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Elmo wants to know how you're feeling: How Sesame Workshop's resources can help

Elmo is asking folks to open up about their well-being this Mental Health Awareness Month. (Courtesy Sesame Workshop)
Elmo is asking folks to open up about their well-being this Mental Health Awareness Month. (Courtesy Sesame Workshop)
Earlier this year, Elmo checked in with his followers by asking how people were doing. The post went viral on X, and Elmo found many weren’t doing well.
So for Mental Health Awareness Month,Sesame Workshop released newemotional well-being resources for parents and kids with support from UnitedHealthcare.
“It’s very important, you know, to ask people how they’re doing,” Elmo says.But often, people don’t check in about each other’s mental health. Sesame Workshop is trying to break the stigma and teach kids how to reach out for help, senior director of content design Kama Einhorn says.“I think the more we can teach children to name their feelings, to cope with their feelings and to really normalize this idea of sometimes needing extra help with these big feelings,” Einhorn says.

Elmo didn’t expect millions of people to answer his question, but the response taught him an important lesson.

“Sometimes people are doing okay, and sometimes they’re not. And you may not know that unless you ask them,” Elmo says. “And it’s very important to ask people how they’re doing because, you know, sometimes just talking about having a bad day with a friend can really help.”

Elmo listens to his body when he feels big feelings that he struggles to explain. If he’s feeling frustrated, for example, he notices his face starts to feel hot or his breathing quickens.

Sesame Workshop’s resources include a video of Count von Count humming, which is a self-soothing strategy. Both kids and parents can use methods like hugging themselves, practicing gratitude and taking deep breaths to manage bit feelings, Einhorn says.

“When children and adults do them together, they’re bonding and building that nurturing relationship that’s so helpful in building a foundation of emotional well-being throughout children’s lifetimes,” she says.

Sometimes Elmo will move his body around and “wiggle it out” to help himself feel better.

“Another thing that helps Elmo is talking to Elmo’s mommy and daddy,” he says.

If humming and wiggling isn’t enough, Einhorn says to talk to a teacher or pediatrician to learn more strategies.

“When it turns out that there’s a larger cause for concern and the child is in some real distress, we want to encourage adults to reach out for mental health care,” she says.

The Sesame Workshop resources include a feeings helper, a social worker who explains how to help kids through tough times.

“It’s time to see a feelings helper when your big feelings get too big, too much of the time, and they keep you from doing the things you want to do,” Einhorn says. ”All adults want children to thrive, to flourish, to feel and give all the love and joy they can, and to develop those positive mindset skills that will serve them throughout a lifetime.”

Samantha Raphelson produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Micaela Rodriguez.  Allison Hagan adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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