• February 2024

    Expressing Love Through Quality Time

    I loved celebrating Valentine’s Day as a child. My favorite memory is of the Valentine’s “mailbox” that appeared every February. It was a big box that my mom decorated with colorful paper, hearts and lace, with a large slot in the lid. My siblings and I loved “mailing” our cards to each other and trying to guess what was inside the box. Even though we knew it contained cards and candy, the anticipation and curiosity made the Valentine’s celebration feel special. Before I had kids, I vowed to create a Valentine’s mailbox and holiday rituals that would make my own kids feel that special. However, once I became an exhausted…

  • December 2023

    Finding Peace and Joy During the Holidays

    There have been many devastating events happening the last several years, one right after another. Lives and homes have been lost, and it feels as though the tidal wave of tragedies is relentless. It’s emotionally exhausting, and it’s hard not to get weighed down with fear and sadness every time I read the news.Yet this is also a time of year when many people celebrate holidays that represent hope, peace, and new beginnings. It’s hard to feel the true meaning of these holidays when we’re stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed, but Taking Care of Yourself is one of the 5 principles of positive parenting that’s so important – now more than…

  • October 2023

    Homework Routines Are Your Friend

    My children are young adults now, but I still have “homework battle scars.” I remember feeling like our lives revolved around due dates for homework assignments and school projects. I’ll admit I wasn’t always successful at staying calm, especially when I was tired from working and they needed hands-on help from me or procrastinated on starting projects. But as my kids grew older and learned to manage their time and study habits independently, the light at the end of the tunnel grew brighter. My kids learned they were responsible for completing their homework (I wasn’t going to save them), and I learned to trust they would get the work done…even…

  • July 2023

    Simple Summertime Ideas for Kids and Families

    When I was a child, Summer. Lasted. For. Ever. I remember long days that usually began with picking beans and then weeds in the hot sun, followed by endless hours of playing (and bickering) with my siblings in the hot sun. By the end of the summer, I was ready for school to start. Now that I’m an adult, it seems like summer is over in the blink of an eye. I’m enjoying having both of my young adult kids living in my house for the summer – I know that one day I will truly have an empty nest, so I’m trying to remind myself to pause, enjoy the…

  • June 2023

    Tips for Dads and Father Figures

    I have many happy childhood memories of my dad playing the guitar and singing, instigating highly competitive family croquet tournaments (which my dad usually won), and teaching my siblings and me how to use tools then creating a “workshop” in the garage so we could experiment with wood scraps — just to name a few. Other childhood memories involve events that were stressful then but hold a special place in my heart now – like the time my dad convinced me to go on an amusement park ride with him and I ended up crying in terror every time the ride dipped and my stomach dropped. I buried my face…

  • May 2023

    Self-Care Is Essential

    This year will be the first time in 23 years that I won’t spend Mother’s Day with at least one child in my home. My youngest child is away at college, and my oldest is traveling with a friend (With what money? I don’t know, but that’s a topic for another article.). It’s bittersweet. When my kids were younger and I was an exhausted parent, the only thing I wanted for Mother’s Day was the chance to sleep in and have a break from parenting duties for the day. Now that they’re older and more independent, I would cherish the chance to be woken up by their smiling faces and…

  • April 2023

    Positive Parenting After the Floods

    It’s hard to believe that a few months ago, California was still in a deep drought, with many concerns about the lack of water. Now, after multiple atmospheric rivers, many people’s lives have been turned upside-down (yet again) by events they have no control over. It’s heartbreaking to see the devastating impact of the storms and floods on families, many of whom already faced challenges meeting basic needs. While the water may recede, the emotional ripple effects of the loss, disruption, and uncertainty will last a long time.If you have a question or idea for a future column, email me at [email protected]. Dear Nicole,My family had to evacuate in the…

  • March 2023

    Managing Screen Time

    Let’s face it. It’s hard to unplug from our screens. Our devices connect us to other people, as well as to fun and useful information, but they can also have a downside. In this month’s column, I’ll share some reminders for managing screen time as a family. This monthly column provides tips for anyone who is helping raise children, based on the world-renowned Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, available to families in Santa Cruz County. If you have a question or idea for a future column, email me at [email protected]. Dear Nicole,We have a toddler, a third grader, and a tween who is growing up fast. If we let…

  • February 2023

    Supporting Mental Wellness

    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 even more important that we care for ourselves…

  • November 2022

    Ask Nicole: Helping Kids Handle Big Emotions

    The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic may be behind us, but the effects of nearly three years of uncertainty, disruption, and loss are still rippling through our community. Health, education, and social service professionals everywhere are sharing how the pandemic and the ongoing struggle for racial justice have intensified the mental health crisis among children and adolescents, which was growing at an alarming rate even before the pandemic. Our community isn’t immune to this mental health crisis, and none of us can solve it on our own. But together, we can support children and families wherever they live, work, learn, play, and worship. This monthly column provides tips for anyone…

  • October 2022

    Tips for New Parents

    Tips for New Parents Nicole M. Young, MSW Every year on my kids’ birthdays, I retell the stories of their births and lives as newborns: endless hours of painful contractions, difficulty breastfeeding, sleepless nights, nonstop crying that could only be soothed by turning on the vacuum, and immense and deep love for them. It’s partly a humorous way to remind them of how much pain and effort it took to bring them into this world (there’s a reason why it’s called labor). But it’s also a way for my husband and I to remind our kids of how much we’ve always loved them, even before they were born, and to…

  • September 2022

    Mental Health

    Back to School Mental Health Tips by Nicole M. Young, MSW Sometimes, kids just need parents and other adults to listen without judging or trying to solve their problems. For some kids, the new school year is an exciting time — seeing old friends, making new ones, showing off cool clothes, joining sports or clubs, or enjoying new classes and teachers. For other kids, the transition between summer and school sparks difficult feelings, like fear, anxiety, or depression. And for many, it’s all of that and everything in between.This monthly column provides tips for anyone who’s raising children, based on the world-renowned Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, available to…

  • August 2022

    Vaccinations

    COVID Vaccines for Our Youngest Kids by Nicole M. Young, MSW Last month, COVID vaccines were approved for children between 6 months and 5 years of age. For some parents, this was a long-awaited moment, when their youngest family members could also be more protected against COVID. Others are feeling cautious and want to wait and see. And there are many strong opinions about whether COVID (and other) vaccines are helpful or harmful, leaving many families wondering what to do. This month, I’m sharing information I’ve learned from local pediatricians, pediatric nurse practitioners, and public health leaders (many of whom have young children) about the COVID vaccines for this age…

  • July 2022

    Scary World

    Helping Children Cope With Traumatic Events by Nicole M. Young, MSW This month’s article is a re-run, partly because I’m on vacation, but mostly because the topic is still very relevant. According to the Gun Violence Archive — which defines a mass shooting as four or more people (not including the attacker) shot or killed in a single incident —there were at least 230 mass shootings in the US between January 1 and May 30, 2022. The shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas was the 213th incident, which means 17 (!) more mass shootings occurred in the week after that. We may have different beliefs about the problem…

  • 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…