January 12, 2014
Brain & Behavior
The U.S. Department of Defense has teamed with the much love children’s television show Sesame Street for a combo DVD and print book that aims to teach young kids how to develop resilience.
“Little Children, BIG Challenges” lets military children know that challenges are a part of life, explained Barbara Thompson, the director of the office of family policy/children and youth. From sitting quietly at the dinner table, or facing down a school bully, the Sesame Street posse can help.
Thompson said that after prior collaborations on topics like grief, DOD wanted to “get ahead of the game” and produce something that was preventive in nature.
“We wanted to build resilience and coping skills in young children [for] some of the everyday challenges young children face,” she said.
Regardless of the size of the challenge, the goal was to teach kids to cope with and manage their emotions, plus how to stay positive and give them tools to overcome adversities in life, according to Thompson. A chapter on bullying teaches preschool children skills that they can use later in school. “We want to make sure they know how to diffuse [a situation], how to respond to it and know they can seek help.”
“If we start ingraining those habits into children — that it’s not OK for somebody to be disrespectful to them or hurt their feelings, and they have the skills and the coping mechanisms to react to it, they will know what to do,” Thompson said.
But this isn’t something for parents to turn on for the kids and walk away. It’s a “learning experience” that requires an adult to watch and discuss it with them.
Most Sesame Street shows, books and DVDs are geared toward young children, but the coping mechanisms in “Little Children, BIG Challenges” show parents how to pass those skill sets along to their older children in middle and high school, Thompson added.
“Parents can translate it to an older child at his or her developmental level,” she said.
Sesame Street said its research and evaluation on its first military child product showed “very positive feedback” from parents, who told producers it helped them help their kids understand the issue. All materials are in English and Spanish and are downloadable at Military OneSource.
A free Sesame Street phone app was recently launched on relocating. “The Big Moving Adventure,” Thompson said, is in the top-five of apps for children younger than 5 years old.