Nearly half of American children have faced one adverse childhood experience (ACE), according to new analysis of the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, and more than 20% have had two ACEs or more. This may include abuse or neglect, witnessing violence, parental substance abuse, mental illness, or incarceration. And from news headlines, we are all too aware of other traumas children face, such as natural disasters and mass violence.
But we know that children are remarkably resilient, and trauma does not have to define their trajectory. With the right tools and support, the effects of trauma can be mitigated, and children can build coping skills and resiliency for a healthy, promising future.
When we began hearing from community service partners and child development experts that there was a critical need for resources to help children cope with trauma, we felt we could help.
Traumatic experiences can disrupt brain development, but when children have hope, when they feel seen and heard by caring adults who can guide them through those crucial resilience-building techniques, the impact of ACEs can be mitigated, and children can be set on the road to healing and stability.
With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other funders, To do this, we enlisted the pediatric community and professionals in the field, grounding our approach in the latest research. Then we used our proven model to produce resources that could engage and comfort children while building coping skills and foster crucial nurturing connections between children and the adults in their lives.
Our free materials – some are targeted for children and others are for providers – include videos, storybooks, and digital activities in English and Spanish. They are all available at
In one video called “ ,” when Big Bird faces an unspecified difficult situation, he learns to think of his nest as a “safe space” with comforting items like his teddy bear and Granny Bird’s birdseed cookies. This is a place he can go in his imagination to make himself feel safe. In others, to feel secure and a breathing strategy to help him relax.
In addition to engaging materials for children, providers can find professional development workshops, webinars, and other adult-facing content that includes, as part of our trauma content, to help parents and caregivers understand the impact of domestic violence from a child’s perspective.
No one plays a more vital role in children’s health and well-being than pediatricians, nurse practitioners, and family physicians. Our hope is that Sesame Street in Communities will allow us to work together, to help children everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder.
Dr. Betancourt is the senior vice president for U.S. social impact at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit media and educational organization behind Sesame Street, in New York.