Nearly 800,000 school-aged children have a parent serving in the U.S. military. These children may struggle to understand why Mom or Dad needs to leave home or how things might change upon their return. Exiting the military poses additional challenges: new jobs, a new home, new family roles and routines—often at the same time. Even under the best circumstances, these adjustments aren’t easy, especially for the littlest members of military families.
In 2006, when military deployments were at record levels, Sesame Street reported for duty with a multimedia initiative that equipped families with child-friendly tools to tackle the unique challenges of military life. Topics include deployments and homecomings, grief and loss, military-to-civilian transitions, and how to stay healthy as a family. Since then, the Sesame Street for Military Families initiative has grown to include bilingual videos, storybooks, and activities, Sesame Street/USO family tours, television specials, “Sesame Rooms” in military spaces, and more.
In military kid-facing videos and activities, Sesame Street pals model how colorful monsters cope with typical situations for military families. When Elmo’s dad is deployed, he creates a new bedtime ritual: No matter where they are, the family will say “good night” to the same moon. When Rosita struggles to accept her father’s new wheelchair, she soon realizes she’s not alone. In our primetime TV special, military children and parents talk candidly about injuries in the family and share their techniques for coping with their New Normal. Subsequent initiatives like Sesame Street for Military Families: Transitions offer strategies to families facing the milestone of leaving military service, from starting healthy routines to comforting kids through the unexpected. What better way to show our gratitude to those who have given so much?
To date, 2.5 million of our resource kits have landed in military households. What’s more, Sesame has aired three acclaimed television specials, created public service announcements featuring Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, and entertained 200,000 families at USO events. It’s having an impact. 71% of caregivers said our materials helped their child cope with an injured family member. 83% of caregivers using When Families Grieve materials said they “have more appropriate language to discuss death with my child.”
Our newest initiative—Sesame Street for Military Families: Caregiving—supports the millions of military and veteran families who provide care to an injured, chronically ill, or wounded family member. Using Rosita’s family story—her father uses a wheelchair after an injury—new videos and activities help children understand why their parent may look or act differently than “before,” and how to talk about their family’s new situation. For adults, the initiative offers guidance on “re-learning” how to parent while needing care or filling a new caregiver role. We hope to help military and veteran families remember that they’re not alone and that asking for help is always a brave step.
When you support Sesame Workshop, you’re making a positive difference in the lives of children around the world. Join us!