Rise and Dine

March is National Nutrition Month! This may be a good time for you to remind your family that starting their day with a nutritious breakfast can be important. In the hustle and bustle of modern life, adults often skip breakfast to gain extra time, use the time differently, or even consume fewer calories. Similarly, children may rush out the door with empty stomachs or may have only consumed empty-calorie snacks. In addition, neglecting a balanced breakfast can potentially lead to a myriad of negative consequences. So, you may want to ask yourself, “Is the extra time and calories I save in the morning worth the sacrifice of this important meal?” Let’s review how eating breakfast can help support your family members in their daily activities.

For adults

Metabolism: Eating a nutritious breakfast can help jumpstart your metabolism and enable your body to burn calories more efficiently throughout the day. This can contribute to weight management and better overall energy levels (Heo et al., 2021).

Cognitive function: A healthy breakfast provides your brain with essential nutrients, such as glucose, which can help your brain function at an optimal level. Studies have shown that breakfast consumption is linked to improved concentration, focus, and memory (Barr et al., 2013).

Blood sugar levels: Starting your day with a balanced breakfast can help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent energy crashes and mood swings later in the day. This stability can be key for your productivity and emotional well-being throughout the day (Young et al., 2014).
Healthy eating habits: Eating a nutritious breakfast can set a positive tone for the rest of the day and help establish a foundation for nutritious dietary patterns (Uzhova et al., 2018).

For children

Growth and development: Children’s bodies are constantly growing and developing and require a steady supply of nutrients. A nourishing breakfast provides essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins necessary for healthy growth, strong bones, and cognitive development (Gibney et al., 2018).

Academic performance: Research indicates that children who eat breakfast tend to perform better academically and experience improved concentration, memory, and problem-solving skills (Wesnes et al., 2003). Starting the day with a nutritious meal can help facilitate effective learning and engagement in the classroom.

Energy levels: Breakfast can replenish energy levels that have been depleted overnight and can provide children with the fuel they need to stay active and focused throughout the school day. Skipping breakfast can lead to fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, which can hinder academic and social interactions (Adolphus et al., 2013).

Healthy habits: Teaching children the importance of eating breakfast can support lifelong healthy habits. When a family prioritizes breakfast, children can learn the value of nutrition and understand the role it plays in their overall health and well-being (Silvia et al., 2023).

Breakfast can benefit adults and children. When you make time for a balanced breakfast each morning, you can help set your family up for success and vitality throughout the day. For more information on how to incorporate a healthy breakfast into your routine, please look at the Additional Resources section below.

Additional Resources

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide advice on what to eat and drink to meet nutritional needs, promote health, and prevent disease.

MyPlate.gov offers tips and resources that support healthy dietary patterns.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shares some breakfast advice paired with nutritious recipes.

Better Health Channel outlines the benefits of breakfast and offers suggestions for people who are short on time and/or struggle to eat early in the morning.


Adolphus, K., Lawton, C. L., & Dye, L. (2013, August 8). The effects of breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience7, 425. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00425

Barr, S., DiFrancesco, L., & Victor, F. L. (2013, January). Consumption of breakfast and the type of breakfast consumed are positively associated with nutrient intakes and adequacy of Canadian adults. The Journal of Nutrition, 143(1), 86-92. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.112.167098

Gibney, M. J., Barr, S. I., Bellisle, F., Drewnowski, A., Fagt, S., Livingstone, B., Masset, G., Varela Moreiras, G., Moreno, L. A., Smith, J., Vieux, F., Thielecke, F., & Hopkins, S. (2018, May 1). Breakfast in human nutrition: The international breakfast research initiative. Nutrients10(5), 559. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10050559

Heo, J., Choi, W. J., Ham, S., Kang, S. K., & Lee, W. (2021, January 7). Association between breakfast skipping and metabolic outcomes by sex, age, and work status stratification. Nutrition & Metabolism 18, 8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12986-020-00526-z

Silva, P., Araújo, R., Lopes, F., & Ray, S. (2023, November 7). Nutrition and food literacy: Framing the challenges to health communication. Nutrients, 15(22), 4708. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15224708

Uzhova, I., Mullally, D., Peñalvo, J. L., & Gibney, E. R. (2018, October 26). Regularity of breakfast consumption and diet: Insights from national adult nutrition survey. Nutrients10(11), 1578. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10111578

Wesnes, K., Pincock, C., Richardson, D., Helm, G., & Hails, S. (2003, December). Breakfast reduces declines in attention and memory over the morning in schoolchildren. Appetite, 41(3), 329-331. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2003.08.009

Young, H., & Benton, D. (2014, August). The glycemic load of meals, cognition, and mood in middle and older aged adults with differences in glucose tolerance: A randomized trial. e-SPEN Journal, 9(4), e147-e154. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnme.2014.04.003

Tips for Teaching Children to Brush Their Teeth on Their Own

As children reach toddlerhood (i.e., age 1 to 3 years), they begin to increasingly show signs of independence. Their strong desire to complete tasks independently is often displayed in activities of daily living like getting dressed and brushing their teeth. Because young children do not always have the concentration or control to brush their teeth by themselves, parents need to find ways to encourage their child’s self-help skills while supervising their efforts. Consider the following tips to help teach your child about the toothbrushing process and to build their confidence as they learn to brush their teeth on their own.

Brushing Basics


Ensure your child has a soft-bristled toothbrush with a thick handle and a small brushing head. Your child may be able to choose from a variety of kid-friendly toothbrushes that are available in vibrant colors and have fun characters on the handle.


Select a toothpaste that contains fluoride and has a taste and texture that your child likes. If your child does not respond well to one toothpaste, try another with a different flavor.

Brushing Angle

For the outer surfaces and most inner surfaces of their teeth, teach your child to hold their toothbrush horizontally at a 45-degree angle. For the front, inner surfaces of their teeth, teach your child to hold their toothbrush vertically across their teeth. For the chewing surfaces, your child may lay the toothbrush flat across those teeth to brush.

Brushing Motion

Show your child how to brush along the line where their teeth and gums meet in short, circular strokes or long, up-and-down strokes. Both the circular and up-and-down techniques are acceptable, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).

Brushing Time

Watch the clock, set the timer, play a song, or use a mobile app to help keep your child engaged for at least 2 minutes while they brush their teeth.

Toothbrush Replacement

Replace your child’s toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, or replace your child’s toothbrush sooner if the bristles appear to be visibly frayed.

