Early Childhood Education Series Pt. 5: Naming Emotions

@prestonwb Will Preston @wbprest0n

How can parents help their child understand and express their emotions in healthy and constructive ways? First by assigning a name to the emotion the child is feeling, and encouraging conversation about what they are feeling. With a vocabulary for emotions the child now has a tool for exploring and understanding their feelings. Second by giving children the chance to determine what they are feeling and what someone else may be feeling. Third by pointing out the variety of reactions to their feelings available to them, and this can be reinforced by the parent with their own experiences in dealing with their emotions in the form of stories that serve as examples for how to react to emotions and feelings. Fourth by utilizing friends and family as examples for the child to see different ways to react to emotions.

When naming emotions it is important to use a name that is easily understandable for the child. This can be done while watching kids television shows or movies, or reading children books. The child can point out what emotion the character is feeling and how they reacted to it. Also utilizing the actual events that are taking place in their lives as examples and teaching moments for the child to identify their own emotion. If they felt sad yesterday due to some event, talk to them about what they felt and why, and have them assign a name to it. These are the beginning steps of building their vocabulary around their feelings and connecting them to their experiences. 

Communicating with the child on the possible responses available to them when experiencing emotions is vital to developing their understanding and their relationship to their feelings. The more that the child can be responsible for their own strategies for dealing with emotions the better. They should come up with how they will handle their feelings. Then parents should discuss with the child the positive and negative responses to emotions. When the child uses inappropriate expression when dealing with an emotion the parent should present healthy alternative strategies to the child that can help them with future similar situations. It is important that the child experience the negative response as a way of emphasizing why the positive response is preferred.

When children choose to talk about their feelings it is important that they be met with positivity and encouragement. Clear instruction as to what the child did right and what the child did wrong will encourage them to communicate about their feelings and feel comfortable coming to the parent for future discussions and development of their understanding. It is important that the time and space for these conversations be daily and predictable. During dinner, or game time, when the child is open to engagement on these types of topics. Throughout the day things will happen that provide topics for conversations surrounding emotions and feelings and every opportunity should be utilized to practice discussing how they felt about their day and how they should respond.

It is important that when the child is emotionally charged, that these conversations do not take place. The child should be calm and at ease when discussing their feelings and strategies for dealing with and responding to their emotions. They should associate these communications with parents as positive experiences, rather than as negative experiences attached to discipline for misbehaving. After the tantrum or emotionally charged situation, and the child is calm and ready to receive information in a positive form, the strategies above can be utilized to help the child analyze the situation, their emotions around it, and how they responded. Part 6 next week will center around emotional governance.

Regulating Emotions: Early Childhood Education Series (Pt. 4)

@prestonwb Will Preston @wbprest0n

One of the key aspects of emotional intelligence is the ability to regulate one’s own emotions. Development of the understanding of language in the process of emotional maturation is vital to children in the early childhood educational setting. The evolution of the ability to communicate is directly connected to the progress of the emotional regulation ability. Once the child has developed the language with which to identify and describe emotions, the ability to assess effective methods of handling emotionally charged situations. The language connection to emotional awareness, emotional intelligence, and emotion regulation, is the point where culture intersects with practice. Different cultures have different ways in which emotion is processed, where emotion is felt, how emotion is felt, when emotion is felt, and to whom emotion is expressed. So it is critical that early childhood educational practices within a multicultural setting take into account the varying relationships to emotion that different cultures possess. 

Socialization in early childhood educational settings is directly connected to the ability of a student to navigate relationships with peers and teachers, and is a signifier of the level of emotional competence the student demonstrates. When a child cannot regulate their emotions properly, or in accordance with societal norms, their judgment and decision making become compromised. One area where emotional regulation is important is in transitioning from one stage of life to another. In early childhood education a major milestone for the student is also an opportunity to assess which students can transition from preschool to kindergarten successfully. The successful transition is an indicator of the ability to regulate emotions, while a difficult transition may be an indicator that the student may need more support in the area of emotion regulation. However the goal should be to provide students with the tools necessary to have a successful transition to kindergarten, as this is directly correlated to the ability to access academic information. 

