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WASHINGTON — Talking with preschoolers about a parent’s military deployment not only reassures the youngsters but also helps calm the entire family, according to new research released Tuesday.

The study, conducted as part of the Sesame Workshop’s ongoing Talk, Listen, Connect campaign to assist military families during deployment, said that parents who talk about the extended time apart with their preschool-age children reported less negative behavior from those youngsters and fewer feelings of depression themselves.

“Parents are often unsure how much information to share with their children [about deployment], and that’s particularly true with young children,” said Shelly MacDermid, co-director of the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University. “But military kids are serving, too.”

The findings aren’t shocking — numerous studies in the past have shown the importance of communication among military family members — but experts said this latest effort is the first time anyone has focused on children as young as 3 years old.

“There really has been no support for preschool parents,” said Leslye Arsht, deputy undersecretary of defense for community and family policy. “But what we’ve seen is that the [Sesame Street] materials helped parents as much as it helped the children.”

The study, which involved 367 parents who had preschool-age children and a deployed or deploying military spouse, tracked the families’ use of Sesame Workshop materials, the children’s behavior and the parents’ emotions during the time apart.

Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed said having some way to talk with their children about the deployment — for most, that was a DVD featuring Elmo dealing with his father’s military tour — made both them and their youngsters more comfortable.

“Not only does this reach the children, but it helps the entire family,” said Jeanette Betancourt, who helped found the Talk, Listen, Connect project.

For more information on the project, or to view the Sesame Street videos, visit

Sesame Street special to re-air

The "When Parents Are Deployed" special - which follows real military families dealing with overseas tours and includes advice for parents - will re-air on AFN several times this month:

Central Europe Time

April 15, Family: 9:30 p.m.April 16, Family: 3:30 a.m.April 20, Spectrum: 12:30 a.m.Baghdad time

April 15, Family: 11:30 p.m. Baghdad timeApril 16, Family: 5:30 a.m.April 20, Spectrum: 2:30 a.m.Toyko time


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