Brushing Expectations by Age

From birth to first tooth (around 6 months old), use a clean, damp washcloth or gauze to wipe your child’s gums clean after each feeding.

Upon the arrival of your child’s first tooth (around 6 months) to 3 years old, apply a smear of toothpaste (approximately the size of a grain of rice) to your child’s toothbrush and begin to brush your child’s teeth twice a day—once in the morning and once at night. Begin to gently floss between your child’s teeth when they have two teeth that touch.

When your child is between the ages of 3 years to 6 years old, apply a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to your child’s toothbrush, and brush 2 times a day for at least 2 minutes. Assist your child with their teeth brushing (and flossing) until they can rinse and spit out the toothpaste rather than swallowing it.

How to Teach Your Child to Brush Their Teeth

If your child has learned to rinse and spit out their toothpaste instead of swallowing the toothpaste (usually around 5 to 6 years old), it may be time for you to encourage them to brush their teeth on their own. Here are some techniques you can use to help your child learn to independently brush their teeth.

Break the process into small steps. Teach your child to brush their teeth in sections. Focus on the outer surface, the inner surface, and chewing surface of one quadrant (i.e., upper left, lower left, upper right, and lower right) for 30 seconds before moving on to the next quadrant.

Show and tell. Prepare your toothbrush with toothpaste and stand or kneel next to your child. You can face your child or both of you can face the mirror. Direct your child to copy your movements and the sections you are focusing on as you both brush your teeth together. You may use analogies like the train wheels moving across the train tracks.

Hold their hand. Wrap your hand around your child’s hand to help guide the way your child holds their toothbrush and the way they move the toothbrush across their gums and teeth.

Take turns. Encourage your child to brush their teeth first while you supervise them. Use your words to help guide them on where to brush. Let them know that you plan to “check their work” when they finish. Use the “checking” stage to brush the areas they may have missed.

Sing a song. Sing a song or create your own song to a familiar melody (e.g., Row, Row, Row Your Boat) to help explain to your child the steps for brushing their teeth.

Consider your child’s temperament and learning style when determining which teaching technique to use. Feel free to try different techniques or combine techniques until you find the model that works for you and your child. With your continued guidance, your child will establish a consistent oral health routine, maintain good toothbrushing practices, and prepare to brush their teeth by themself. When you teach your child how to properly care for their primary teeth, it can set the stage for the health of their adult teeth and their oral hygiene practices for years to come.

Additional Resources

The Give a Kids A Smile® Program in association with the ADA (American Dental Association, 2020) provides resource sheets for parents and caregivers. Here are additional healthy habits that they offer parents and caregivers to consider as they help their child maintain a healthy smile and oral health.

  • Begin taking your child to dental visits when their first tooth appears or by the time they turn 1 year old, whichever comes first.
  • Encourage your child to eat healthy foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables, lean meats) to protect their teeth’s health. Limit cavity-causing treats like candy, sugary beverages, sodas, snacks, and sticky sweets.
  • Encourage your child, who is at least 1 year old, to drink water between meals. The ADA suggests that water with the fluoride is the best drink for your child’s teeth.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Division of Oral Health offers activities and resources for infants and children who are up to 4 years old. Find the resource here: https://scdhec.gov/sites/default/files/Library/ML-025192.pdf

The ADA provides several resources to help you take care of your child’s teeth through their Mouth Healthy™ campaign. A few of these resources can be found at the following:


American Dental Association. (2020). Tiny smiles. https://www.ada.org/-/media/project/ada-organization/ada/ada-org/files/resources/public-programs/give-kids-a-smile/ada-gkasts-eng_dental_professionals.pdf

American Dental Association. (2022, October 7). Toothbrushes.https://www.ada.org/en/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/toothbrushes

Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center. (2023, April 26). Brushing your child’s teeth. https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/publication/brushing-your-childs-teeth

Harrisburg Smiles. (2020, October 22). How to teach your child to brush their teeth—Your guide to the process.https://harrisburgsmilesdental.com/how-to-teach-your-child-to-brush-their-teeth-your-guide-to-the-process/

Jana, L. A., & Shu, J. (2021, May 25). Let the brushing games begin. Healthychildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/oral-health/Pages/Let-the-Brushing-Games-Begin.aspx

Oraljel Kids. (n.d.). Six creative ways to get your kids to brush their teeth. https://www.orajelkids.com/en/resources/six-creative-ways-to-get-your-kids-to-brush-their-teeth

Shahangian, J. (2017, January 13). How do I get my preschooler to let me brush her teeth? Healthychildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/ask-the-pediatrician/Pages/How-do-I-get-my-preschooler-to-let-me-brush-her-teeth.aspx

Listening to Your Baby

From the moment your baby is born, they are present and ready to communicate with you! Babies use the reflexes and cues they are born with to let you know what they need. This may look like turning their face towards a bottle when they are hungry or sound like crying when they are tired or overstimulated by loud surroundings. Taking the time to learn how your baby communicates can help you support them as they learn about and adjust to their new world!

To learn more, watch the Listening to Your Baby mini-booster module video, below, that was developed by Thrive!

The universal Thrive parent-education programs (i.e., Take Root, Sprout, Grow, and Branch Out), supplemental modules, and mini-booster modules are available for all parents for free at https://thrive.psu.edu.

United in Resolution: How Your Family Can Make the Most of the New Year

A new year is upon us, and it may bring with it promises of beginnings and opportunities for positive change. The start of the New Year is not just a marker of time, but it can also be a symbolic moment to reflect on the past and envision a brighter future. In addition, the New Year can be a time when you and your family create your special individual and family New Year’s resolutions. Developing an annual tradition in which all family members think about positivity can foster a sense of personal growth, for children and adults, and may encourage family bonding and improve goal-setting skills. Let’s discuss some strategies for setting New Year’s resolutions individually and within the family context and ideas for implementing practical approaches that can make this activity a meaningful experience for every family member.

Why set New Year’s resolutions with children

When parents or caregivers involve their children in setting New Year’s resolutions, they are modeling positive behaviors and offering children opportunities to learn how to set goals for themselves and begin to understand the value of personal development. Participating in goal setting can teach children responsibility and perseverance and can give them an opportunity to feel joy as they achieve something meaningful. By involving your children in this process, you empower them and strengthen the family bond as you work towards meeting shared objectives and create a tradition to look forward to every year.

