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Sesame Workshop Helps Children Cope With Grief

When Families Grieve

The death of a parent can impact every aspect of a child’s life — grief can affect a child emotionally, socially, cognitively and behaviorally. But it may be hard for children to label and express their emotions, and they may exhibit anger, sadness, hopelessness, disappointment, confusion, loneliness, guilt and worry.1 When this happens, it can be difficult for adults to know how to help children cope with the loss — particularly as they work through their own grief.

When Families Grieve, part of the Sesame Workshop “Talk, Listen, Connect” multimedia initiative, uses familiar characters like Elmo and other Sesame Street Muppets to provide resources and emotional support to military families with young children coping with the death of a parent. As part of this outreach initiative, Sesame Workshop created a primetime television special hosted by Katie Couric and 800,000 bilingual resource kits featuring a DVD and print materials.

Helping a child cope with the death of a parent can be a daunting task for any military family. But the information below can help you find out how to use this important resource for helping your children cope with the death of a parent.

What Is the Purpose of the When Families Grieve Project?

While many military families will never have to deal with this difficult issue, some will. (In fact, more than 12,000 children experienced the death of a parent in the military in the last eight years.2) In addition, children of military families may be susceptible to more intense reactions if the loved one’s death was sudden or traumatic.3 That’s why Sesame Workshop has produced a product that can help support these families in their time of need.

The resources and information provided through When Families Grieve are designed to help families with young children ages 2-8 do the following:

  • Cope with feelings of anxiety, sadness and confusion that children may experience following the death of a parent
  • Provide age-appropriate tools for supporting and comforting children, including ways to talk about death with a young child
  • Reassure children that they are loved and safe, and that together with their families and friends, they can learn ways to be there for one another and move forward4

How to Access When Families Grieve Project Components

Military families can take advantage of this exciting online resource in four ways:

  • Watch "When Families Grieve" online at the PBS website. Hosted by Katie Couric and Elmo, this powerful and heartwarming 60-minute program features the personal stories of several families with children coping with the death of a parent.

  • Download printable materials online, including a guide for parents and caregivers with tips, strategies and activities to help comfort and reassure children. This includes a children’s storybook designed to comfort children as they cope with the death of a parent, as well as a facilitator’s guide with strategies for using the project’s components.

  • Review tips for parents that can help your family talk about death, find comfort and move forward.

  • Explore online resources for additional activities that can help children cope with grief.

To request more information about how to access or use any of the components discussed above, email grief@sesameworkshop.org.

Additional Resources


1"Expressing Feelings," Sesame Street Workshop. Last accessed March 6, 2014.
2"When Families Grieve," Sesame Street Workshop. Last accessed March 6, 2014.
3"Traumatic Grief in Military Children: Information for Families," [PDF 1.12MB] National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. Published 2008.


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