Elmo and his buddies have enlisted in a mission to help families of injured service members and veterans, including the littlest ones who may be struggling with their feelings about how their family has changed.
About 3.4 million people with children provide care for a chronically ill, wounded, or injured veteran or military member. Another 4.5 million civilians with children also care for disabled, aging or chronically ill relatives.
The free, online package of resources in “Sesame Street for Military Families: Caregiving,” includes videos with the muppets talking about their own feelings, and helping each other; a video with a veteran who lost his legs and injured both his arms in Afghanistan, and his wife and young boys; an activity book for parents and children to complete together; other videos about caring for brain injuries and talking about brain-related injuries; articles about tackling children’s questions; and a mobile game and five printable activities for children.
The effort is the latest in 13 years of Sesame Workshop initiatives for military children, helping parents address topics with their children such as deployment, homecoming, injuries, grieving, and making the transition to civilian life.
In the “Stormy Days” video, Rosita confides to Elmo that she’s feeling a big storm of feelings brewing inside. Her Poppy, who is in a wheelchair, was set to play a guitar duet with her that morning, but his hand hurt too much. She was sad for Poppy because he couldn’t play. She also was mad because he got injured in the first place, and was worried about Poppy’s hands.
Elmo asked Rosita if she had tried talking to her mommy and Poppy about her stormy feelings, because it always helps him to talk to his parents. Rosita said she would talk to them, and told Elmo she felt better after talking to him.
Another video featuring a wounded warrior and his family, show different ways the wife cares for her husband, and how they work together as a team to care for their two boys. He talks about how important his wife is to him, and how he tries to give her some time for herself. She discusses how they adapt as a family and how she plans and organizes her days, and urges other caregivers to look for caregiver communities because of the support they provide for each other.
Data shows more medical visits related to abuse and neglect, injuries, and for mental health care, and more days on psychiatric medications.
“Coming home from a deployment with visible or invisible injuries is a huge challenge for any service member or veteran – especially those with young families,” said Sherrie Westin, president of social impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street.
Beyond the military, many people will serve as caregivers at some point in their lives, said Westin, in the announcement of the new resources. “With this initiative, we want every caregiving parent and child to know that they’re not alone, and that asking for help is always a brave thing to do.”