The ability for adults to perform cognitive tasks is connected to their ability to regulate their emotions. This is true for children as well, as planning, memory, and attention are inhibited in the student unskilled in emotional regulation. The ability to be successful in the early academic setting is tied to this skill, lacking this, students are less able to be present for and retain the information being presented. Emotional regulation is also connected to behavioral regulation, and impacts the student’s ability to complete academic tasks and assignments. 

So what does this all mean? The key takeaway is that students need to be able to respond instead of to react. A response requires forethought and planning, whereas a reaction can take place without thought and lead to undesired consequences. Once a student is equipped with the tools of forethought or emotional awareness, they can more readily attend to the various academic requirements that they may face for the rest of their lives. This is an example of the old saying, fix a big problem while it’s small. In this case while the student is small, if we can teach them to identify their emotions as well as the emotions of those around them, and then provide them with the tools for regulating their emotions, then that is one less obstacle in their path towards academic success. 

Of the categories above: emotional awareness, behavioral awareness, and social awareness, all can be placed under the umbrella of self regulation, which will be the topic next week in part 5 of this ongoing series exploring early childhood education.

Social & Emotional Landscape: Early Childhood Education Series (Pt. 2)

As stated in Part 1 of this series on Early Childhood Education there are several core elements of development during these crucial years of a child’s life. One of those core elements is learning social skills, or in more modern academic verbiage, Social and Emotional Learning. This refers to the development of the ability to a) engage in relationships that are meaningful with both peers and adults, b) to identify, articulate, and monitor one’s own range of emotions as well as the emotions of others, c) learn and cultivate social skills as well as an understanding of their environment. 

It is crucial that during this period of rapid growth and development, the child have access to a space that offers safe and enriching opportunities of exposure to this type of learning, as this will form the foundation of their social and emotional lives on which their future relationships and emotional well-being will be built. So then the question is how is that foundation built? It is built by the interactions that they have with their environment, which includes but is not limited to, parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, childcare providers, and peers. It is because of how quickly the brain develops during this phase of their life that each interaction the child has is so impactful upon the way that child will perceive and interact with their social environment as well as their own emotional landscape for the rest of their lives. 

Indications of positive social and emotional early childhood development include learning to develop close relationships with parents or guardians, to calm themselves during times of heightened emotion, to play with and share with peers, and to follow and listen to directions. Children who are exposed to risk factors in either their environment or in their relationships, have their social and emotional development disrupted. The more prolonged or severe the disruption to their development the greater the risk of permanent damage to the psychological as well as physiological development of the child. It is important to highlight here that this invaluable time in a child’s life is not the sole responsibility of the parent. The phrase ‘it takes a village’ is common because it is true. The construction of relationship norms, social norms, language, expectations, values, beliefs and attitudes are all influenced by the family, the community and the culture. All of these important factors are required in order to encourage the healthy maturation of social and emotional development.

Infographic for Social and Emotional Learning in Elementary Schools

There are specific long term benefits to emphasizing healthy development in social and emotional learning. Along with physical and mental health, the ability to forge relationships with others, to learn, to memorize and to focus attention, all stem from our emotions and our ability to employ them in the manner in which we act and in the way that we think. All of this is even more important in the mind of the developing child. Studies show that children with stronger emotional intelligence foundations tend to perform better in school, govern their own behavior better, are better at displaying empathy, more easily create positive relationships, engage in school more meaningfully, and are more able to focus their attention.  There are five essential skills that can be taught in order to foster emotional intelligence, some of which have been talked about above, but I want to name them explicitly. 1) Identifying the emotions of oneself as well as others. 2) Connecting the source of an emotion with the consequence of that emotion. 3) Correctly naming emotions. 4) The expression of emotions in the proper time, place, and culture. 5) Governing emotions. Using these five skills to model emotional intelligence and teach children the skill of emotional intelligence will be the topic of Part 3 of this ongoing series next week.

The Importance of Early Learning: Early Childhood Education Series (Pt. 1)

Society is vastly different today than it was a mere six months ago. Many of the habits and creature comforts, the structures and routines that constituted the lifestyles of a large percentage of Americans have been altered or done away with completely, if not indefinitely, then at least temporarily. These changes have caused disruptions to everyday life, and services that have been taken for granted or overlooked in the past must now be reassessed and refocused on, for the health and well being of individuals in our community but for society as a whole. One such service is early childhood education.

