In Ask Nicole

by Nicole M. Young, MSW

I often start this monthly column with a true story about my experiences as a parent. Writing about my own parenting challenges is like giving myself free therapy. I relive memories of difficult situations, work through my emotions in a safe environment (my office, with a lot of coffee), find the humor in nearly every parenting struggle I’ve ever faced, then end up feeling proud that I’ve managed to figure things out and have ended up with two amazing kids. Now that’s something to be thankful for.

Dear Nicole, I know this isn’t your typical parenting question, but can you share some ideas for being thankful and staying positive? I get upset every time I read or hear the news these days and become very worried about the kind of world my kids are growing up in. My partner tells me to focus on the positive and be thankful for what we have, but that’s hard for me to do. I could use some ideas. Thanks. – Josh

Dear Josh, I completely understand feeling disheartened by the constant negativity in the news. It’s perfectly natural to worry about the state of the world and feel concerned for your kids’ future. This is a perfect time of year to remind ourselves of the things we’re thankful for. Researchers have found that people who are thankful tend to feel happier, be healthier, be able to handle challenging situations, and build strong relationships. The good news is we don’t have to wait for big celebrations or material gifts to practice being thankful. Here are some ideas to try:

Limit your social media/news time each day. Unplugging from social media and or the news can give your mind a reset. You can use app timers to enforce the limit if needed. Use the reset time for activities that make you feel more peaceful and positive, such as spending intentional quality time with your family. Go for a walk together and take turns sharing things you’re grateful for that you notice around you – whether it’s the sunshine, birds chirping, or a neighbor’s friendly smile. Being present together away from technology and intentionally focusing on gratitude can do wonders for your mindset. And when you do check the news, focus on scanning headlines versus deep diving into opinion pieces that can raise your anxiety.

Build a list of the things you’re thankful for. Write down the things you’re thankful for each day. As the list grows, use it to remind yourself of the things that feel good or are going well in your life. This can help counteract the strong emotions that come up when you hear about or experience negative or stressful events.

Thank your partner for the things they do. It’s common for parents to get so busy with work, managing kids’ schedules, paying the bills, and keeping up with housework that they forget to notice each other. Saying a simple and sincere “thank you” when your partner does things like make a meal or handles a child’s tantrum is a great way to show you notice and appreciate their efforts. This can make your partner more likely to notice and appreciate your everyday efforts. Doing the same can go a long way with friends and family too. There’s a good chance you’ll make someone’s day, just by showing you appreciate them.

Set a good example for your children by giving thanks to them and in front of them. Children learn how to get along, cooperate, and problem-solve with others by watching, listening to, and imitating people around them. Let your children overhear you thanking your partner and other people. When your children do something that is kind or helpful, say “Thank you,” and tell them what you are thanking them for. This is a form of giving descriptive praise, which is a helpful parenting strategy that encourages children to do more of the positive behavior.

Final Thoughts: Take time to pause and reflect on the things that are going well and make you feel content. When we make thankfulness a daily habit, it can improve our own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. And being thankful is usually contagious – like smiling and yawning. The more we give thanks, the more others will, too. That’s an idea worth spreading.

nicoleyoungThis 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

Nicole Young is the mother of two young adults, who also manages Santa Cruz County’s Triple P – Positive Parenting Program. 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.


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