The Children's Program Teaches Self-care Skills and Strategies—with an Extra Helping of Fun Cynthia Galaviz-Olivas unfurls a silky purple cape adorned with a sparkly gold "T & R," introducing children to a new super hero of sorts. "In our program, 'Addiction' is the bad guy and 'T&R'— treatment and recovery—is the super hero," explains Galaviz-Olivas, supervisor of the Hazelden Betty Ford Children's Program in Rancho Mirage, California. "We help children understand that people who get hooked or trapped by addiction can ask for help, and T&R will come to the rescue." Fun and games are much more than fun and games at the Children's Program, where laughter, silliness and play are encouraged as essential self-care skills. All children need to play, says Galaviz-Olivas, but kids who grow up with addiction in the home are too preoccupied with worrisome what-if situations and questions that seem unaskable. Like the seven-year-old who stayed awake all night in case her mom fell down the stairs again and needed help. Or the nine-year-old who pretended to play a video game while secretly Googling "can alcohol kill my dad?" "A big part of what we do in the Children's Program is help kids understand that their number one job is to be a kid," explains Galaviz-Olivas. "Once children learn that addiction is an illness—an illness that isn't the child's fault or responsibility in any way, shape or form—a huge weight is lifted. In just a few days, we see the special magic and sparkle of being a kid start to come back." Today, nearly one in three children in America grow up in homes impacted by addiction. Not only do children exposed to family addiction face enormous stress and heartache in their daily lives, they are at far greater risk of some day developing substance use and mental health problems themselves. "In a very real sense, the Children's Program is as much about helping kids heal from the hurt of addiction as it is about teaching skills and strategies that can help to prevent addiction in the first place," Galaviz-Olivas observes. "We help children find their voice so they can let out their feelings and talk about problems and secrets that don't feel good to keep." With content and activities designed for kids ages seven to 12, the four-day Children's Program is led by highly skilled counselors who blend learning and play through small group discussions, role-playing exercises, games, artwork and recreational activities. Parents and caregivers join their children for a portion of the program, including an activity where adults, without interrupting, listen to the children share what it's like to live with addiction in the home. The experience is transformative for children and parents alike, says Galaviz-Olivas. "Making addiction and recovery okay topics to talk about is absolutely life-changing for our kids and families," she explains. As part of the Sesame Street in Communities' educational outreach efforts around parental addiction, Galaviz-Olivas and her colleagues at the Children's Program are featured in a special "Provider Portrait" video. Materials and resources developed for Sesame Street in Communities are intended to help caregivers and professionals start important conversations and answer children's questions. Galaviz-Olivas sees the effort as a giant step forward in overcoming the stigma and secrets that still surround addiction. "Imagine what a healthier, happier world we would live in if parents no longer felt ashamed to ask for help with this disease, and if children no longer felt alienated and alone." Sounds like the work of T&R, building a brighter tomorrow for families everywhere. Cynthia Galaviz-Olivas and her colleagues at the Hazelden Betty Ford Children's Program teach kids who are hurt by a parent's addiction that their job is to be a kid—not to fix grown-up problems. You can see Galaviz-Olivas and the Children's Program in action at the Sesame Streets in Communities website.