The most crucial time in the development of a human being is this section of life between birth and the first years of public school. However I would extend this as far back as the first trimester of pregnancy. It is in the womb where early childhood education truly begins. The importance of prenatal care cannot be stressed enough in the early development of a child. This includes but is not limited to: seeing a healthcare professional as early on in the process as possible, eating a healthy diet which includes iron and protein, taking prenatal vitamins with folic acids,  maintaining regular exercise, staying away from drugs and alcohol, and drinking plenty of water. Also if possible, having a tranquil and calm environment in which the baby is growing can go a long way in the cognitive and emotional development of the child. Activities such as meditation, soothing music, and reading to the baby can all help to provide stability and bring the baby smoothly into a world that is unstable.

Once the baby is born, the early childhood education begins in earnest. This is the period where the child will undergo the most accelerated stage of physical maturation and cognitive evolution. In the life of a human being these years mark the most accelerated phase in the growth of the brain and so it is crucial that these years be effective in shaping the development and quality of the child’s future as an adolescent and beyond. There are key categories and milestones that serve as the foundation of a successful early childhood education that this ongoing series will highlight and focus on. The categories are: Social Skills, Self-Esteem, Perception of the World, Moral Outlook, and Cognitive Skills. The milestones are greater in number so I will highlight those as they come up.

Before that I would like to discuss some numbers. These numbers come from a variety of sources including, the CDC, the Learning Policy Institute, the National Center for Education Statistics, UNICEF, the National Institute for Early Education Research and the U.S. Department of Education. According to the numbers, about 28% or 1.4 Million four-year-olds were enrolled in a state funded preschool program last year. 54% of pre-kindergarten aged African-American children were enrolled in some kind of state funded preschool program. This is important because children who are enrolled in a pre-kindergarten program for at least one year are more equipped with the tools necessary to develop critical skills needed to succeed in school and have lower percentages of grade repeats or drop outs. 

Source: nces.ed.gov

The other half of the story is that in the fall of their kindergarten year, children who received either no pre-kindergarten care or home based pre-kindergarten care scored lower on assessments of reading, mathematics, and cognitive flexibility than those children who received pre-kindergarten program based care. Early childhood education is a tool whose core goal is to enhance the quality of access and relationship to academic and social behavioral outcomes, but this is only a first step in the process of developing healthier people in the hopes of improving our communities and society at large. Due to the shifting societal reality much of this work must take place in our communities and on a grassroots level and we must work together to educate one another on best practices for the development of our children and a healthy and safe environment for us all. This discussion will continue in Part 2 of this ongoing series.

Why I’m Staying Home

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Coronavirus is nothing I want to play with. I’m giving it a pass altogether. I remember watching Star Trek as a girl and seeing them analyze compounds with their Tricorders and read engineering reports on their mini-computer pads. Sound familiar? Way right. Everybody I know has one now. That’s why I’m scared of this virus. Every respectable Sci-Fi prophet has predicted our total decimation by disease, mostly viral.

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I’m not laughing. I’m staying home. This a global pandemic.

What makes my decision to self-isolate easy is how susceptible I am to illness–basically, I have a lot of ACEs. From my breached-birth trauma through adult-Black-woman trauma, I’m on that list of compromised individuals. I’ve gotten sick from just riding the BART in San Francisco. I hosted Strep Throat and earaches for most of childhood and adolescence. Coronavirus is looking for someone like me. This is serious. I’m not going out.

It terrifies me to think of all the people who haven’t been vaccinated for anything, waiting to cook up a fresh mutation with their virgin immunity. All I see is a sinister weapon unleashed by Mother Earth to spank our asses for our careless negligence; she deploys a handful of crowned-halo beads who scurry off with the voice and words of Smeagol: “Give it to me raw.”

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Those of us undergoing immunosuppression, transplants, poor health (hypertension, obesity), and/or recent hospitalization are likely to be susceptible to COVID19. If you have a loved one in any of these categories or even grandparents, you can carry it to them with along with all of your best intentions—all with nothing more than a mild temperature to show for your contribution.

