Talk, Listen, Connect: Helping Families during Military Deployment: A Kit Review

Article excerpt

Talk, Listen, Connect[TM]:

Helping Families During Military Deployment is a wonderful kit for families experiencing the deployment of a parent or another member of the family. The kit includes a Sesame Street DVD, a parent/caregiver magazine, a children's activity poster, and a survey, all in both English and Spanish. The DVD includes a special section for grown-ups, another section for the two songs sung in the program, and the option to select subtitles. In true Sesame Street style, the project mixes muppets, moppets, and adults in humorous, heartwarming, and enlightening fashion.

The DVD will hold the attention of both children and adults, providing both age groups with ideas, comfort, and insight. It also stands up to multiple viewings. The DVD and the parent/ caregiver magazine address pre-deployment, deployment, and homecoming concerns realistically and creatively. The magazine has a helpful list of books and Web sites. There is also a printable copy of the parent/ caregiver magazine and additional downloadable material, including the Talk, Listen, Connect video, at http://www.sesameworkshop.org/tlc.

The DVD, magazine, and poster all give a lovely boost to military families with the message: "In recognition of the contributions made by The Armed Forces of America--the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reserves..."

The kit is a creation of sesame-workshop[TM], the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street (www.sesameworkshop.org). The collaborative effort is a good example of a project that can be done well and at the same time reach a broad audience. It was produced in partnership with and funded by Wal-Mart, with additional support provided by the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Military Child Education Coalition[TM] (MCEC[TM]). The list of advisors to the project reflects a strong level of care and expertise, with both distinguished military and civilian individuals and organizations represented.

Familiar, colorful Sesame Street characters appear on the poster, which breaks down the separate elements in the kit's title. Some of the tips offered for coping with deployment include:

Talk

* Keep all lines of communication open with your child, spouse, and those around you.

* Make sure your child knows how special and how loved he or she is.

Listen

* There are going to be lots of changes. Some may be difficult.

* The deployed parent isn't the only courageous person in the family.

Connect

* Your child is not alone. Your family is not alone.

The parent/caregiver magazine notes the following key information to be aware of during the time of pre-deployment when preparations for departure are being made:

The deployed parent hasn't left yet but isn't really available. The work hours are often long. Mom or Dad may be home or perhaps away training; there are already comings and goings. This may be the phase when young children need the most reassurance. They may not quite understand why a parent is leaving. They may even feel that somehow they've done something to cause that parent to leave. Offer concrete information to your young child in ways that he can understand. Prepare and plan as a family. Knowing what to expect may help your child feel less afraid. Even when you're not all together in one spot, you'll still be connected.

And this simple but oh-so-sound advice: Let your child know that others care. Tell him when a friend or extended family member asks about him.

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Good preparation prior to deployment can help to ease some of the difficulty of the parent's time away:

* Spend as much time together as possible, and give plenty of hugs! Make audio or video recordings of the deployed parent reading favorite bedtime stories or sharing familiar lullabies. …