In Ask Nicole

By Nicole M. Young, MSW

Dear parents, foster parents, grandparents, relative caregivers, and other adults raising children and teens,

We’re celebrating YOU in January 2024! For the 12th year in a row the County Board of Supervisors has partnered with First 5 Santa Cruz County to declare January as Positive Parenting Awareness Month, joining other California counties and the California legislature, which will pass a resolution declaring January 2024 as Positive Parenting Awareness Month across the state.

What does this mean? It means that local and state elected officials recognize that positive parenting is vital to the current and future well-being of children, families, and the entire community. It means that across the state, we’re calling attention to the fact that raising children and youth to be confident, capable, caring, and independent is the most demanding, exhausting, important, rewarding (and underpaid) job many of us will ever have. It means that as a community, we recognize that being a parent or caregiver can be difficult, confusing, stressful, and isolating during “normal” times, and the last few years have been nowhere near normal.

Decades of research show that a child’s relationships and experiences shape the developing brain throughout childhood and adolescence, laying the foundation for future social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development. Children and youth who experience responsive, nurturing caregiving in safe, engaging, and equitable environments are better able to learn, grow, and thrive. Positive parenting acts as a protective “buffer” that supports children’s emotional well-being, even when families are experiencing hunger, unemployment, housing challenges, social isolation, or discrimination and racism. Positive parenting alone won’t solve these enormous challenges, but we know that parents and caregivers have the power to provide Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) that help protect children from the effects of stress and adversity.

Dedicating the first month of the year to parents and caregivers is an opportunity to renew our commitment to the five principles of positive parenting:

1) Create a safe, interesting environment for children and youth of all ages. This involves supervising children and youth and providing safe, engaging activities and environments.

2) Create a positive learning environment that promotes growth and development. This means an environment that is supportive and nurturing – where children’s efforts are acknowledged, and they receive plenty of positive attention and encouragement.

3) Use assertive discipline that teaches (instead of punishes) and helps children and youth develop skills for communication, cooperation, problem-solving, and managing emotions. This means establishing family rules, setting a good example, being fair and consistent, and having the confidence to stay calm and follow through.

4) Have realistic expectations of yourself and your children. This means remembering there’s no such thing as a perfect parent or child, and we all learn by mistakes.

5) Take care of yourself so you have the emotional, physical, and mental energy it takes to be a positive parent or caregiver. This is so important for all parents, from all walks of life. Our ability to be positive, fair, patient, calm, and consistent is increased when we take care of our own needs for joy, rest, intimacy, privacy, support, and having a break from parenting.

Positive Parenting Awareness Month is a reminder that community members, businesses, early care and education providers, schools, and faith-based, non-profit, and government organizations all play a crucial role in supporting parents and caregivers to apply these positive parenting principles – even (or especially) during challenging times. Thankfully, many organizations in Santa Cruz County offer support and concrete resources such as food, housing, health care, financial assistance, childcare, home visiting, and other essential services for families (Dial or text 2-1-1 or visit to get help with accessing resources).

Another resource for families is the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, an evidence-based program that offers practical, proven tips and tools to build strong family relationships and make parenting easier. Triple P providers have helped thousands of Santa Cruz County families in English and Spanish since 2010. Check First 5 Santa Cruz County’s website ( and follow Triple P on Facebook (@triplepscc) and Instagram (@triplepsantacruz) to find Triple P classes, positive parenting tips, and fun family activities.

nicoleyoungFinal Thoughts: During January – and every day throughout the year – let’s recognize positive parenting as vital to the well-being of children, youth, families, and the entire community. Positive Parenting Awareness Month sets a hopeful tone for the year by elevating the importance of positive parenting and everyone who’s doing their best to raise healthy, happy, resilient children. Parents and caregivers: we see you, we celebrate you, and we’re here for you!

Nicole Young is the mother of two young adults, who also managed Santa Cruz County’s Triple P – Positive Parenting Program for over 10 years. Scientifically proven, Triple P is made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. To find a Triple P parenting class or practitioner, visit or contact First 5 Santa Cruz County at 465-2217 or

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