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Mission: Family: Sesame Workshop proving a useful tool for military families

May. 10, 2012 - 12:56PM   |   Last Updated: May. 10, 2012 - 12:56PM  |  
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About the author

Staff writer Karen Jowers is the wife of a military retiree.

Elmo's heartfelt efforts to help military kids are paying off, new research says, and families will likely feel the benefit for years to come.

For the littlest family members affected by the wars, Sesame Workshop stepped up in 2006 with its "Talk, Listen, Connect" series, supporting military parents as they try to help their children between the ages of 2 and 5 understand why they had to leave for a long time. Next came materials to help families deal with multiple deployments, parents coming home with injuries and bereavement.

Independent studies on these information kits found that the material was appealing and heavily used by military children and their families.

Researchers found that parents did use the materials: 98 percent said their child watched the DVD; 97 percent of the parents watched the DVD; and 72 percent of the parents discussed the DVD with their child.

Families reported good results, too: 95 percent said their child understood the message of the DVD; 84 percent of the parents liked the DVD; and 79 percent of the children liked the DVD. The studies were conducted between 2006 and 2010.

In all, 895 families were involved in the research, said Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth of Purdue University, director of the Military Family Research Institute, whose team studied the materials relating to multiple deployments and injuries. She presented the findings of her own team — as well as those of researchers from Russell Research and the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences — at an April 18 panel discussion in Washington, D.C.

What can parents do, in addition to watching and learning from these DVDs and materials? Wadsworth laid out four "building blocks" that are the foundation of children's resilience:

• Parents and caregivers who acknowledge children's needs for comfort, protection and exploration. For example, answering a child's questions as completely as possible.

• Parents who convey a sense of security and confidence.

• Parents who model effective coping.

• Parents who combine love and support with clear standards and firm control. For example, giving a child chores that provide a sense of independence, trying to keep a child busy so he doesn't think about the deployment, and doing activities to help the child feel like things are back to normal.

Parents can find the "Talk, Listen, Connect" materials http://www.sesamestreet.org/tlc">by clicking here.

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