DOD teams up with Sesame Street to provide resources for military children

Sesame Street for Military Families

The program uses the familiar faces of the Sesame Street characters to reach young children. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Barry Riley / Task and Purpose)

In an effort to help young children better understand and cope with the daily challenges present as part of a military family, the Department of Defense teamed up with Sesame Street to develop a website featuring a plethora of kid-friendly printables, videos and apps focused on typical issues associated with military life.

“Our hope is really that with all these tools for families and for parents, we help children grow smarter, stronger, and kinder,” Rocio Galarza, assistant vice president of Sesame Street’s non-profit organization, Sesame Workshop, said in an interview with Task & Purpose.

The website, Sesame Street for Military Families, explores tough topics like relocation, deployments, homecoming, self-expression, injuries and even death of a loved one. The resources, although sensitive in nature, use the familiar style of the classic educational program and the highly-recognized Sesame Street characters to convey important messages aimed at preschool-aged children.

Garza said the materials, which were created through a collaborative effort between Sesame Workshop and the Defense Department’s National Center for Telehealth & Technology, were developed when the organization was putting together materials for military families and the need was seen for tools that could be used directly with small children.

“Military families are important to us, and we will continue to try to develop materials,” Galarza added. “We’ve grown with military families, so we hope to be able to support them.”

A study published in the October edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics found that although children who grow up in military families typically show greater strength than those who don’t, those children are also at a higher risk for being bullied and engaging in violent and self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse. The study noted that additional resources are needed for military families.

Related: Study finds military kids at greater risk for violence, substance abuse

The study’s principal researcher, Professor Ron Avi Astor of the University of Southern California’s social work department, noted that he hopes with the increasing interest in military families and by studying the kids’ behavior, the importance of providing resources to at-risk military children can more easily be demonstrated and those kids can get any help they may need early on.