By Michele Graham
Photos by ChiChi Ubiña
It’s often said among teachers and pediatricians, “I love the kids, but the parents!” That’s not the case for Cristina Young, LCSW, a therapist who left a teaching career, so she could work exclusively with parents. “Where others had a passion for curriculum, I had passion for family issues—families struggling with substance abuse, conflicts. I’m ‘teaching’ who I want to teach and the subject I’m most passionate about -building stronger families,” says Cristina.
For the past five years, Cristina has been helping families thrive through parenting education. Cristina’s road to becoming a therapist covers a lot of miles. Born and educated on the East Coast, Cristina taught elementary education from coast to coast: Washington, D.C., Hawaii, California. Along the way, she received her Master’s in Social Work at University of Southern California. Eventually, she and her husband found their way to Greenwich, and Cristina to Greenwich Academy.
Parenting as a calling
At GA, Cristina segued from classroom teacher to school counselor and lower school admissions officer, so she could work more with parents. She enjoyed helping parents so much, that after five years, she decided to launch her own practice, Cristina Young Therapy (cmytherapy.com).
“I’m tapping into all those skills I acquired after years as a teacher,” notes Cristina. “I feel so good about talking to parents—about how to navigate school systems, how to advocate for their child. Parents can become overwhelmed and get mixed signals. I’m grateful for the years I spent in all kinds of school settings.”
Cristina knows exactly what it’s like to parent in today’s anxiety-producing environment. She and her husband have three teens. “I’m drawn to the challenge of working with parents. It can be more impactful. They can build their parenting tools, and use them with all their children,” says Cristina. When parents have the right words to have an open conversation with their kids, the effect is exponential.
Positivity as a theme
It must be the teacher in her—Cristina’s office is stocked with pads and pens so parents can take notes. And what they note is the powerful impact of positivity. Whether it’s in one-on-one parenting sessions, weekly mom groups, or a multi-part series, Cristina presents hope—hope that parents come to embrace.
Parenting issues vary by children’s ages. For young children, it tends to be about learning and attention issues. Middle schoolers are concerned about where they fit in within social groups, and the desire for experimentation and independence.
The weekly mom group was born out of a need that Cristina identified among mothers with teenagers to create community. “One of trickiest parenting chapters is the teen years. It’s also the time when moms tend to retreat from each other. There’s more vulnerability and teenagers’ needs are bigger, heavier, and serious.”
Cristina believes parents need to care for their children and for themselves. In January, Cristina kicks off her two-part series, “Rituals and Routines: The Secret Sauce in Calmer Families” – a deep dive for elementary and middle school parents into practical strategies and tactics. This is followed in February by the seminar, “Girls and Sex: Guidelines for a Complicated Conversation” with scripts for navigating what can be tricky terrain for even the most confident parent. Knowledge, strategies, and positivity—it’s a powerful framework that yields long-term impact for everyone in the family.
“One of the things that I love about my work, and my niche in particular, is being very hopeful,” says Cristina. “You can change, you can grow. Change is always available to us. I build on existing strengths and focus on what is working. And I always end sessions with ‘I am hopeful.’”