- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Pentagon yesterday recognized characters from “Sesame Street” for helping children in military families cope when their parents are deployed.

A study by Purdue University’s Military Family Research Institute found that eight out of 10 parents who watched a “Sesame Street” video about deployment with their child were more comfortable preparing children to cope with their parent’s overseas service.

“There can be no more powerful voice of support than Elmo. He expanded well beyond our own ability to reach out,” said Leslye A. Arsht, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy.

The “Sesame Street” video, which made its debut in July, features the character Elmo preparing for his father’s long absence, and children and parents of military families discussing deployment.

Before the “Talk, Listen, Connect” digital video disc — created by the not-for-profit Sesame Workshop and sponsored by Wal-Mart — there was an “important gap” in the literature and tools to support preschool children and their parents in military families, Miss Arsht said.

“The findings show us the ‘Talk, Listen, Connect’ program helped parents as well as children,” Miss Arsht said.

Research published yesterday showed that the DVD — which is packaged with a magazine on the same subject and is aimed at the 700,000 preschool children of military personnel — was understood and enjoyed by 80 percent of children.

“Parents, spouses and children of military personnel also serve their country,” said Shelley MacDermid, co-director of the Military Family Research Institute. “Young children have strong feelings that they don’t always know how to deal with. Studies show that how young children do during deployment has a lot to do with how their at-home parent is doing.”

Joanna Lopez’s husband, Ernesto, is serving with the Army in Iraq. They have three children, who watch the DVD once a week.

“I was pregnant when my husband was going on his third deployment. He went two days after the birth,” said Mrs. Lopez, who runs a day care center for children of service personnel at Fort Bragg, N.C. “This DVD helped prepare my kids for that moment when he had to leave, and it helped me a lot when my husband came back.”

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