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My mom loved watching Sesame Street with me when I was a little girl, and I thought she was weird because of it.

Now that I’m a mom, though, I get it. The Sesame Street Muppets are goofy and adorable, but they’re also spot-on about life even in the midst of their chaos. Here are the 12 life lessons I’ve learned by watching Sesame Street this second time around.

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1. Adventure awaits

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Whether Grover is flying to another planet or Abby Cadabby is exploring her classroom, these Muppets have taught us that adventure awaits those who choose to participate in the drama of life. There’s no reason to wait for more money or more time when adventure is just outside our doors.

2. Imagination is a beautiful place

Daydreaming isn’t just a waste of time. In fact, the imagination can unlock new ways of thinking — and much more.

3. Sharing is a long-term goal

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Sharing is dumb in the short term. You don’t get as much of the stuff you want. But Sesame Street has also taught us that sharing and compromise with neighbors and friends is what builds relationships that last.

4. It’s OK to talk about the hard stuff

Sesame Street has bravely tackled the hard stuff that adults don’t always know how to discuss with kids. For instance, Big Bird learned a lesson about feeling left out when he experienced bullying first-hand. In 2017, we met Karli, a Muppet in foster care whose mom was struggling with addiction, and Julia, a Muppet with autism. From racism to COVID vaccines, we can always count on Sesame Street to teach important issues in a kid-friendly way.


5. Families come in many forms

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I grew up in a mostly white neighborhood, and I remember how cool it was to realize that all families — regardless of their parts and pieces — had love, traditions and routines in common.

6. There’s always someone wiser

If there’s a problem on Sesame Street, you know that there is an adult or another Muppet around to help. There’s always someone wiser than our present circumstances, and the Sesame Street gang knows that it’s important to ask for help and perspective.

7. We need friends who balance us

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Bert and Ernie are perennially beloved characters because we get them. Relationships work best with differences that help friends and partners balance one another. Otherwise, Bert would be boring and Ernie would be homeless.

8. Gluttony has its drawbacks

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Cookie Monster is awesome and lovable, but he’s hard to be around when he indulges his gluttony. Moderation is key to healthy lifestyle choices in all kinds of ways, folks.

9. We can’t change people — but we can meet them where they are

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I love that Oscar the Grouch never really changes. He’s grouchy. It’s who he is, and no one can make him change. But I also love that his Sesame Street friends continue to invite him to see and engage with the world differently, even though they know what Oscar’s answer will be. And they love him regardless.

10. The world needs us just as we are

Sensitive Big Bird sometimes believes that he needs to change who he is to fit in with others and their expectations. But when he tries to change, there’s no one to reach the top shelf at the store, for example. The world needs him just as he is: nothing more and nothing less.

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11. Kids have valid feelings

Sesame Street is known for tackling difficult issues like death, divorce and even parental incarceration. As we watch the stories unfold, we get to see that kids are just as invested in the issues as adults but may not have the words with which to discuss their feelings. Watching a kid respond to a real-life issue like divorce on Sesame Street is an important reminder of kids’ emotional lives.

12. A positive attitude makes a difference

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Elmo knows how to laugh no matter what he faces. Sometimes, remaining positive and figuring out how to laugh can change the course of an entire day.

A version of this post was originally published in 2015.


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