Posts Tagged ‘ children of deployed soldiers ’

The Sesame Street/USO Experience: Bringing Support And Joy Directly To Military Families

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

In my last post, I wrote about how Sesame Street is helping kids deal with parental deployment. But there’s more. Since 2008, Sesame Workshop and the USO have collaborated to bring a free, traveling tour based on Sesame’s Talk, Listen, Connect Initiative to more than 234,000 military families in the US and overseas. To learn more about this unique partnership, I had the privilege of speaking with Mr. Sloan Gibson, who is the President of the USO.

In this warm and engaging conversation, it quickly became clear that Mr. Gibson has a passion for military families and their children. He shared a number of insights to me that are relevant for military families as well as all of us who wish to support them. He informed me that the tour’s overarching themes and messages include:

  • Offering a thank you to military families from the American people
  • Recognizing the sacrifices that military personnel and their families make
  • Doing something nice and fun for children in military families
  • Letting military families know that they are not alone in dealing with issues surrounding deployment

As Mr. Gibson pointed out, the USO is constantly adapting to meet the needs of today’s military personnel – and partnered with Sesame Workshop to develop and launch a tour addressing the growing concerns of the vast number of children who are affected by having a deployed parent (many of whom endure repeated deployments). Over the past 3 years the tour has provided an engaging and fun 30 minute show featuring the Sesame Street characters we all know (including Elmo and Cookie Monster) who gently raise issues facing children in military families. The kids are also treated to a number of gifts including twirly lights, bandanas, magnets and post cards. Parents also have access to a number of outreach materials focused on navigating the significant challenges of dealing with deployment. JF_Sesame_11

This year, the show was revamped with new music, a new set design, and the introduction of a new Sesame Street character named Katie (see close-up). Katie is a military child experiencing the difficulty of relocation who was designed exclusively for the show.  The Sesame Street characters help Katie talk about her fears – and excitement – elicited by the changes in her life. 

Between the launch last April and the expected conclusion in November, the tour is expected to deliver approximately 147 shows on 59 bases around the world. Of course, we all can’t travel to bases to support military families. But we can take pride that the Sesame Street/USO Experience is doing this for us. Here’s a snippet from one of the shows that will certainly make you feel good: The Sesame Street/USO Experience

To learn more about the USO please visit uso.org

To learn more about the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families and where the tour is headed next, visit uso.org/sesame

To learn more about other programs and services offered by the USO vist uso.org/programs

Photos courtesy of the USO and Fred Greaves

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Deployed Soldiers’ Kids: How War Affects Their Adjustment

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Unlike prior generations, many soldiers are parents. A new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine reveals that when they are deployed, their children may suffer.

Researchers conducted a retrospective analysis of over 300,000 children who had a parent or parents in the US Army from 2003-2006. Two findings stand out.

First, kids of deployed soldiers had higher rates of adjustment, behavioral, depressive, or stress disorders, as compared to kids whose Army parents were not deployed during that time period. Second, the length of deployment was an important factor — kids who had a parent deployed for 11 months or more suffered the most in terms of mental health and adjustment.

In an essay accompanying the scientific article, Dr. Stephen Cozza discussed the importance of the problem. He suggests that approximately 44% of active duty members have children, and around 43% of selected reserve members have children. The majority of these children are younger than 12 years of age. He estimates that since 2001, about 1.76 million children have experienced the deployment of a parent.

The families of deployed soldiers face a number of stressors. The children are without a parent; there is obviously anxiety about the safety and welfare of the parent; and overall family functioning is disrupted. In upcoming posts I will be discussing other studies that delve into the challenges that military families face, with the hope of raising awareness so that we all can try to support the families of soldiers who risk their lives serving all of us.

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