Children in military families with loved ones serving abroad face many unique challenges. Deployment is stressful and homecoming requires readjustments. Contingency plans need to be made if a parent is injured, and the worry of a loved one passing away is always there.
Elmo might be able to help.
The Sesame Workshop, which has been actively serving military families for years, recently launched a Sesame Street for Military Families app designed for both children and adults; it is currently available in iOS, Kindle Fire, and Android formats.
The bilingual English- and Spanish-language app launched in late September and is part of a larger multimedia project that also includes DVDs, Internet programming, and an active community page with resources on Facebook. Users can select from five different subject areas: Deployment, homecoming, self-expression for children, injuries, and grief. Although the Sesame Street app contains many child-friendly materials, the app's layout is intended for viewing with a parent or caregiver.
Where there's Sesame Street, of course, there's Elmo. The Muppet icon shows up in numerous places in the app, performing songs and skits about his father going away for duty and his Uncle Jack passing away. Another Muppet, Rosita, shows up in segments about her father using her wheelchair after becoming injured.
Portions of the app discussing loved ones being injured or killed come with disclaimers and require "unlocking" every time they are clicked on. Parent and caregiver-oriented segments of the app offer advice on managing multiple military deployments, letting children vent their emotions, dealing with children while in physical rehabilitation, and managing the grieving process for children.
This app is the latest installment in a longstanding Sesame Workshop project to assist children with loved ones serving overseas. The clip above shows scenes from the Sesame Street for Military Families DVD, many of which were also used in the app. Advocacy groups for military families and disabled veterans assisted the Sesame Workshop in developing original content. Sesame Street characters are also hitting the road for family-oriented USO tours as well; the “Sesame Street/USO Experience” tour started in 2006 and regularly visits domestic and foreign U.S. military bases.
One noteworthy aspect of Sesame Street for Military Families is that it's one of the first official Sesame Street apps; the only other Sesame Workshop-developed app currently on market is a financial literacy application launched in early in 2012.
In case readers were wondering, the Pentagon stands by its relationship with Sesame Street and does not want to ruffle any feathers in the Mitt Romney-Big Bird scuffle.
[Images: Sesame Workshop]
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families tour began in 2012. The tour began in 2006.