“How to get to Sesame Street…”
Can you hear the song in your head? When I found out my niece, age 5, and my nephew, age 3 ½, had never heard of Sesame Street, I couldn’t wait to introduce them. We played some of the educational games, which teach skills like pattern recognition, on Sesame Street’s website and they loved it. (My nephew is particularly enamored with Cookie Monster!) While Sesame Street has broad appeal, it has also created some resources for certain demographic areas which illustrate issues specific to that group, including military children.
In 2006, Sesame Street created the Talk, Listen, Connect series, which is specifically geared towards helping children cope with the challenges particular to being a military child, such as frequent moves, separation, and even grief. The program has three phases: Phase 1 is focused on deployment and reintegration of the family following deployment; Phase 2 covers the process of dealing with a parent who has a physical or mental injury; and Phase 3 addresses the challenges of losing a parent and coping with grief. The program is composed of several aspects, including live shows, makeovers of public child spaces on bases and installations, and a library of online resources. All of the resources are free to military and, in some cases, veteran families.
For those of you who still have access to base, there is the USO/Sesame Street Experience for Military Families. This is a live event, which features many of the favorite Sesame characters, such as Elmo, and a character, Katie, created specifically to relate to military children. In its sixth year, the 30-min shows address topics such as deployments and post-deployment adjustments. This year the “experience” will spend seven months crisscrossing the US, performing 200 shows at almost 70 different military bases. Upcoming tour locations include bases in the VA/MD/DC metro area, followed by a swing through the Midwest and West and on into California and Arizona (more tour dates to be added later). You can find a complete list of events, FAQs, sample videos and more here.
If you don’t have access to base or if the show isn’t coming to your location, you can access Talk, Listen, Connect resources online. These are free and available to both military and veteran families. The “toolkit” contains a series of videos that address the three phases in a way that children can relate to. In the “Parent and Caregiver Guide” (available in English and Spanish), each phase of deployment and reintegration is reviewed and practical solutions provided for helping your children cope, such as creating a paper chain and adding a link to it each day to get keep track of how long the parent is gone or how to put PTSD into terms a child can understand. The “Facilitator’s Guide” has more activities, as well as list of children’s books and other websites that may be helpful.
There is also the Military Families Near and Far website. This page is designed to deal with the same issues mentioned above, but with a few additional resources, including ones for school age children, grown ups, and families as a whole and ones focused on self-expression. Broken down by category, there are more videos, activities, a magazine for military kids, and even an opportunity for the entire family to create a Facebook type account, where children and parents can leave video recordings or greeting cards for each other, create a family scrapbook, and even create music and art.
You can find out the latest from Sesame Street, including the details on their new app designed to help young children with the stress of moving, by following them on their Sesame Street for Military Families Facebook page.
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