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WASHINGTON — AFN will air a Sesame Street special this week, focusing on stories of military families with young children and how they cope with extended deployments.

Last year, the production company behind the popular television show released a DVD to help those children deal with the stress of fear of a parent’s deployment, following Elmo as his father is deployed.

This 30-minute special, starring Cuba Gooding Jr., is designed for parents of those young children, following real military families dealing with overseas tours to show how to prepare young children for the time apart. The show aired in the United States on Dec. 27.

The episode is part of the Sesame Workshop’s Talk-Listen-Connect project, which offers educational materials and helpful links for military families.

Jeanette Betancourt, who helped found the project, said that while many support groups have resources on how to talk to children in elementary school or in their teens, little advice is available with how to deal with children under five.

“Sometimes people think because they’re younger they can’t understand or don’t need to be prepared as much,” she said. “But it needs to be the whole family, even the youngest.”

Betancourt said the families who helped film the special emphasized that military parents aren’t alone in their struggles.

“There are newer military families who it impacts more on their first deployment, but every situation is new,” she said. “We want them to know they’re not standing alone.”

In addition to the episode, the group will distribute 385,000 education kits to military support centers and schools. That material also will be put online, Betancourt said.

To view the special online, or to see other resources for military families, visit

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