Don’t be the one to open the door to this fast-moving virus. Take these simple precautions:

        • If someone needs help, drop it off at their door.
        • Wash your hands as soon as you walk into your home.
        • Don’t hug or shake hands for a few weeks.
        • Vaporize beneficial essential oils.

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Let’s live to tell the story. Stay in tonight.



25 Reasons to Make 2018 My Year to Loss 25 Pounds: 1, That Little Girl

My first reason for wanting to loss weight this year is so obvious that I almost missed it. The truth is, I have so many important people in my life, so many goals, dreams and commitments that 25 is an easy mark. Realizing that truth is the very thing that brought me back to the foundation of the work to transform my life. I’ve decided to begin this journey in community, because I know that together, we can achieve anything. And, if along the way you want to join me for your own reasons, I’ll be here for you.


There is a picture on my desk taken when I was about six or seven. In the photograph, I have a fine row of tiny, white Tic Tac-sized baby teeth. This is my little girl, the exuberant indomitable inner child personified. I see her as both a historical obligation to correct the generational trauma I’ve inherited as a descendant of the black-Latina-African diaspora and a joyful ward under my protection. It is my prevailing duty to see and care for the precious child, to treasure her as my dearest child. This I do for my own healing and for that of future generations that will be transformed by this act of mindfulness.


In the moment captured in the photograph, I am happy, healthy and glowing. That is why I’m beginning my quest for health by retracing my steps, remembering what I’ve forgotten, and unearthing my buried treasures. I’ve come back to this particular innocent child to give her the life she deserves. She is my first reason for losing 25 pounds this year.


Wives’ Tales: Winter’s Cold Brew

Medicine is not only what can be bought with a prescription. Medicine can be grown in a garden, found on the herb rack, and prepared in the average kitchen. After our national and unsuccessful war on drugs, (more than 55,000 people died in 2015 from accidental opiate overdoses many of which were prescribed drugs; that number is expected to be topped in 2016) it’s time to look into traditional forms of healing to soothe the pain.

Since I was a girl, my mother would stop along the street in New York City to show me plants growing out of the cracks in sidewalks, or springing up along hedges. My mother would tell me the names of the plants and how to use them. Her wisdom is increasingly useful to me as I find that Western medicine does not always work in the way we need, want or expect. Sometimes, a little help from Mother Nature’s pantry is needed. Here’s a recipe that has gotten us through the bitter winter colds in resilient health. Try it.


Winter’s Cold Brew


In a quart pan, combine the following ingredients in cold water:

Star Anise, 3-4 stars

Cinnamon, 1 stick

Jamaican Allspice, 10-15 pearls

Clove, 15-20 pins

Fresh Ginger, ¼ cup, thinly sliced

Heat the mixture under the lowest flame possible. It should take about an hour to boil. When the infusion is roiling, add 1-2 tablespoons of Echinacea let that boil for 8 more minutes (Okay to use 2 tea bags in lieu of fresh herbs). In an 8-ounce cup, add fresh lemon and honey. Strain the brew into the cup, and drink it as hot as possible. The various herbs and spices work to boost the immunity; many act as analgesics and astringents to soothe a sore throat, reduce and expectorate mucus and clear a stuffy head. You can drink as many cups a day as necessary to abate cold symptoms.

Stay healthy, and happy healing!


How to Juice Your Way to Good Health

Do I have what it takes to change your lifestyle? First thing I gotta tell you about juicing is that it’s addictive. If you want a habit that is packed with micronutrients, heals your body, encourages and causes weight loss all while making you look and feel younger, too, read on!

At first I was drinking sweet juice like apple and orange with a carrot or two. Within a month I was throwing in broccoli hearts, kale, parsley and cabbage from the garden. Last week I pulled up some beets, rinsed off the roots, clipped the wilted leaves and put everything else straight into the juicer. The result was a dark green, bold cocktail that I had to sit down to savor. No novice could drink that one, but I know that my juicer brothers and sisters are nodding their approval. Clear-headedness follows, as does mindful eating habits and deliberation over produce. A glass a day is all it takes.

