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Sesame Street for Military Families ’
Thursday, November 10th, 2011
On November 5, I had the pleasure of attending a Sesame Street event for military families at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia. Although I have been on military bases before, this was the first time I had a chance to spend time around military kids. Based on that experience, I want to share the five things I appreciate about them.
- They have great manners. I’m not overly fussy around kids, and I don’t expect knee-jerk pleases and thank yous and excuse mes. That said, I was blown away by the sincere manners that the kids displayed. As I was covering this event for this blog, I was circulating around for three hours, which gave me plenty of opportunity to watch the kids interact with their parents, with each other, and with the cast and staff from Sesame Street. Abby Cadabby was of course a big draw as she was available to meet with the kids – who all lined up in a polite and orderly way and waited their turn in line. After talking to Abby, I heard lots of thank yous (unprompted) mixed with hugs.
- They are engaged. When it was time to let loose, the kids let loose! They were in front of the stage singing with Gordon from Sesame Street and with members of the Electric Company. And when it was time to try out new resources (such as new computer apps), they were there in a flash and every table was filled with focused kids.
- They are appreciative. This isn’t just about manners – it’s really clear that they appreciate that time and effort was spent on them. They don’t seem to expect that – they just appreciate it when it happens.
- They are resilient. The whole point of the Sesame Street initiative is to help kids and their families deal with enormous stresses. Their demeanor and positive spirit showed their resiliency. I’ve read about it, and in particular hear about it when I talk to military moms, but it’s great to see it in person.
- They have great parents. Although the kids deserve a whole lot of credit for their behavior, great behavior doesn’t happen without great parenting.
There are of course more positives I could share. But these are my big five. (Here’s a shot of Jessica from The Electric Company and choreographer Brian Thomas teaching kids the dance to the new “Let it Out” video © 2011 Sesame Workshop. Photo by: Evy Mages).
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Thursday, November 10th, 2011
On November 5, Sesame Street hosted an event for military families at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, VA, to introduce new resources they have developed. I had an opportunity to cover this event for this blog (note: all of my expenses for this trip were out-of-pocket, so I was there strictly as part of the group of media invited to the base). The event combined entertainment by Abby Cadabby, Gordon, and members of the Electric Company with the delivery of a very important message: Sesame Street has expanded their focus on supporting military families by developing new tools for school-aged children available at their new military Families Near and Far website.
As most of you know, Sesame Street is pitched at preschool kids. However, they recognize that school-aged kids also can use support in handling the challenges of being part of a military family, including the stresses that accompany parental deployment. These older kids have lots of thoughts and feelings that need expression – so the new tools include ways to customize a profile, do all kinds of messaging, record moods, and create art and music. And this is why the Electric Company has joined the effort to give older kids ways to express themselves.
At the event, I had an opportunity to speak with H. Melvin Ming, President and CEO of the Sesame Workshop. Mr. Ming explained that much thought and effort has gone into developing these new tools to support the resiliency displayed by elementary school-kids in military families. As Mr. Ming suggested, having resources that are tailored to different age groups – preschoolers as well as elementary school-aged kids – serves the very important function of allowing the whole family to now come together to stay connected and keep the lines of communication open.
The tools on the website are inviting and engaging. I spent an hour at the event watching elementary school-aged kids dive into the website and the links. Click here to check it out for yourself!
Photo Credit: Patty Shinseki, Abby Cadabby from Sesame Street and Jessica and Shock from The Electric Company help a young boy express himself through music as part of the new military Families Near and Far site created by Sesame Workshop (familiesnearandfar.org). © 2011 Sesame Workshop. Photo by: Evy Mages.
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Sunday, October 30th, 2011
There’s some indication that Abby Cadabby is planning something special for military families next Saturday. Here’s the official word from the Sesame Street for Military Families Facebook page – click here!
As I’ve discussed in prior posts, Sesame Street has been generating resources to support kids in military families (and their parents) for a number of years via their Talk, Listen, Connect initiative. These programs – which have included a number of educational materials as well as a live show in collaboration with the USO – have been timely and very well received by military families here and stationed abroad.
So that said, I’ll keep my eye on what Abby and her friends are up to next Saturday ….
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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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