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Elmo and the Sesame Street crew help military families cope with deployment: Sesame Workshop offers programs geared to address the stress families endure when faced with deploying family members

By Sgt. Lukas M. Atwell | | April 6, 2007

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Across the nation, thousands of military families are coping with loved ones serving overseas.

Deployments can be hard for service members and their spouses, but can be even more difficult for their children to deal with.

Sesame Workshop has responded to this issue with a program geared to address the stress families endure when faced with deploying family members.

"When parents are deployed," a Sesame Street television special hosted by actor Cuba Gooding Jr., is scheduled to re-broadcast Monday on PBS and builds upon "Talk, Listen, Connect: Helping Families During Military Deployment.”

Talk, Listen, Connect is Sesame Workshop’s educational outreach program designed for military families that became available online during 2006.

The program and the television special show how a Sesame Street Muppet named Elmo copes with the stages of a deployment with the help of friends and family, according to Janette Betancourt, the vice president of outreach and educational practices for Seasame Workshop. The program also includes candid moments with real military families and shares their experiences as they go through each stage, beginning with pre-deployment.

“Through research we found that families may suffer increased anxiety before a deployment begins,” Betancourt explained. “The program shows that there are ways families can prepare for deployment that can take away some of that anxiety.”

Next, the special focuses on how parents and children deal with life while the service member is gone, including ways that children were able to stay connected to the family member while they are deployed.

Finally, the special addresses concerns and feelings families and their deployed members may experience after coming home.

“Homecoming can be stressful because the family and the (service member) may have already adapted to a routine,” Betancourt said. “Suddenly, they have to get used to being together again.”

The overwhelming response that Sesame Workshop received to the Talk, Listen, Connect outreach program confirmed that the program is fulfilling an unmet need for the youngest members of the military family, according to Gary E. Knell, the Sesame Workshop president and chief executive officer.

“(We) felt that it was important to reach as many adult caregivers as possible with this valuable information," Knell said.

"I downloaded ‘When Parents are Deployed’ and ‘Talk, Listen, Connect,’" said Katie McGregor, the spouse of a Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 Marine. “When I saw how the families (in the program) dealt with their situations, it made me feel like my son and I weren’t alone.”

For more information, check your local television listings or to download the program, visit Sesame Workshop at www.sesameworkshop.org/tlc. DVDs and print packages in English and Spanish are also available to military parents at no cost through the Military OneSource at www.militaryonesource.com.

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