The SMART way to set goals

Consider using the SMART goal framework to set your New Year’s resolutions. SMART goals provide a clear roadmap for success and are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Establishing SMART goals can ensure that resolutions set by family members are well defined, realistic, and attainable within a designated time frame.

Let’s break down the components of SMART goals with some examples:

  • Specific: Specify exactly what you want to achieve.
    • Traditional Resolution: “Exercise more.”
    • SMART Resolution: “Take a family walk for 30 minutes every evening after dinner.”
  • Measurable: Establish a way to track your progress, and determine when you have met your goal.
    • Traditional Resolution: “Read more books.”
    • SMART Resolution: “Read one book each month, and discuss it with the family.”
  • Achievable: Ensure that your goal is realistic and attainable.
    • Traditional Resolution: “Learn a new instrument.”
    • SMART Resolution: “Practice the guitar for 15 minutes every day.”
  • Realistic: Set goals that are reasonable and within your capabilities.
    • Traditional Resolution: “Get all A’s in school.”
    • SMART Resolution: “Improve my grades by dedicating 1 hour to homework each school night.”
  • Timely: Define a time frame for accomplishing your goal.
    • Traditional Resolution: “Learn a new language.”
    • SMART Resolution: “Complete an online language course by June.”

Start small and build up

Start small, and set goals that can be easily achieved. Using this approach can increase opportunities for positive feedback, prevent feelings of discouragement, and foster a positive and empowering mindset for all family members. When goals are within one’s grasp, the individual is more likely to stay motivated and committed. Starting small and reaching these goals allow individuals, especially children, a chance to experience the satisfaction of progress and success. Their confidence can also be improved by reaching milestones, and they may find ways to build on those accomplishments! By striving to keep goals attainable, families can set themselves up for a journey filled with achievable milestones, continuous growth, and fun.

Set family resolutions

In addition to each family member setting individual SMART goals, families can set resolutions (or goals) they want to achieve together. These shared objectives can strengthen familial bonds and encourage collective growth. When families set resolutions together, they foster an environment of collaboration and support in which each member plays a vital role in achieving shared aspirations. Listed below are some examples of family resolutions, resolutions for younger children, and resolutions for adolescents and teens.

Weekly Family Meals:

  • SMART Goal: “Have a family meal together once a week and be together at least 30 minutes with no phones at the table.”

Exercise Routine:

  • SMART Goal: “Engage in 30 minutes of family exercise each day and allow each family member the opportunity to choose an activity to engage in that week (e.g., dancing, walking the dog, going to the park).”

Cooking Together:

  • SMART Goal: “Make one evening ‘Family Cook Night’ where the entire family will prepare, cook, and eat a meal together. Each family member will get a chance to choose a meal they would like to prepare.”

Family Game Night:

  • SMART Goal: “Schedule a weekly family game night, and turn off screens to reconnect and enjoy quality time.”

For Younger Children:

  • Daily Chores:
    • SMART Goal: Complete morning routine: Get up, get dressed, make your bed, eat breakfast, and brush your teeth.
  • Reading Habits:
    • SMART Goal: “Read for 20 minutes a day either independently or with a family member.”

For Adolescents/Teens:

  • Screen-Free Time:
    • SMART Goal: Learn/practice a new skill that doesn’t involve the use of a screen.
  • Balanced Lifestyle:
    • SMART Goal: “Go outside for at least 1 hour a day to engage in physical activity like running, biking, tennis, or pickleball.”

Revisit resolutions and goals as needed

Adaptability can be key when it comes to setting goals. Allow flexibility for yourself and your child so you can adjust any pre-established goals throughout the year and encourage success. Kids grow and change rapidly, and their interests and capabilities will evolve. Adjusting goals, as needed, allows for a more realistic and encouraging approach and considers the developmental stage of your child and their priorities. Whether modifying learning objectives, altering extracurricular commitments, or pivoting to a new hobby, parents who can recognize and adapt to these changes can ensure children’s goals remain achievable and aligned with their needs and aspirations. Teaching children the value of flexibility in goal setting can equip them with essential life skills and can foster a resilient and positive attitude toward overcoming challenges.

Incorporating SMART goals into your family’s New Year’s resolutions can set the stage for a successful and fulfilling year. As you embark on this journey together, remember that your commitment to continuous improvement is vital. To further support your resolution-setting endeavors and make this process more rewarding for you and your children, explore the resources listed below. Here’s to a SMART and joyful New Year for your family!

Additional Resources

Cooking to Thrive

Moving to Thrive

Family Media Guidelines

Eating Together as a Family

5210 Tips for Families


Aghera, A., Emery, M., Bounds, R., Bush C, Stansfield, R. B., Gillett, B., & Santen, S. A. (2018, January). A randomized trial of SMART goal enhanced debriefing after simulation to promote educational actions. Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 19(1), 112-120. https://doi.org/10.5811/westjem.2017.11.36524

Le, B. M., & Impett, E. A. (2019). Parenting goal pursuit is linked to emotional well-being, relationship quality, and responsiveness. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(3), 879-904. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407517747417

Nair, A., Nair, D., Girdhar, M., & Gugnani, A. (2021). Optimizing developmental outcomes by setting smart goals individualized home program for children with disabilities during COVID-19. International Journal of Physiotherapy and Research, 9(5), 4028–4034. https://doi.org/10.16965/ijpr.2021.184

Road Trips with Young Children

Family road trips can be a happy and memorable experience for children. They offer opportunities for families to spend quality time together, make memories, take in new and different sights, and have fun with each other. In addition, road trips may be preferred over traveling on planes, buses, and trains for a young child as using the family car reduces exposure to individuals outside of the family unit and their germs. Traveling, however, with children, via any means, may also present challenges. Although there may be crumbs, spills, cries, and complaints, your family can, with the use of some of the ideas below, reach your destination safely and with little stress.

Rules of the Road

Establish rules for your child when traveling, and teach your child to adhere to the Rules of the Road in every car; for every trip, no matter how short the drive; and no matter who is driving.

  • Secure your child in a car seat, booster, or approved restraint that meets guidelines for the child’s age/weight.
  • Never leave your child alone in the car.
  • Ensure your child—and any child 13 and younger—rides in the back seat.
  • Do not allow multiple children to share a seatbelt.
  • Teach your child appropriate car behavior, such as using an inside voice, being gentle with toys (e.g., no throwing toys), and being kind to other riders (e.g., no arguing, no hitting).
  • Remind your child that the car is not a play zone, and they must follow the rules to help ensure everyone’s safety.

