Findings from the "Talk, Listen, Connect" (TLC II - Changes) Kit Evaluation

Author: 
Dave Topp
Rona Schwarz
Ursula Saqui
Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth
German Posada
Publication Date
December 1, 2009
Affiliation: 

The Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University

"With its easy to understand format and overall appeal, the kit materials engaged families in its use and provided the foundation for discussion."

This is an evaluation of a set of multimedia materials designed to tackle the trauma children in the United States (US) may experience when a parent returns from military deployment with a wound or injury. Developed by Sesame Workshop (the US organisation behind the early childhood education television show Sesame Street), Talk, Listen, Connect: Changes (TLC II - Changes) includes a DVD, postcards, and a parent/caregiver magazine. This kit is the second of three; the evaluation of this particular kit uses the methodology developed for a May 2009 evaluation of TLC II - Multiple Deployment (see Related Summaries, below), with adaptations for the experience of military families with an injured family member.

Specifically, the DVD focuses on a Sesame Street character, Rosita, whose father sustains an injury. Rosita and her family, with help from her friends, explore ways she can express her feelings and establish a new routine after her parent returns home changed. The print materials include: (i) a magazine providing tips, strategies, and activities that parents can turn to in order to help comfort and reassure their children through difficult times; (ii) a children's poster offering activities for children to engage in as they experience various transitions; (iii) postcards featuring the familiar Sesame Street characters to help parents and children stay connected. All of the materials are available online, including a streaming video featuring the TLC DVD, the print materials, and a facilitator guide.

This evaluation is based on the responses of 153 participants, who were caregivers of children ages 2 to 8 years and represented active and reserve components and different branches of the military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard). The evaluation design used test and comparison groups with random assignment. The test families received the TLC II - Changes kit. Comparison group families received a different Sesame Street kit: Healthy Habits for Life. This kit is comparable to the TLC II - Changes kit in that it also includes a DVD and print materials for children and caregivers, but with a non-military storyline focused on the need for nutrition and exercise. Sesame Street characters help parents and caregivers teach young children that living a healthy lifestyle can be fun.

Amongst the findings: In an assessment of 16 potential coping strategies, a significant increase was found in 3 specific strategies that have to do with communication and discussion, a finding that is supported by answers to a number of open-ended questions about why the kit was helpful: (i) reassuring the child that the injury is not anyone's fault; (ii) encouraging the child to ask questions about the injury; and (iii) facilitating time together and conversations between the child and his or her injured parent. This evaluation also indicates that the TLC II - Changes kit provided information to the family, while increasing family discussions about the parent's wounds and injuries and seemed to help normalise what can be difficult situations for families by showing them that there are other military families like themselves who have members with wounds or injuries. "By alleviating stressors associated with the challenges of having an injured parent in the family, the TLC II - Changes kit may help these families re-engage with each other, so that they work together to establish and accept the 'new normal' of their lives."

An excerpt from the report follows:
"The TLC II - Changes kit materials were widely used and the DVD appeared to be the highlight of the kit; nearly all caregivers (96%) stated they viewed the DVD together with their child, and often more than once. The kit materials initiated discussion and suggested activities that were implemented by the caregiver to help their child cope with the injured family member.

The kit brought clarity to a confusing situation while at the same time was highly appealing, relevant, and entertaining. Caregivers reported that the kit materials were clear and easy to understand, for not only themselves but also for their child, so that they were able to take away at least one main message from the materials. They also found the kit materials appealing and very relevant to their current situation. According to the caregivers, the DVD was well-liked by their child and provided value as entertainment. A high percentage of children experienced positive reactions to the DVD, while a low percentage of children experienced negative reactions, and expression of negative reactions was appropriate to the content of the respective DVDs.

The kit was helpful in many ways and had a positive impact on the family system. Caregivers rated the kit as helpful on several levels: overall, personally and to a substantial number of the injured family members. It significantly increased caregivers' comfort in helping their child cope and gave them information to aid in this goal. Caregivers also reported that their child's ability to cope was significantly increased by the use of the materials.

The most common outcomes of using the kit were: significantly less caregiver distress (in both the test and comparison groups), more ease in dealing with their child's negative emotions, responding to their child's requests for help, using less verbal prohibitions, increased feelings of parenting support, less feelings of being alone and feeling more socially engaged.

Along with positively impacting the caregiver's behavior, the kit also positively impacted the home environment and the child. Caregivers identified that their home environment was significantly less chaotic and their children less inhibited after using the kit. They reported that, compared to children in the comparison group, their children screamed or yelled significantly less and got into significantly fewer peer conflicts."

Editor's note: To request a copy of this 22-page report in PDF format, please contact June Lee at June.Lee@sesame.org

Source: 

Email from June Lee to The Communication Initiative on December 17 2013. © 2013 "Sesame Street" ® and associated characters, trademarks, and design elements are owned and licensed by Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved.