After three decades of trying to make basic math and reading fun, "Sesame Street" is tackling a more serious subject: war. Its new series, "Talk, Listen, Connect: Deployments, Homecomings, Changes," uses Elmo, the lovable red puppet, and his pal Rosita to teach children of military families how to cope when a parent is deployed—or returns home wounded. "Military children serve alongside their parents and they suffer just as much as their parents do," says Gary Knell, president of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the PBS show.
The four videos, developed with input from military and childhood psychologists, are the second phase of Sesame's military initiative—available free by request. The first installment, released in 2006, addressed parents going away for long periods of time. The new chapters go deeper, tackling the baggage of a spiraling war by teaching children how to adjust to redeployments and the scars that soldiers bring home. In one clip, Rosita asks how she can still dance with her dad even though his legs "don't work like they used to." The answer? Rolling to the beat—in Daddy's wheelchair.
Maj. Jennifer Lange, who recently returned from a tour in Iraq, says the videos have comforted her two young daughters and given her and her military husband "a lot of ideas for how to approach these sensitive topics." The DVDs leave out some of the complexities of war, such as where Daddy is going or who hurt him. Instead, Daddy Elmo simply tells his son that he must leave to do "grown-up work."