Like many Americans, emotional well-being is something that many military families have said they’re struggling with since the pandemic started, according to Sesame Workshop, which works with the Defense Department to bring information to military families through its websites and free apps.
In response to that, Sesame Workshop has launched new digital resources for military parents and children that offer simple strategies for mental health and self-care. The resources include videos [https://sesamestreetincommunities.org/topics/veterans-and-changes/ ] demonstrating the importance of finding the little wins, being flexible with routines, meal planning and even learning how to be still and quiet.
“I know it’s not always easy, and self-care doesn’t always feel attainable,” explained Sesame Workshop’s Tara Wright, who’s a mother of three and a military spouse. “But these resources can be a nice little reminder that taking care of yourself really does help your family, and it can also be done with your family. It doesn’t have to be apart.”
For instance, in one of the videos, Elmo’s mom, Mae, is frustrated when she’s trying to make dinner. Elmo’s dad is away with the National Guard, and Elmo really wants his mother to play with him. In that moment, Mae decides she’s going to keep things simple and order a pizza, instead.
“She makes the choice right there: ‘I don’t I don’t have to do it all,'” Wright said. “We know that every night can’t be pizza night, but, in that particular moment, her act of self-care was setting aside a routine that was causing her a lot of stress and instead focusing on spending time with Elmo.”
Wright, who’s raising three boys under age 5 while her Marine Corps husband is on temporary duty, said she definitely finds the videos relatable. After all, while children will enjoy the videos for the Sesame Street connection, the underlying messages are really for the parents.
“These are definitely giving some modeling and encouragement to parents that it’s okay to not be at our best all the time and that there are manageable, approachable things that we can do to feel a little bit better,” Wright said. “My kids don’t always understand why I feel frustrated … but they do understand that I’m making the choice to connect with them. I think that’s what the kids will see in these videos and, especially, what parents will see.”
Sesame Workshop has several other military-related resources, including those that can support families dealing with deployments, long-term caregiving, transition to civilian life, grief and more. A military spouse and mother of three named Alexis told Sesame Workshop that when her husband was away on temporary duty, it was hard for her to explain to her 3-year-old why he couldn’t see his dad. The Sesame Workshop resources that focus on temporary duty really helped, Alexis said.
“It’s almost like watching the stages of grief take place — they get angry, they get sad, they’re trying to work through big feelings that they don’t understand,” Alexis said. “Having someone like Elmo who’s going through this, too … They can relate to how he’s having a hard time and look up to how he’s dealing with it. Just knowing that you’re not alone in this from someone as relatable as Elmo — it’s so comforting to have that.”
For a lot of the families, it’s the examples of everyday situations that have resonated with them.
“I think military families—everybody thanks us for our service, but, so often, the day-to-day challenges are not really well understood,” Wright said. “It’s really those day-to-day things that we’ve heard from families who say they’re just really appreciative that they’re being represented, and they feel seen.”
The Sesame Workshop resources are free to families and providers and are available in English and Spanish at the Sesame Street for Military Families website [https://sesamestreetformilitaryfamilies.org/ ] and at sesamestreetincommunities.org.