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Rosita, right, with her mom, Rosa, and her dad

Muppets for Military Children

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New Sesame Street Initiative Addresses Caregiving 

By Dina Santorelli

Roughly 3.4 million people with children provide care for an ill or injured veteran or service member in the United States, and an additional 4.5 million civilians with kids care for disabled, aging or chronically ill relatives.

For more than 50 years, Sesame Workshop, which produces the long-running Sesame Street children’s series, has been aiming to help kids ages 2 to 6 with their ABCs and 123s and also through various milestones and issues, such as making friends. The latest initiative, “Sesame Street for Military Families: Caregiving,” focuses on relocations, deployments, transitions and more. It includes three new videos starring Rosita, along with her mother, Rosa, and her father, Ricardo, who was introduced in 2008 during a special segment that revealed he was injured while deployed and returned home in a wheelchair. In addition to the videos, the program includes articles for parents about how to answer their children’s questions, mobile games, and an activity book titled My Sunny and Stormy Days, which parents can complete with their kids. Sabrina Huda, project director, Sesame Workshop, spoke with Family about this new program. Why is it important for Sesame Street to feature a military family? Across the 1.6 million military children, more than two-thirds are 11 years of age or younger. We created “Sesame Street for Military Families” in 2006 to support our military families with young children ages 2 to 8 through all the milestones in their life, from deployments and homecomings, relocations to injuries and our newest initiative: military caregiving. Military families go through the most difficult challenges and transitions, but often the focus is on the service member. The entire family is facing those challenges and children are serving too. By featuring a military family on Sesame Street, we are not only bringing awareness to a population that requires support and resources for its unique challenges, but can also celebrate how strong and resilient these families truly are.

What is the aim of the “Sesame Street for Military Families: Caregiving” initiative? Currently, over 3 million individuals with young children provide care for a chronically ill, injured, or wounded veteran or service member. Prior to this initiative, most programs available on this focused on adults and not on young children. “Sesame Street for Military Families” provides resources for both adults and children facing these issues. Caregivers frequently bear extraordinary physical and psychological burden, which exact a high toll on the ability to see their own needs and to the need of their children, whereas children often do not understand the reasons for parents’ behaviors or lack of time for them, often creating difficult transitions. This initiative is aimed to provide resources to the entire caregiving family—to help them understand the changes they see with an injured, chronically ill, or wounded veteran or service member, and help them cope with their emotions and reactions while also providing the tools they need to seek out support and take time and care of themselves.

Talking with small children about illness or disability or the wounds of war can be difficult. How important is it for parents to broach these big topics? It is very important for parents to broach big topics with their small children because children might avoid reaching out to grown-ups because they don’t want to cause additional concerns or worries, despite the big feelings they may be experiencing. When a loved one returns with an injury, either physical or emotional or a combination of both, the changes can be unsettling for the family and prove increasingly challenging. It’s important for parents to help kids cope in small steps in an effort to adjust successfully to the family’s “new normal.”

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