Road-trip travel considerations

Take breaks.

Plan to stop driving about every 2 to 3 hours for day trips and every 4 to 6 hours for night trips. Regular breaks give you and your child opportunities to refresh. The stops allow you to attend to your child’s diapering, toileting, and feeding needs and can give you and your child a chance to engage in some physical activity. (Note: never attempt to breastfeed a child while the car is in motion).

Safety Alert: If you and your child get out of the car during breaks, ensure your child does not wander far from your line of sight or reach. Do not let your child play in your car or near moving cars.

Travel according to child’s schedule.

Consider taking your trip during times when your child may be sleeping for longer stretches. This could mean getting on the road early in the morning when your child is still sleeping, traveling during your child’s scheduled nap times, or driving at night when your child will be asleep for the night.

Sit in the backseat with your child.

Have an adult or an older child sit in the backseat with a younger child so they can recognize cues for feeding, diapering, or car sickness. When you sit in the backseat, you remind your child that you (or a familiar person) are close by. Sitting in the back seat can also allow you to play with your child, read to them, sing to them, and soothe them.

Research your route.

Identify gas stations, charging stations, and rest stops for breaks. In the event that you need to stop at a hotel along the route, you may want to locate potential hotels that offer sleeping and feeding accommodations and welcoming staff for you and your child before you leave home.

Stay flexible.

Events do not always go according to plan when traveling with children. Try not to let the bumps and wobbles cause you stress, and, if you can, put a positive spin on any situations that may arise. Remember that driving allows your family to develop your own schedule and make as many stops as needed.

Essentials to pack for long road trips with your child

  • Healthy snacks
  • Milk, formula, water (Reminder: Keep breastmilk and prepared formula on ice)
  • Hand sanitizing gel, spray, or wipes
  • Baby-safe wipes (e.g., to clean surfaces, to clean the child)
  • Medication
  • First Aid Kit
  • Thermometer
  • Extra change of clothes
  • Diapering and toileting needs (e.g., diapers, underwear, diaper cream, travel potty, changing pad, disposable bags for soiled diapers)
  • Sunscreen (for children 6 months and older)
  • Petroleum jelly (i.e., Vaseline, Aquaphor)
  • Pacifier, lovey, soothing toy, transitional item
  • Portable play yard
  • A box of fun, interactive toys (e.g., stickers, pipe cleaners, counting objects, coloring books, crayons, dough)

Fun ideas for the road

Your child will probably experience occasional bouts of boredom and silence, particularly during road trips, and this is fine. However, when you are ready to interrupt the dullness of the drive, here are some screen-free ideas that you can use to spark your child’s imagination and to help them explore, wonder, and have fun while on the road.

  • Read a book
  • Listen to an audiobook
  • Sing together
  • Listen to music
  • Follow or draw on an old-fashioned paper map
  • Play “I spy”
  • Play an alphabet game
  • Play with puppets
  • Count vehicles, signs, and/or animals
  • See how many states you can spot on other cars’ license plates
  • Allow your child to draw something with crayons on blank paper
  • Have a spelling bee
  • Play “20 Questions”
  • Look for images in the clouds
  • Teach your child their letters
  • Review one-letter and two-letter sounds
  • Sketch letters and/or shapes
  • Play “Would You Rather”
  • Create a poem together
  • Make up a story together
  • Draw a picture or color together
  • Count or organize toys or objects
  • Play a family trivia game
  • Play a game of favorites (e.g., songs, books, ice cream, athletes)
  • Recite tongue twisters
  • Play connect the dots
  • Play tic-tac-toe
  • Play with play dough, clay, or putty
  • Play the quiet game
  • Take a snooze

Additional Resources

Nemours KidsHealth Medical Experts suggests a few Road Trip Boredom Busters

Books and Book Collections:

NPR Road Trips Collections by National Public Radio, Inc. (audiobook)

Barnes and Nobles offers a list of the best audiobooks to download for family road trips that kids and adults of all ages can enjoy

Where to Next? Road Trip with Marley by Kelly Nance

National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas, 2nd Edition by Crispin Boyer

Brightly presents 9 Books to Keep Kids Entertained During Summer Road Trips

PBS Kids shares 8 Children’s Books that Inspire a Love of Travel


Anzilotti, A. W. (2023, July). Road rules for kids. Nemours KidsHealth. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/passenger-safety.html

DiMaggio, D. (2023, November 22). Is it safe for my baby to travel in a car seat for hours at a time? Healthychildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/ask-the-pediatrician/Pages/Is-it-safe-for-my-baby-to-travel-in-a-car-seat-a-few-hours-at-a-time.aspx

Gans, A. S., Kardos, J., Lai, N., Lockwood, K. K., & McFadden-Parsi, L. (2023, June 21). A pediatrician’s family vacation packing checklist: What you need when traveling with kids. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. https://www.chop.edu/news/health-tip/pediatrician-s-family-vacation-packing-checklist-what-you-need-when-traveling-kids

Healthychildren.org. (2022, December 16). Road trip play ideas for backseat fun. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/power-of-play/Pages/road-trip-play-ideas-for-backseat-fun.aspx

Healthychildren.org. (2023, November 20). Tips for safe and stress-free family travel. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Travel-Safety-Tips.aspx

KidsHealth Medical Experts. (n.d.). Road trip fun. Nemours KidsHealth. https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/road-trip.html

National Teen Driver Safety Week October 15-21, 2023

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022). Teen drivers speed, make mistakes, and can be easily distracted, especially if they have friends in the car. Parents can play an important role in helping their teens develop into safe and responsible drivers. In addition to providing supervised driving practice, parents and their teen drivers should have conversations about driving safety.

So, what safety issues should parents talk about with their teens? In honor of National Teen Driver Safety Week, this blog contains some important conversation topics and provides suggestions for how parents can encourage safe-driving practices.

Teen Driver Crash Statistics (CDC, 2022)

  • Crash risk is highest in the first year a teen has their license.
  • Fatal crashes are more likely to occur at night.
  • In 2021, 51% of the teen passenger vehicle drivers who died in crashes were not wearing their seatbelts.
  • The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when they travel with multiple passengers.
  • In 2021, almost one-third (32%) of all teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash.
  • In 2021, 19% of teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their system.

