(This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue of Military Officer, a magazine available to all MOAA Premium and Life members. Learn more about the magazine here; learn more about joining MOAA here.)
Military kids can take a stroll through Sesame Street’s virtual world on a special website dedicated to their unique life experiences.
In a new series of games and videos, the Sesame Street gang takes military kids on a virtual visit to a medical checkup with a doctor and to a pharmacy. It’s the latest part of the Sesame Street for Military Families website, which offers resources for families to discuss experiences unique to military life, such as frequently meeting new doctors, moving, and deployments.
“It’s not as stressful if children know what to expect,” Maria Galarza, assistant vice president of U.S. Social Impact for Sesame Street, told Military Officer.
Galarza helps develop Sesame Workshop content for the more than 500,000 military families around the world. A focus group test of military families asked for resources to help their children feel at ease when visiting a new
doctor, she said. The resources were created in partnership with the Defense Department’s Defense Health Agency.
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The website offers an interactive video for kids to click on items in the doctor’s office and pharmacy, such as a stethoscope and face masks. Kids can print and color bravery badges.
Sesame Workshop doesn’t stop there. The website offers dozens of resources, tools, games, and videos for military families, including how to talk to kids about deployments and changes if a parent is injured.
“It’s a place for military families to see their experiences reflected, to see their experiences acknowledged,” Galarza said.
“Throughout the years, military families have told us what they’re going through — all sorts of very difficult transitions, but also moments where they want to use their everyday moments to celebrate their resilience and strength. When children go to the website, they know that they’re not alone; they know there are other children going through similar situations, and parents learn strategies that help others,” she said.
The Sesame Street crew has tackled many facets of military life since the mid-2000s. They’ve visited the Pentagon and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and they welcomed on the show then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Jill Biden, a military mom and now the first lady.
Sesame Street innovators are constantly thinking about ways they can address needs of military kids and families because it ultimately benefits national security.
“When a servicemember serves, the family serves and that is ingrained in everything we do,” Galarza said. “After all these years, there is an understanding that you can’t support the servicemember without the family. In order to have readiness, you have to support the family. It’s a wonderful relationship that we’ve had with the military community and leadership. There is a need to celebrate what military families do and the sacrifices to the country. It’s an honor.”