By Chris RasmussenNovember 30, 2006
FORT JACKSON, S.C. (Army News Service, Nov. 30, 2006) - Children of deployed Soldiers now have a fuzzy, familiar friend to help them understand why their parent must leave them for a while.
The new Sesame Street DVD "Talk, Listen, Connect: Helping Families Cope with Military Deployment" is available at no cost to military members and their families at www.sesameworkshop.org/tlc.
Elmo and his father star in the 24-minute DVD, which teaches young military children and their caregivers how best to handle a parent's deployment. Available in English and Spanish, the program covers all phases of deployment - from pre-deployment to homecoming and the unique challenges of each phase.
Norma Colwell, a counselor at Hood Street and Pierce Terrace elementary schools, who wrote a book for children on how to deal with deployments, said she plans to use the DVD with her students.
"Since all of our students at Fort Jackson are the children of Soldiers, I plan to use it with all of my students," she said. "It is very supportive of the family and really guides children well through the transition of learning about the deployment to the time dad or mom comes home."
The DVD offers alternative techniques to help children feel secure.
"Rather than saying 'be a big man' and 'take care of the family,' the Soldier in the DVD gives the child something important to take care of - such as a piece of jewelry - while they are away. In turn the child gives their parent something to hold on to," she said.
The DVD also portrays a Soldier telling his child that whenever they miss them to look up at the moon, because no matter where they are, they will be looking up at the same moon. Children are also told to mark the days off a calendar until the parent comes back home.
Parents and children are encouraged to connect with each other through e-mail and videos. Another technique is for the spouse to read a child's favorite book that the Soldier-parent used to read to them before deploying.
"They did a really great job of doing research on this and being able to put together lots of elements that give examples of true issues within a family that is facing deployment," Colwell said.
"The DVD does not stop at helping children deal with deployment, it also helps them learn to reconnect with their parents when they get back home."
Colwell, who wrote "While You are Away - Coping with a Parent's Absence" during Operation Desert Storm, said the DVD fills a gap in previous materials that were aimed toward an older audience.
"I wish I had this DVD 20 years ago because there were not a lot of materials available for young children," she said.
For a free copy of the DVD, call Military One Source at (800) 342-9647 or download it online at www.sesameworkshop.org/tlc.
(Chris Rasmussen writes for the Fort Jackson Leader.)