There are many resources available to a parent when it comes to helping your child cope with a parent’s deployment, though I have found none quite as successful as Sesame Workshop’s “Talk, Listen, Connect”. Developed as a way to help parents assist their young children in coping with a deployment, “Talk, Listen, Connect” uses Sesame Street Muppets, very familiar to children, to incorporate all they need to know to deal with the situation.
In “Talk, Listen, Connect”, Elmo’s dad is going away on a trip for work. The movie goes through the emotions Elmo feels before his dad leaves, during his absence, right before he returns home and after he’s back. It incorporates songs and dialogue that engage children and helps them find the words for what it is they’re feeling. Elmo also talks to his friends about what he’s feeling and they try to offer support. Ways to pass the time are discussed. Fears and apprehensions are discussed. It literally covers just about every emotion and question a child could have.
There are also helpful tips for dealing with a parent leaving. Elmo decides to give his dad something of his to remind him of Elmo and vice versa. I employed this technique with my daughter and it worked wonderfully. My husband gave her his baseball hat that he wore everywhere and she kept it on her desk beside the bed where she could always see it and remember Daddy. She looked long and hard for something to give him. She settled on a musical doll that was bought because it looked like her.
In addition to Elmo’s story, there are snippets of real military families and how they deal with deployments. In true Sesame Street fashion, the DVD profiles a wide range of families. These families also offer advice on how they cope.
When I watched this with my daughter, she was enthralled. She couldn’t take her eyes off the movie. My husband was on deployment at the time and we had all the usual talks with her, but the DVD really seemed to make it all click for her. She had a good cry at the end, but she felt like she understood more about what was going on. She really and truly felt that Elmo was going through everything she was going through and it felt good that someone else was going through it with her. It gave way to a discussion about any questions she had, what she thought of the deployment and what she was feeling. I definitely noticed a marked difference in her after she watched the DVD. She continues to watch the DVD to this day, even when my husband isn’t deployed.
Sesame Workshop has since put together additional resources. At the bottom of the article you will find a link to the “Family Matters” section where you can find resources divided into four categories: “Deployments”, “Homecomings”, “Changes”, and “Additional Resources”. These sections contain videos and printable resources for you to use during all stages of a deployment.
Click here to purchase "Talk, Listen, Connect" from Amazon