Talk about Safe Driving with Your Teen

Talking to your teens about safe driving early and often, even before they reach driving age, can help to prevent their chances of being in an accident and could potentially save their lives. You may choose to start the conversation during National Teen Driver Safety Week, but you should consider continuing the conversation regularly (e.g., weekly) throughout the year. Your teen is listening, and your constant reminders about driving risks—and your clear expectations—will get through and make a difference.

Seat belts

Wearing a seat belt in a vehicle is one of the simplest ways for everyone to remain safe. Buckling up is the law, and fastening a seat belt is also one of the easiest and most effective actions an individual can take to reduce their chances of injury or death if they are involved in a car accident. Help your teen understand why seat belts are important and that they must be worn by everyone in the vehicle and on every trip. Make them aware of the consequences of not buckling up, such as getting tickets, losing driving privileges, or sustaining injury, or even death, in the event of a crash. It only takes a few seconds to buckle up, but this small action could save a life.


Your teen’s risk of having a fatal car crash increases with each number of passengers in the vehicle. Passengers can distract an inexperienced teen driver who should be focused on the road and the cars and pedestrians around them. Many states have laws that restrict the number of passengers who can ride in a car that is driven by a teen. Even if the state you live in does not have passenger restrictions, establish rules with your teen about who can ride with them and how many people they can have in their car at one time.


Distracted driving can be deadly. Remind your teen about the dangers of texting, dialing, or using mobile apps while driving. Require your teen to put their phone away and to turn on the “Do Not Disturb” or similar phone features when they are driving. Distracted driving isn’t limited to phone use—other passengers; vehicle, audio, and climate controls; eating; and drinking while driving are all sources of potential dangerous distractions.


Speeding is a safety issue for all drivers, and it can be especially dangerous for a teenage driver who lacks the experience to react to hazards or changing circumstances around their vehicle. Teens who are monitored closely tend to speed less. Set the expectation that your teen will obey the speed limit. They should be particularly aware of their speed during inclement weather (e.g., rain, snow, leaves falling). During these situations, they may need to reduce their speed in order to handle traffic stops or winding roads. Remind your teen to maintain enough space behind the vehicle in front of them to avoid a crash in case of a sudden stop.

Driving While Under the Influence

Consuming alcohol before the age of 21 is illegal, and alcohol and/or marijuana or other substance use and driving never mix—no matter your age. In fact, driving under the influence of any impairing substance, including illicit, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs, could be fatal. It is critical that teen drivers understand that driving impaired can also have legal consequences. They could face strict penalties, fines, or jail time, and they could lose their license if they are caught driving while impaired. Further, remind them that they will face additional consequences at home for breaking the rules they agreed to follow when they started driving.

Set Safe Driving Ground Rules

When your teen begins driving, establish expectations or rules that address common safety risks. Rules for your teen driver may include the following details:

  • Do not drive impaired.
  • Always wear a seat belt, and make sure your passengers do too.
  • Keep your eyes on the road, both hands on the steering wheel, and your mind on the task of driving.
  • Follow the posted speed limit.
  • Limit the number of passengers in your car.

You may want to make your rules more specific by stating what your teen will not do while driving (e.g., consume alcohol, text, dial or scroll on their phone, eat, drive at night) and you should outline the consequences for breaking the rules, such as a loss of driving privileges. You may also choose to create a parent-teen contract for safe driving and display your contract by the family car keys or near the front door.

Model Safe Driving

Model safe-driving behavior for your children by following good habits, such as using the turn signals or looking left-right-left before pulling out at an intersection, any time you drive them anywhere, even before they begin to drive. Make sure you refrain from grabbing for your cell phone, and buckle your seat belt before starting your car. Obey the speed limit, and keep your eyes on the road. Be consistent with the messages you tell your teen and your own driving behaviors.

Driving is a privilege. If your teen has difficulty following the rules, you may need to suspend their driving privileges and discuss your safety concerns. Safe teen drivers can mean the difference between life and death—for themselves, their passengers, and others on the road.


Parent-Teen Driving Agreement: https://www.cdc.gov/parentsarethekey/agreement/index.html

Safe Driving Pledge: https://thrive.psu.edu/universal-parenting-programs/branch-out/


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, November 22). Eight danger zones. https://www.cdc.gov/parentsarethekey/danger/index.html

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State. (n.d.). Branch out. Thrive modules [Computer-based module]. https://thrive.psu.edu/universal-parenting-programs/branch-out/

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (n.d.). Teen driving. https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/teen-driving

Promoting Healthy Behaviors in Families

Children learn how to incorporate healthy behaviors and habits by watching their parents and caregivers. Watch the video below to see how you could model behaviors that are healthy. These behaviors can include reducing screen time, establishing a sleep routine, choosing nutritious foods for your family, and being physically active. All of these behaviors, and many more, play an important role in the overall health and well-being for everyone!

To learn more, view the Promoting Healthy Behaviors in Families mini-booster module by Thrive below!

The universal Thrive parent-education programs (i.e., Take Root, Sprout, Grow, and Branch Out), supplemental modules, and mini-booster modules are available for all parents, at no cost, at thrive.psu.edu.

5210 Challenge – Summer Edition

Summer break in the United States typically begins in late May or early June and ends in mid-August or early September. So, American children have about 8-9 weeks off from school. You might want take advantage of the less-structured time that summer may offer your family by participating in the 5210 Challenge – Summer Edition!

How Parents Can Help

Parents play an important role in shaping their children’s participation in healthy behaviors. Through support and behavioral modeling, parents can encourage their children to follow evidence-informed recommendations from groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. 5210 Healthy (Military) Children is a health promotion campaign that offers a simple message to help parents learn how they can aid in supporting their children’s health. We’ve compiled a list of activities that your family can do to incorporate 5210 practices into your family’s summer fun!

What is 5210?

Consume 5 or more servings of fruits or vegetables each day.

Engage in 2 or fewer hours of recreational screen time each day.

Participate in 1 or more hours of physical activity each day.

Consume 0 sweetened beverages each day.

5210 Challenge – Summer Edition

Summer can be an opportune time to go outside and try a new activity or sport! Consider incorporating the healthy-behavior components of 5210 as you engage in different activities. Download the 5210 challenge calendar, and use the list below for ideas to make this summer your healthiest (and most fun) summer yet!

