context to the ways they had learned to cope with the effects of those traumatic events. Now that I work with (mostly adult) survivors of domestic violence, I have an even deeper appreciation for the ACEs research and how research on ACEs can get translated into resources for people who have experienced a lot of trauma.

Whether you work with people who children who have experienced trauma or not, I think the whole resource from Sesame Street in Communities is worth looking at because it does a really good job at explaining how trauma works and really easy, tangible coping mechanisms adults can do with children who have experienced trauma. Often children and adults have experienced trauma together, and the adults may need some coaching themselves on how to best help their kids.

This video in particular, meant for adults, is a good, short and impactful demonstration of how children of different ages may react to traumatic events different, and ends with a positive example of how adults can step in to help children.

Sesame Street in Communities included this information along with the video:

As you watch this video of two children’s different responses, consider these questions: What do you notice that is the same in the children’s responses to the traumatic experience? What is different? How does the grandfather make a difference in the end?

The symptoms of having experienced trauma can be different at every age and for every individual child. Every child’s response is unique. Some children “bounce back” after adversity; others show intense distress. Responses can go beyond immediate reactions to traumatic events and damage the child’s brain and nervous system, as well as overall physical health, creating long-term social, emotional, and physical problems. Trauma affects the whole body and the entire emotional world of the person experiencing it.

It can be very difficult to identify trauma in young children, so it’s important to watch for behavioral changes.

I haven’t looked at the site on a mobile device yet, but it is something I’m really interested in from an academic perspective, but also I think it will be really helpful for families and caregivers who have children who have experienced trauma and will definitely be referring people to this website.