Sesame Street supports military families in transition

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  • By DoD News, Defense Media Activity
Elmo, Big Bird and Abby Cadabby are teaming up with the Defense Department to support thousands of military families as they transition to civilian life, according to Transition to Veterans Program Office officials.

On Jan. 27, the Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, launched a website devoted to helping families cope with the changes associated with transitioning into civilian life, the officials said. Sesame Workshop includes several videos for children and adults, an activity book called “My Story, My Big Adventure Activity Book,” and other resources that military parents can use to help their families communicate through the transition process, the officials said.

The products are intended to increase the ability of parents to communicate with young children in age-appropriate ways and create awareness among transition service providers of the importance of including the whole family, particularly children, when addressing transitions for active duty service members, the officials said. The products are available online and will be distributed through a variety of networks where military families and children are present, both on and off military installations, the officials said.

“We are grateful to Sesame Workshop for their efforts to assist our transitioning military families,” said Susan Kelly, the director of the DOD’s Transition to Veterans Program Office. “Transitioning out of the military can be challenging for families, and we hope these products will help ease that transition.”

The DOD has worked with the Sesame Workshop in the past to use Sesame Street’s familiar characters to help preschool-aged military children understand aspects of military life, such as the deployment of a parent, moving to a new home, and the injury or even death of a parent, the officials said. Previous examples of resources that have been developed through this collaboration between the Sesame Workshop and the Department of Defense can be found through Military OneSource, the officials said

The latest collection of resources about the transition of military families comes through collaboration with the National Center for Telehealth and Technology of the Defense Centers for Excellence, along with personnel from DOD’s Transition to Veterans Program Office and the Military Community and Family Policy office, the officials said.

Focus groups

The department assisted the Sesame Workshop in conducting research on this effort by organizing focus groups in 2015 with transitioning families at installations across the nation, including Fort Riley, Kansas; Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virgina; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C.; Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; Robins Air Force Base, Georgia; Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; Vandenberg AFB, California; Miramar AFB, California; Camp Pendleton, California; Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; and Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, New York; the officials said.

According to the Sesame Workshop, focus group responses indicated that transition-related challenges, such as finding employment and adjusting to a change in family roles, could increase anxiety in military children, possibly resulting in academic or behavioral challenges, the officials said. The workshop’s materials emphasize communication throughout the transition process and underscore the benefits of making new friends and maintaining a positive attitude through change, the officials said.

Rosemary Williams, the deputy assistant defense secretary for military community and family policy, said the long-standing working relationship with Sesame Workshop has great benefits for military families.

“Their unique ability to translate difficult topics into language easily understood by children and trusted by their parents is most unique,” Williams said. “These fun and engaging products will only help military families as they adjust to new changes with the same resilience that marked their service to our nation.”

The products can also be found at the Sesame Street for Military Families website and through a mobile app available for Apple and Android users under the same name, the officials said.