  1. Conduct a taste test of new fruits or vegetables.
  2. Go for a spin! Ride on a bike, scooter, or roller blades. Don’t forget to wear a safety helmet!
  3. Visit a park. Do you have a favorite in your area? Are you ready to try out a new one? Parks can be a free way to get in some outdoor fun!
  4. Go screen free all day! Check out Screen-Free Saturdays for some suggestions to get started.
  5. Do you have a green thumb? Plant some seeds, and track your plant’s progress by measuring its growth each week, or build a terrarium, and add ornamental items.
  6. Throw a dance party! Take turns selecting your favorite songs, and make up silly dance moves.
  7. Prepare a new healthy snack.
  8. Get crafty! Free classes may be available from hardware stores or craft stores in your area, or try this low-cost rock-painting activity.
  9. Go for a hike. In addition to getting fresh air and taking in nature, you could introduce your family to geocaching! Check out gov to find an outdoor space near you.
  10. Visit the local library. Many libraries offer a weekly story time or special events. Use a library finder to locate a library near you.
  11. Try out some water play! Go for a swim, turn on the sprinkler, or have a water balloon fight. Be sure to put on sunscreen if you’re participating during the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., which is when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are the strongest. Check out more sun-safety tips from Org
  12. Go on a night walk with flashlights or glow sticks.
  13. Play a board game. Pick one that you’ve never played before!
  14. Go on a picnic. A park, backyard, or even your front porch can serve as picnic locations. Check to see if your family is located near a free summer lunch site.
  15. Relax in on a comfy outdoor couch or chair, and read in the sun. Get outside, away from screens, and don’t forget the sunscreen!
  16. Challenge siblings or friends to a race. You can run, skip, hop, or even walk backward!
  17. Rethink your Drink! Challenge your family to drink only water or unsweetened beverages for a whole day, week, or month, and track your progress.
  18. Hold a Bike Rodeo. Invite family members, friends, and neighbors to join you.
  19. Go on a 5-senses walk. Notice what you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste!
  20. Challenge your family to a device-free
  21. Visit a u-pick farm or farmers market to gather fresh fruit. Use the USDA Local Food Directory to find a farmers market near you.
  22. Create an obstacle course. Challenge family members or friends to see who can get through the course the fastest.
  23. Go bowling! Kids can bowl for free this summer at select sites.
  24. Rainy Day? Try these quick physical-activity breaks
  25. Challenge each other to burn 100 calories in 10, 15, 20, or 30 minutes of exercise! We’ve put together a list of activities to get you started.
  26. Let’s play ball! Play a game that requires a ball (e.g., soccer, tennis, basketball, baseball).
  27. Chalk it up! Create art and play games like hopscotch, using sidewalk chalk. Remember to get permission first!
  28. Try some mindfulness strategies like deep breathing or yoga. Check out Breath to Thrive for some ideas.
  29. Let the kids cook! Parents take it easy while the children create a menu, set the table, prepare the food, and clean up. Cooking to Thrive offers many healthy suggestions.
  30. Create a scavenger hunt. Hunts can take place inside your house, in your neighborhood, or throughout your community!
  31. Share your healthy behaviors challenge experience with us! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Use the hashtags #5210challenge and #5210summer to share photos of your activities, creations, and family fun.

Additional Resources:

5210 Healthy (Military) Children: https://5210.psu.edu/

5210 Challenge Calendar: https://5210.psu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/5210challengecalendar_hmc.pdf

Moving to Thrive: Physical Activity and Playtime Guide: https://thrive.psu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Moving-to-THRIVE.pdf

Breathe to Thrive: Mindfulness Strategies for you and your Child: https://thrive.psu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Breathe-to-THRIVE.pdf

Cooking to Thrive: Healthy Eating and Recipes: https://thrive.psu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Cooking-to-THRIVE.pdf


5210 Healthy (Military) Children. (2023). 5210: Helping families lead healthier lives. Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness. https://5210.psu.edu/

Parenting Stress and its Impacts

Stress is part of everyday life, and our bodies can have mental and physical reactions to the stress we feel. When we encounter an event or situation that our body deems as challenging or stressful, our brain responds by perceiving a threat. This response, in turn, initiates several hormonal and physiological changes, such as increased heart rate, feelings of nausea, or sweating.

Stress can appear in routine challenges such as when you are running late for a doctor’s appointment or are worrying about missing a deadline at work. Our relationships with others can also be a source of stress, such as when you have a disagreement with a loved one or feel guarded when meeting a new manager. Experiencing small amounts of manageable stress can be beneficial for an individual. Coping with manageable stress can help us deal with situations in a positive way and can help us build resiliency. However, when we encounter situations or events that make us feel very stressed or we experience several stressful situations at once, our responses can become counterproductive. Some examples of the negative impact of the stress response can include increased anxiety, verbal and motor skill challenges, and extreme emotional reactivity (Avero & Calvo, 1999).

Being a parent is, perhaps, the most important role we encounter in life; however, it can also be one of the most stress-producing roles. Getting the family ready to start the day on time, mediating sibling arguments, caring for restless infants, and encountering many other daily events and challenges can lead to parental stress. The various types of parental stress you experience can have an impact on your behavior and can, in turn, influence your child’s behavior and well-being (Neece et al., 2012; Neece, 2014; Pinquart, 2018). In fact, when children, even infants, recognize stress in their parents, they often have a response that can lead to behavioral challenges (Neece et al., 2012).

High parental stress has been shown to lead to several undesirable family situations including the following (Neece et al., 2012):

  • Marriage challenges,
  • Decreased physical and mental health,
  • Increased parenting challenges, and
  • Increased behavior challenges in children.

Research consistently shows that parenting stress and poor behavior in children often occur in a cycle (Neece et al., 2012; Neece, 2014; Pinquart, 2018). In other words, when children act out, these actions can increase the parents’ levels of stress, the parents react to the stress, and their reactions, then, influence the child’s behavioral issues. For parents, their child’s behavior can be the source of their parenting stress. On the other hand, poor behavior can be the child’s stress reaction to a parent who is visibly stressed.

