Molly Crenshaw, site director of the Universal Parenting Place at Perea School led a six-week series designed to help participants learn how to talk to toddlers about difficult emotions. Photo courtesy of ACE Awareness Foundation.

Hugs, tears, and prayers bubbled to the surface in a group of North Memphis parents during an innovative discussion series focused on coping with community grief, violence, and trauma.

Coffee & Conversation with Sesame Street in Communities was a six-week series held at the Universal Parenting Place at Perea School designed to help parents learn how to unpack tough and common issues with their little ones. Topics included managing emotions, dealing with tantrums, coping with incarceration, and helping children through grief.

More than 50 parents came together to learn more about each topic and left with a support system they can lean on during tough times. The group became emotional when they began to share stories about their personal experiences.

“We all got together and had a ‘hug train’ to just love on each other,” Molly Crenshaw, site director of UPP at Perea shared. “There were tears flowing from everyone and one parent asked if we could pray as a group.”

Violence and grief are all too common in this tight-knit community. The series was birthed after parents began asking for tools.

“We experienced a lot of community violence and trauma over the past year,” said Crenshaw. “Many parents weren’t talking to their kids about it because they just didn’t know how.”

Using materials from Sesame Workshop and Sesame Street in Communities, workshop participants learned to talk to young children about tantrums, parental incarceration, and grief. Photo courtesy of ACE Awareness Foundation.

In addition to the in-depth discussions about the weekly topics, session attendees also received practical tips and tools to help them in their day-to-day lives. Thanks to a partnership with Sesame Street in Communities (SSIC), parents were able to take home books that were tailored to each of the topics- Little Kids, Big Challenges, When Families Grieve and Brave, Strong, Resilient Little Kids.

“Each session started and ended with a mindfulness moment that taught parents about deep breathing, safe place visualization and showed them things to do with their kids at home,” Crenshaw said.

In 2018, the ACE Awareness Foundation, the funding partner of the UPPs, established a collaboration with Sesame Street in Communities to provide the enriched SSIC curriculum to parents across the Memphis and Shelby County area. SSIC is a project of Sesame Workshop, and draws upon that organization’s 50-year record of experience in child education as well as its leadership in helping parents and other child caregivers have tough conversations with children. This series utilized resources in the SSIC curriculum to enhance the experience for parents.

Crenshaw said UPP at Perea will have more support group series such as Coffee & Conversations in the spring. To learn more about all four Memphis-area UPPs, visit