Talk, Listen, Connect: Helping Families Cope with Military Deployment
New York, April 20, 2006 – Research shows that 483,514 children of active duty military members and 177,888 children of Reserve and Guard members are less than five years of age. These children deal with several unique challenges. In response to these facts, Sesame Workshop, with a nearly one million dollar donation from Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. have partnered, with additional support from The New York State Office of Mental Health (NYSOMH) and Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), in the development of 138,000 bilingual, multiple-media outreach kits. Sesame Workshop will develop the outreach project to help the young children of members of the United States Armed Services, National Guard and Reserves deal with the various stresses of military life. Featuring the Sesame Street Muppets, Talk, Listen, Connect: Helping Families Cope with Military Deployment is designed for military families with children between the ages of three and five.
Starting this summer, the kits will be available at no cost to schools, child care programs, family support centers and other organizations serving the needs of military families. These resources will provide specific strategies to help young children cope with the feelings, challenges, and concerns experienced during various phases of deployment: pre-deployment, deployment and homecoming.
In conjunction with the “Month of the Military Child,” Sesame Workshop is releasing the following conclusions and recommendations that were derived from an advisory meeting, to help provide direction on the key messages and approaches for Talk, Listen, Connect:
• Military families lack multiple media, bilingual resources for themselves and especially their young children to help cope with the challenges of deployment.
• Although military life can involve many challenges, there is also a need to highlight the rewarding outcomes, resiliency, and heroism of military families and their children.
• Offer specific information including strategies and activities allowing for discussions around a parent’s deployment, ways to maintain communication while separated, and techniques to sustain a comforting, consistent environment that will reassure young children.
Furthermore, a series of English and Spanish-language focus groups, consisting of spouses of deployed and enlisted personnel in Active Duty, the Reserves and Guards, teachers of child care programs serving military children and Family Support or Readiness facilitators servicing military families, were conducted to reinforce and refine the key messages and approaches for Talk, Listen, Connect. Participants in the focus groups strongly confirmed the following:
• The need for such resources that specifically targeted how to help preschool children and their families cope with the challenges of military life when a parent has been deployed. Both parents and professionals expressed the importance of providing information that was simple to integrate into everyday routines, age-appropriate, and most of all, reassuring to young children through the Sesame Street characters.
• The importance of understanding that all children and families are different; therefore, what might work for one child may not be as effective for another child, so it was essential to provide a variety of strategies and recommendations.
“It is increasingly common for military children and families to experience unique challenges such as separation due to frequent military deployments,” stated Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.). “Through their generous work in creating Talk, Listen, Connect, Sesame Workshop and Wal-Mart can help the unprecedented number of young children affected by military deployment cope with these challenges in positive and reassuring ways. These much needed tools offer wonderful strategies that can help young military children throughout the deployment process, and foster meaningful connections between family members, friends, and communities in their everyday lives.”
“As revealed through our focus groups, military parents and caregivers were extremely supportive and excited about Talk, Listen, Connect, and were eager to inform to the content of these materials by providing us with insight about the everyday realities and challenges of young children in military families,” said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Vice President of Content Design, for Sesame Workshop’s Education, Research and Outreach department. “We are grateful for the generous funding provided by Wal-Mart, as well as the New York State Office of Mental Health and the Military Child Education Coalition. These contributions provide us with an invaluable opportunity to fill a need and create a unique set of resources that will offer military parents and children a sense of reassurance, stability, and hope during times of separation and change.”
“Wal-Mart has an ongoing commitment to support our military troops as thousands of our Associates across the country serve in the Armed Services, Reserves and Guards,” said Wal-Mart Vice President of Corporate Affairs Bob McAdam. “The Talk, Listen, Connect project is an extension of our efforts to assist servicemen and servicewomen by providing valuable tools and resources that will benefit the entire military family.”