Developmental Delays and Parental Stress

Parents of children who have exceptional needs often face additional challenges and report higher levels of stress than other parents (Neece, 2014). In addition, children who have cognitive developmental challenges are more likely to exhibit poor behavior, which can lead to increased parental stress (Neece et al., 2012). All families with children who have exceptional needs can experience more problems at home and less parental satisfaction when compared to other families (Neece, 2014). Often, the stressors that come with raising children who experience developmental delays can increase at a faster rate and often reoccur more frequently (Neece, 2014). For example, as a child with developmental delays nears school age, their parents may have more and different decisions to consider, such needing to collaborate with school personnel to ensure the child’s needs are met and identify associated school-support staff. Other times, parents may experience stress when they compare their child’s development to other children of the same age.

How to Address Your Stress and Your Child’s Behavior at The Same Time

Because the stress of parenting impacts the behavior of children and vice versa, approaching both issues at once may be a good option. Several studies have shown that, when parents are able to reduce their levels of stress, their child’s behavior problems also decrease (Neece et al., 2012). Improving your relationship with your child is one way to tackle parenting stress and behavioral issues at the same time. Acts of charity and kindness are often associated with stress reduction and improved behavior so consider finding a volunteer opportunity that you and your child can participate in together. Let your child know how they are helping someone else and how this effort is positive. In another example, try talking to your child about stressful moments after they happen, so you and your child have a better understanding of the situation and you, as the parent, know that your child understands the situation. Research has shown that, for parents of children who have developmental delays, using mindfulness-based stress-reduction tools have a substantially positive impact on these families (Neece, 2014). Some examples of mindfulness-based stress-reduction tools that you can implement follow.

Ways to Alleviate Parenting Stress

  • Use meditation, practice yoga, or write in a journal.
  • Engage in social connections, especially through parenting groups.
  • Ensure you allot enough time to complete daily tasks. Research indicates that time pressure is one of the leading causes of parental stress.
  • Get adequate sleep. Rest is a critical part of stress management. Having children can hinder getting a good night’s rest; however, parents may want to be mindful of the amount of rest they get. For example, you may want to establish and maintain bedtime or limit caffeine use for 8 hours before bedtime.
  • Exercise. Establish exercise routines, if possible, to enhance your probability of continuing regular exercise. Get your heart rate up in ways you enjoy. Research shows that regular exercise increases your well-being and helps reduce your body’s reactions to stress.

Ways to Improve Behavior in Children

  • Enroll in parenting-education courses. Studies reveal that parenting courses offer stress-reduction discussions and trainings, which can help participants reduce parental stress and other negative feelings.
  • Do not tolerate or ignore poor behavior. Ignoring poor or unhealthy behavior can lead to you exhibiting a more severe reaction.
  • Help your children learn emotional regulation. Have intentional, in-depth discussions with your child about the times when they should try to remain calm and explain how they can manage their emotions when they become stressed.
  • Try to anticipate your child’s triggers. Identify what types of situations provoke your child and help them understand what is happening during these times and how to cope with these circumstances and their feelings.

Additional Resources

Thrive Universal Parent Education Programs
Thrive programs offer developmentally age-appropriate, universal, parent-education programs in a web-based format. These programs are designed to empower parents and caregivers as they nurture children from the prenatal period until 18 years of age. Each self-paced parent-education program delivers knowledge, skills, and strategies that intend to bolster positive parenting practices, enhance stress management, and promote child physical health and well-being. Thrive parent-education programs are available online to military and civilian parents and caregivers at no cost.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- Positive Parenting Tips
This resource provides information based on your child’s developmental stage and age. The resource can help parents understand what is normal and what to expect at each stage and provides parenting tips that parents can use to enhance their child’s development.

GoNoodle – Flow and Steady
GoNoodle uses technology to engage young children and help them learn about themselves and the world around them in a positive way. “Flow and Steady,” offers several videos and activities your child can use to build their mindfulness skills and understand their emotions.

National Parent Helpline – State Resources
The national Parent Hotline offers parenting resources that are available in different states, and these resources can be sorted by state.

Child Mind Institute – Behavior Problems
The Child Mind Institute aims to provide parents with the most current, relevant, and correct information possible. Their page titled, “Behavior Problems” provides information to help parents understand different aspects of their child’s behavior and offers several strategies that parents can use to manage their child’s behavior.


Avero, P., & Calvo, M. (1999). Emotional reactivity to social-evaluative stress: Gender differences in response systems concordance. Personality and Individual Differences, 27(1), 155–170. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0191-8869(98)00229-3

Neece, C. L. (2014). Mindfulness‐based stress reduction for parents of young children with developmental delays: Implications for parental mental health and child behavior problems. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 27(2), 174-186. https://doi/10.1111/jar.12064

Neece, C. L., Green, S. A., & Baker, B. L. (2012). Parenting stress and child behavior problems: A transactional relationship across time. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 117(1), 48. https://doi.org/10.1352/1944-7558-117.1.48

Pinquart, M. (2018). Parenting stress in caregivers of children with chronic physical condition—A meta‐analysis. Stress and Health, 34(2), 197-207. https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.2780

Through the Eyes of a Military Child

Every April, in the United States, the Department of Defense recognizes military children for their challenges and unique experiences that are due to their parents’ service. These children did not choose military service, yet they often endure multiple moves, significant amounts of time away from their military parent(s), and lives experienced far from their extended families. A typical parent may question why they would subject their child to this kind of life. However, some military kids would not have it any other way.

Senior high school student, Ella N., has spent her whole life, 17 years, as the child of an active duty Army family. This summer, her family will embark on their seventh military move, but Ella will forge her own path to the University of Tennessee. This move will be the first in which an established group of friends will accompany her for this momentous occasion. For many of her friends, this will be their first move – their first time away from family and the home they grew up in. For Ella, it’s a rhythm she has grown accustomed to, and she looks forward to what she knows may feel uneasy at first but is sure to be a positive experience.

We had the opportunity to talk with Ella about what it’s like growing up as a military child.

Born at the military hospital in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Ella was only 4 months old when her father left for his first year-long deployment to Iraq. Although she doesn’t remember that deployment, she recalls his third deployment, a 9-month tour to Afghanistan, when she was 9 years old. During this deployment, Ella, the oldest of four children, lived with her family at Fort Drum, New York, a military installation located thousands of miles away from her extended family.

“I was fairly young, so I don’t remember a lot about when he was gone. I do remember meeting with the MFLC [Military & Family Life Counselor] at my school to talk with her and other kids in my grade whose parents were also deployed. I also remember sending him cards and care packages to keep in touch. With the time difference, we didn’t get to talk much. What I remember most was spending lots of time with other Army families. We were like a support system for each other. We had dinners, celebrated birthdays and other holidays, and just spent time together.”

