Posts Tagged ‘ children with deployed parents ’

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

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

To learn more about other programs and services offered by the USO vist

Photos courtesy of the USO and Fred Greaves

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How Sesame Street Offers Support To Military Families: Talk, Listen, Connect

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Can you think of a better way to help a child deal with the complex issues raised by parental deployment than watching Elmo raise questions about why his dad is leaving? I’ve recently learned about the extraordinary resources offered by Sesame Street to help kids and parents in military families deal with a number of themes that they may face via their Talk, Listen, Connect educational outreach initiative. Most importantly, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, who is Sesame Workshop’s Vice President for outreach and educational practices. Here’s what I found out.

Talk, Listen, Connect grew out of talking directly to military families about the most important issues they face surrounding deployment. As I have learned via opportunities to talk with military moms such as blogger Laura @ Semperfimomma and Courtney Faith Vera from Celebrate the Military Child, it is critically important to have this type of dialogue to truly understand how deployment affects families. By conducting this research, Sesame Street developed a knowledge base to address the unique challenges facing young kids in military families. They created a number of videos – offered free of charge – that are dedicated to the various transitions that deployment can bring to family life. These include:

  • Dealing with the deployment process (e.g., anticipation, fear, saying goodbye, living without a parent)
  • Making adjustments during homecomings (e.g., dealing with role changes, changes in family dynamics)
  • Accepting and handling injuries to a parent (including invisible as well as visible injuries)
  • Going through the grieving process

Using the skills that the Sesame Workshop team has honed over decades, they constructed these videos to provide age-appropriate representations of these issues. The target audience is 2-5 year olds, but older children (up to age 10 or so) could also profit from watching them. Furthermore, they are intended to serve as platforms for family conversation – they depict the questions that are typically asked by (or are in the heads of) young children who are dealing with deployment and can be used by parents to talk further about the various issues.

Via Talk, Listen, Connect, Sesame Street also offers additional resources for parents and children. And they have just launched a Facebook page – Sesame Street for Military Families - that will provide a new and rich platform for awareness and support.

So whether you are a parent in a military family, or you want to learn more on how to support military families, I strongly encourage you to follow Sesame Street’s new Facebook page. And later this week I will share with you a unique partnership between Sesame Street and the USO that has been bringing entertainment and support directly to military families around the world.

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