Talk, Listen, Connect’s advisory board, consisting of leading experts in child development, mental health and programs supporting military families, continue to inform and guide Sesame Workshop on all aspects of the project. They help to determine the needs and challenges of children in military families and guide the development of age-appropriate and effective content for the program.
Participants on the advisory board include:
* Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr., USMC (Ret), Retired Major General, U.S. Marine Corp., former NASA astronaut, CEO, JACK and PANTHER LLC
* Col. Stephen J. Cozza, M.D., COL, U.S. Army, Chief, Department of Psychiatry, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Associate Director, Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, Child and Family Programs, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
* Amy Goyer, Manager, Grandparent Information Center, AARP Foundation
* Mary Keller, Ed.D., Executive Director, Military Child Education Coalition
* Sylvia E.J. Kidd, Director, Family Programs, Association of the United States Army (AUSA)
* Michael L. López, Ph.D., Executive Director, National Center for Latino Child & Family Research
* Patty Shinseki, Advisory board member, Military Child Education Coalition, Amputee Patient Care Program at Walter Reed Medical Center, Citizen-Soldier Support Program
* Jean Silvernail, Ed.D., Chief, Military Child in Transition & Deployment, Department of Defense, Military Community and Family Policy
* Janice R. Witte, Director, Office of Children and Youth, Department of Defense, Military Community and Family Policy
Talk, Listen, Connect is based on the acclaimed Sesame Workshop initiative, You Can Ask!, which was developed in response to the events of September 11, 2001. You Can Ask! was funded by FEMA in collaboration with the New York State Office of Mental Health. You Can Ask! uses the familiar and beloved Sesame Street characters to encourage children to effectively cope with stressful situations while offering information for parents and caregivers on how to identify signs of stress and foster communication with their children.
Wal-Mart and Sesame Workshop will explore additional ways to distribute Talk, Listen, Connect with other organizations and programs that support military families and plan to produce a bilingual Public Service Announcement and online content.
Sesame Workshop is a nonprofit educational organization making a meaningful difference in children’s lives around the world. Founded in 1968, the Workshop changed television forever with the legendary Sesame Street. Today, the Workshop continues to innovate on behalf of children in 120 countries, using its proprietary research methodology to ensure its programs and products are engaging and enriching. Sesame Workshop is behind award-winning programs like Dragon Tales and Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat, Pinky Dinky Doo and ground breaking multimedia productions in South Africa, Egypt and Russia. As a nonprofit, Sesame Workshop puts the proceeds it receives from sales of Sesame Street, Dragon Tales and Sagwa products right back into its educational projects for children around the world. Find the Workshop online at www.sesameworkshop.org.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. operates Wal-Mart Stores, Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and SAM’S CLUB locations in the United States. The company also operates in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, South Korea and the United Kingdom. The company’s securities are listed on the New York and Pacific stock exchanges under the symbol WMT. More information about Wal-Mart can be found by visiting www.walmartfacts.com.
New York State Office of Mental Health
As New York State’s mental health authority, the Office of Mental Health promotes the mental health of all New Yorkers with a particular focus on providing hope and recovery for adults with serious mental illness and children with serious emotional disturbances. The Office of Mental Health works closely with local governments, community providers, and recipients of mental health services and numerous other stakeholder groups to plan and deliver effective services to approximately 630,000 New Yorkers annually. Services provide hope for the future and promote recovery, and are designed to be consumer and family focused, responsive to individual needs, and respectful of culture and language. OMH also promotes overall public mental health through education and advocacy for all New Yorkers. For more information please visit www.omh.state.ny.us.
The Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC)
MCEC is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that promotes partnerships and provides for networking of military installations and their supporting school districts. Their focus is to address transition and other educational issues related to the military-connected child, including active duty, National Guard, and Reserves. MCEC seeks to include all military installations, their supporting schools, concerned organizations, and caring individuals. http://www.militarychild.org/
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of Sesame Workshop. All rights reserved. Photo by Richard Termine.