Deployments are a common occurrence for service members and their families. About six-in-ten veterans (61%) state they were deployed at least once while they were on active duty; about three-in-ten (29%) state they were deployed three or more times (Parker et al., 2019). Socialization with other military children during a parent’s deployment can serve as a protective factor and is associated with more positive outcomes for military children (Meadows et al., 2017). Living on a military installation, Ella was surrounded by other military families who were also experiencing a deployment. We asked Ella what it is like living on an installation.

“Living on a military base is like living in a gated-off little town. It doesn’t feel completely isolated from the “real world,” but it definitely feels like a sheltered community. Things seem to move a lot slower, and the community is more tight-knit. I always felt very safe.”

Ella and her family have lived on four military installations, which are commonly referred to as “posts” by members of the Army. She is fond of these experiences and shared about her favorite installation where her family lived when she was in the sixth through eighth grades.

“My favorite place to live on post was Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I had a lot of freedom to hang out with my friends, and there were a lot of things to do on base such as going to the pools, the youth center, and the movie theater. I went to school on post where I played volleyball, basketball, and ran track. I was also a member of my school’s debate team. I made many long-term friends whom I still talk to today.”

The majority of military families (66%) do not live on installations (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2015). Active duty military families may also be assigned to locations without an installation or much of a military presence. Ella reflects about the times her family did not live on a military installation:

“The first time I lived outside of a military community my classmates were fascinated by the fact that my dad was in the military. They had all sorts of questions about how we lived on post and what kind of jobs he had to do. When it came time for my family to move, my friends took it very hard since it was not often that people moved in and out of that area. My favorite place to live off post has been Clarksville, Tennessee, where I live now. I feel more “normal” and go to a school with kids who are both military and non-military affiliated.”

Military children are often described as resilient – having the ability to bounce back from adverse experiences. We asked Ella what this means to her.

“Military kids are forced to face certain challenges, such as repeatedly moving schools, being far away from family, and having to make new friends. They become more easily acclimated to change over time and more adaptable.”

Ella admits that, although she would describe herself as resilient, being a military child is not always easy.

“The biggest challenge for me is getting used to consistency. Since I have moved so many times and have had to create a new community in multiple places, it can be hard for me to go long periods of time without moving or facing the challenge of having to start all over in a new place. I’ve grown used to the constant change.”

Active duty military families move every 2-3 years – sometimes more, or less, often (Department of Defense, n.d.). These moves can occur mid-school year, and, often, the moves are across state lines or even overseas. Ella shares what it’s like to move often.

“Making new friends every 2-3 years is a normal rhythm in my life. With each move, I learned how to put myself out there to meet new people and try new things. Although I enjoy having a wide circle of friends, I am also content with being alone. I have learned to pursue my own wants and desires without waiting for peer approval or encouragement from others. As I have gotten older, it has been more difficult for me to cope with moving since my friendships have become more meaningful. But, with each move, I have researched the new schools or activities that I could do in the new place, such as a club soccer team or fun things to do in the area. I also make sure to stay in touch with old friends. Social media is a big help for me because I can message my friends and still keep up with them when they post things.”

Less than 1% of the U.S. population currently serves in the military (Council on Foreign Relations, 2020); however, there are over 1.6 million military children, including 60% in active duty families (Department of Defense Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, 2020). In communities without a military presence, such as an installation nearby, military children can be a misunderstood group. Ella reflected on this.

“There are assumptions from those who are not part of the military community that it must be so hard to have to move all the time and be far away from extended family and even your own parent at times. It is hard sometimes, but it has just become part of my life and who I am.”

We asked Ella if she had any ideas for what individuals or communities can do to help military families feel welcome after a move.

“Communities can help make military kids – or any new family, really – feel welcome when they move to the area. They can reach out to the new kid or the person you may not recognize in an activity you frequent. Just a simple introduction could make a world of difference for that kid or family and their experience of living in a new place.”

We asked Ella if she had any advice for other military kids.

“Don’t be afraid to get involved with things you are interested in when you go somewhere new and let your interests – whether it be a sport, instrument, or hobby – guide you to find new friends and a sense of belonging in an unknown place.”

Military families often have limited say in where they are assigned and for how long the service member will be assigned to that location. Ella’s family will move at least twice while she attends college, and their second location is unknown at this point. We asked Ella how her experience as a military child has prepared her to go to college in a new town with her family many miles away.

“Life as a military child has made me really excited to go to college. Though I have never lived alone before, my skills for making new friends and putting myself out there when I’m interested in something make me feel secure and confident about what’s next. I look forward to meeting new people and continuing to find myself in college.”

In honor of the Month of the Military Child – April – the Thrive team of research professionals would like to offer our appreciation to military children everywhere. Thank you!

Ella’s active duty family member is an Army officer and is currently stationed at West Point, NY.


Resources to Learn About and Support Military Children:

U.S. Department of Defense: Month of the Military Child: https://www.defense.gov/Spotlights/Month-of-the-Military-Child/

School Resources to Support Military Connected Students: https://schoolresources.militaryfamilies.psu.edu/


Council on Foreign Relations. (2020, July 13). Demographics of the U.S. military. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/demographics-us-military

Meadows, S. O., Tanielian, T., Karney, B., Schell, T., Griffin, B. A., Jaycox, L. H., Friedman, E. M., Trail, T. E., Beckman, R., Ramchand, R., Hengstebeck, N., Troxel, W. M., Ayer, L., & Vaughan, C. A. (2017). The deployment life study: Longitudinal analysis of military families across the deployment cycle. Rand Health Quarterly6(2).  https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/pmc/articles/PMC5568161/

Parker, K., Igielnik, R., Barroso, A., & Cilluffo, A. (2019, September 10). The American veteran experience and the post-9/11 generation. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2019/09/10/the-american-veteran-experience-and-the-post-9-11-generation/

United States Department of Defense. (n.d.). Celebrating military children. https://www.defense.gov/Spotlights/Month-of-the-Military-Child/

United States Department of Defense, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy. (2020). 2020 Demographics profile of the military community. https://download.militaryonesource.mil/12038/MOS/Reports/2020-demographics-report.pdf

United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research. (2015, October). Community housing impacts of the military housing privatization initiative. Insights into Housing and Community Development Policy. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/sites/default/files/pdf/insight_3.pdf