• June 2022

    Adjusting After COVID

    Adjusting After COVID By Nicole M. Young, MSW My oldest child recently graduated from college. I’m grateful he experienced his graduation ceremony in person, but it was surreal to be there with thousands of people. It made me realize how life is definitely different because of COVID but feels more “normal” with each passing day. I’ll admit there are times when I miss the quieter, slower pace of life and the increased family bonding time, especially during the first year of the pandemic. I want to maintain that feeling of peace and family connectedness, even as life takes my kids in new and different directions. I have a feeling I’m…

  • May 2022

    Your Mental Health

    Moms: Your Mental Health Matters! By Nicole M. Young, MSW May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it’s also the time of year when we celebrate our mothers, grandmas, aunties, and other mother figures. As a mother of two (adult) children, I know how fulfilling, demanding, challenging, stressful, and beautiful parenting is. I also know that many mothers feel they need to have all the answers, be ready to handle anything at a moment’s notice, balance multiple demands and schedules, work, find time for their partner AND raise happy, resilient kids — often intuitively or without any additional support. But trying to be everything to everyone at the expense of…

  • March 2022

    Ask Nicole

    Healthy Screen Time Habits by Nicole M. Young, MSW My family had one TV but no video games, Beta Max player, or VCR when I was young. When we weren’t doing chores, my siblings and I spent hours reading books, playing games, dancing to records, and building forts—always with lots of teasing, bickering, and laughter. Sometimes I wished my family could be more like my friends’ with fewer TV restrictions and more cool gadgets, but my younger self didn’t know I’d have plenty of time to get hooked on screens as an adult. Now, I’m thrilled when my kids—who don’t know life without screens—initiate a conversation, a family game night,…

  • February 2022

    Everyday Acts of Love

    Everyday Acts of Love By Nicole M. Young, MSW Dr. Gary Chapman says that everyone expresses and experiences love in the same five ways – physical touch, receiving gifts, words of affirmation (praise, positive feedback), acts of service, and quality time – but each person has a primary love language that is most meaningful to them. Almost every Saturday morning, my husband cooks breakfast for both of us. He serves me first, bringing a plate (and often a coffee refill) into my home office, where I’ve usually been working for a couple of hours already (yes, even on weekends). We say very few words besides, “Here you go,” and “Yum!…

  • January 2022

    Stress Busters

    Stress-busters for Positive Parenting Awareness Month By Nicole M. Young, MSW Are you a parent or other caregiver who’s raising children and teens? If so, it’s that time of year to celebrate YOU! The County Board of Supervisors has partnered with First 5 Santa Cruz County to declare January 2022 as the 10th annual Positive Parenting Awareness Month. Other California counties are doing the same, and the California legislature will pass a resolution, declaring January 2022 as Positive Parenting Awareness Month across the state.   Celebrating positive parenting during the first month of the new year is an opportunity to remember that: Raising children and youth to become healthy, confident, capable individuals is the most important…

  • December 2021

    Supporting Mental Wellness

    Supporting Mental Wellness by Nicole M. Young, MSW I’m grateful for the little moments that start to feel like pre-pandemic life. Before 2020, I never thought that going to a grocery store or a friend’s house without being afraid to touch things or breathe air was cause for a celebration. But after nearly two years of the pandemic, these “small” things make a big difference. While I’m hopeful that the worst of the pandemic is over, I’m deeply concerned about the extent of the pandemic-related emotional and behavioral health challenges faced by many children, youth, and adults. The holidays can be a challenging time anyway for mental health, so it’s…

  • October 2021

    Violence in Schools

    When Violence Happens at School by Nicole M. Young, MSW Our community is still grappling with the tragic, violent death of a high school student on campus. It’s been weeks since it happened and I didn’t know the students involved, but I still get emotional when I imagine the pain of losing a child. Many people responded with compassion, honoring the student who lost his life and donating money to the family. Others shared strong opinions about whether to have more law enforcement or mental health counselors on campus. And some shared their theories about what causes violence in the first place (hint: it’s usually framed as a parenting failure).…

  • August 2021

    Preparing for the New School Year

    Preparing for the New School Year By Nicole M. Young, MSW The back-to-school routine is going to be bittersweet for me this year. I’m excited for my kids, who will experience their senior years in high school and college with in-person classes and activities. They’re excited about returning to a more “normal” routine, but there’s also some hesitation about returning to a regular (i.e., earlier, non-pajamas) school day and busier, crowded environments. As for me, I won’t miss the extra dirty dishes and unstable internet during Zoom meetings, but I will miss their presence during the day and will treasure the extra time we had together. This monthly column provides…

  • July 2021

    Home Alone

    Tips for Leaving Kids Home Alone By Nicole M. Young, MSW As a working parent, summer vacation was always a mixed blessing when my kids were younger. It was a relief to have a break from the daily school routine, but figuring out a patchwork quilt of childcare and supervised activities was stressful (and expensive). The older they got, the harder it became to find affordable options that would work for both of them – and not require me to spend half of my working day getting them to and from their different activities. So it was a relief when they were old enough to be left alone, unsupervised –…

  • June 2021

    Celebrate Dads and Father-figures

    Celebrate Dads and Father-figures By Nicole M. Young, MSW This Mother’s Day, my kids gave me the best gift ever: their time and attention. Yes, I love the beautiful ceramic pitcher from my daughter and the cheese basket from my son (he knows me well). I thoroughly enjoyed the bagel breakfast and going out to dinner. But what filled my heart the most was sitting, eating, talking, laughing, gardening, making travel plans together – not just being next to each other, but really being with each other. The older they (and I) get, the more I appreciate the gift of time with them and the ways we love each other,…