When the idea people behind Sesame Workshop see a gap in young kid support, they fill it. That’s how the military community ended up with the original military family Sesame Street films and materials. Deployments weren’t going anywhere, and young kids needed help processing what was happening to their families, but there were no resources developed for that age group — so Sesame Street developed some.
And that’s exactly how they ended up working on their newest military kid offering on military transition, says Jeanette Betancourt, vice president of outreach for Sesame Workshop.
“At that time when we started, it was very similar to the time we are in now with transition. A lot of focus was on the adult and service members, and we found in our research whatever was available on deployment was aimed at schooled-aged,” she said. “I think we’re probably in the same stage now — because you’re having a greater number of transitioning families.”
Over 11 years Sesame Workshop has produced a bevy of resources for military families — from deployment to military moves to grief. Their newest program looks to fill the transition gap for younger military kids by helping those children process what their family is going through, while assisting their parents who are trying to communicate it.
What’s impressive about these new materials isn’t just the way they are presented — the same catchy videos, endearing Muppets and colorful workbooks that we’ve come to expect. What’s special this time around is the spin.
We typically think about “spin” as a negative. But when it comes to communicating hard, potentially scary stuff to kids like major life changes and leaving their friends and military community behind, spin is a good thing. And in this case the spin is this: instead of something to be nervous about, transition is presented in these materials as an adventure.
I cannot tell you how much I love that.
Moving? Adventure. New lifestyle? Adventure. Your military parent suddenly home a lot more? Adventure. Meeting new friends? Adventure.
It’s no accident that transition is presented this way by Sesame. Betancourt said their research showed that military members and their spouses are flooded with heavy duty information as they get ready to leave the military (can I hear an “amen?”). What they are not flooded with is a way to think about transition in a non-stressful light.
“There’s a lot of flooding of information — very serious and very adult oriented and lots of it,” she said. “So the recommendation was if we were going to make this especially for the family we had to do it in a way that was comfortable and easy for both the grown-ups and the children so [we have] this idea of making it much more fun and adventurous.”
So what’s included in the resources? The kit has a few videos and a colorful activity book packed with stuff for kids to do around their big new adventure. When I saw it my first thought was “road trip entertainment.” You can see them online here. But officials are also planning to distribute hard copies across the military through transition centers and the USO. Look for them soon!