Branch Out Coming Soon!

Branch Out Logo

Branch Out, a program for parents and caregivers of youth and teens ages 10 to 18 years old, is part of the Thrive Initiative. This Initiative is a portfolio of parent education programs that focus on family strengths and meet parents and caregivers where they are. During adolescence, youth need their parents’ attention and support more than ever. With so many changes and transitions happening during adolescence, this phase of life is a time of excitement and anxiety – for youth and their parents. Branch Out is being designed to support caregivers in their parenting roles as they, in turn, nurture their child as he or she transitions from childhood to adulthood.

Parents and caregivers will learn strategies in Branch Out that will help them to foster open and honest communication, support their adolescent’s development and independence, understand their adolescent’s point of view, establish boundaries and guidelines, cultivate positive relationships, establish safety measures, and recognize the benefits and risks of digital media.

Branch Out, like the other universal Thrive parent education programs – Take Root, Sprout, and Grow – will be available in a web-based format to civilian and military families at no cost in December 2021.

Thrive programming is getting a new look!

Thrive LogoIn July 2021, in order to provide you with the best experience, the individual Thrive programs that are available online – Take Root, Sprout, and Grow – will be getting a new look! During this time the online Thrive programming may not be available. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

If you have previously participated in any of the online Thrive programs, note that your account information and course progress WILL NOT BE transferred to the new website. Please save or download any information you would like to keep before June 30, 2021.

If you have any questions, please email us at

Camping Basics

Summer has finally arrived, and it is time for everyone to go outside and enjoy some outdoor family fun! Camping is a great summertime activity, and it offers opportunities for your family members to explore nature and escape the “noise” (e.g., televisions, tablets, social media).

Outdoor activities, like camping, hiking, fishing, and biking, can provide many health benefits such as increasing Vitamin D intake, improving overall mood, improving concentration, and decreasing stress (Harvard University Medical School, 2010). Sharing outdoor activities while camping can also offer unique opportunities for your family to connect to and learn about each other.

The first time you go camping you may experience some uncertainty. However, careful planning, especially if you have younger children, can help ensure you have a successful camping experience.

Practice Inside

  • Practice camping in your home. If you have enough space, set up a tent inside and decorate your campsite – remember to be creative (e.g., make smores in the microwave, string up lights to simulate stars, play nature sounds).

Practice Outside

  • If you’re unsure of how your children may react to camping, or sleeping outdoors, set up a small campsite in your backyard. Backyard camping can offer your family a similar experience and allow you to understand what may be needed when (or if) you decide to take your camping a bit farther from home.

Create a List

  • As part of the planning process, create a list of camping essentials that you will need, like a tent, blankets/sleeping bags, pillows, food, water, sunscreen, fire starters, medication, and appropriate clothing, but remember some specialty items that might bring comfort to your children like a favorite blanket or a special toy. To learn more about camping essentials visit

Include your Children in the Planning Process

  • Children like to be involved, so it’s important to talk to them about what camping is, why you want to do it with them, and what they can expect. Be sure to address any concerns they raise and come up with solutions to any expressed concerns as a team.

Measure Your Skills

  • If you’ve never been camping yourself, you may want to look for a campsite that is located on resort property or a campsite that has amenities (e.g., public restrooms, on-site store) close by. Remember, even if you’re an experienced camper, your children might still be new to camping, so you may want to consider choosing an area that’s challenging but not too much for them to handle.

Take Precautions

  • If you are a bit skeptical about venturing out alone, invite some additional family members or friends to join along in the fun.
  • Many campsites have restrictions, like burning fires or bringing pets. Be sure to carefully vet the camping locations you’re interested in and keep a detailed list of any regulations.
  • To help your children avoid getting lost, teach your children the buddy system. Younger children should team up with an adult, and older children can get together with a peer.

Camping can be an enjoyable activity for your family and a way for you to create special memories together. Your children will benefit from being outdoors and finding ways, places, or things to explore. Who knows, it may become your family’s favorite vacation getaway!

Additional Resources

Baer, T. (2019, June 24). 30+ tips on camping with kids, from parents who have been there. The Dyrt Magazine.

Conghalie, B. (2021, March 8). Camping hacks and tips from fire to shelter. My Open Country.


Harvard Medical School. (2010, October 12). A prescription for a better health: Go alfresco. Harvard Health Publishing.