What’s so great about live juice? Everything! Good nutrition improves skin, hair and nail conditions, promotes healthier eating and improves energy levels. Those are just a few changes I’ve noticed in myself. To learn more about nutrition and juicing, I recommend two films: “Hungry for Change” for anyone who wants to learn more about your dietary needs and nutrition, (http://www.hungryforchange.tv/ ) and “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” the documentary about two very sick and obese men who change their lives for the better, one juice at a time (http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/ ). Both films are inspirational and convincing. Plus, you’ll learn that you don’t have to be overweight to benefit from micronutrients.

If you’re not yet ready to invest in a juicer, these days there are lots of great places to try live juice, which is unpasteurized and unprocessed whole fruit and or vegetable juice containing live enzymes. For the casual juicer, you can grab the occasional nourishing glass of juice at lots of places in San Francisco. Herbivore (http://www.herbivorerestaurant.com/) is one of my favorite spots away from home to juice. Many farmer’s markets now have juice stands as well. For the rest of us, you’ll need a juicer at home.

When you get serious about juicing you’ll need a Breville. The Juice Fountain Compact is the best. I’m not used to promoting products, but I can tell you that this machine is worth every cent. I had an old juicer that lasted over ten years. It was good to me but so hard to clean that it became a deterrent. After trying our friends’ Breville Compact, which cleaned up in about five minutes, we decided to buy one. For only $99, the compact model gives you several advantages:

  • Expels a large percentage of liquid from each fruit of vegetable, making lots of juice from just a few items
  • The wide chute makes prep easy since most fruits and vegetables fit in without cutting
  • The sharp blades keep juice cool because they do their job quickly
  • It’s easy to assemble and disassemble
  • And of course, easy clean up (yahoo!)

Last notes: Never juice premium fruits like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries; it’s not cost-effective to put a half blueberry in the compost. Instead, make a smoothie or eat them whole. Your body will absorb more of whatever you put in the juicer. Make it count.

Bottoms up, my friends.  IMG_4404

My Battle with Fibroids, Part II: A Look at Procedures and Options

For the record, a fibroid is a benign tumor. Don’t ask me to define benign; fibroids are not benign to me. But thankfully, they were not cancerous. Fibroids can occur in many places in the body. Some are easily treatable; others are not. From what I’ve seen, these things are never pretty. I know more about benign tumors than I care to. This is because I needed to know everything I could to understand what was happening to my body so I could reclaim it. If you look at real fibroids, especially those where someone’s bloody insides are laid bare to the voyeur’s camera, you will marvel at how our bodies keep their form.  At least I did.

When I first learned that I had fibroids, it was almost five years before I had surgery. Since I didn’t have health insurance at the time, I was seeing a doctor at a free clinic in Oakland. By that point, my monthly cycle was severely effected and a lump could be seen and felt bulging through my abdomen. My heavy blood flow and uncharacteristic cramping during my menstrual cycles urged me to seek medical attention. These changes were the first warning signs for me that something was wrong. That first doctor I saw at the free clinic wanted to perform surgery right away, but frankly, I didn’t think my problem was severe enough to warrant it, and I was secretly afraid of an enormous bill following a hospitalization. I saw my parents’ big bills as a child, and I didn’t want any of those showing up at my door. At that time I was fairly broke, was attending a private graduate school with its own hefty bill, and didn’t want to add to my financial worries. The doctor, my apprehension notwithstanding, sent me for my first ever ultrasound.

At the insane (free) ultrasound clinic—it was exactly like DMV only with lots of pregnant women crowded into a large room with side corridors for more crowding and waiting—, my fibroids were measured if not weighed, and I could clearly see in the gray images on the screen, the two bulbous forms attached to my uterus. What a surprise it was to learn they were twins. Ugh…I know, poor taste. Please excuse my vulgarity, but it was that odd to see them on the very small screen filling my pelvic cavity with their grotesque form, attached to my uterus and syphoning life from the source of life. The largest one was six by five centimeters. And since, like most of us, I don’t deal in the metric system, this meant absolutely nothing to me. I thought that if I let them alone, they’d leave me alone. Ha!

Once I finished graduate school, and landed regular employment, I could make my health a real priority, which is what I did. I found a doctor at Kaiser. My fibroids were bigger if not quite big enough, at that point, that I felt the urgency to act. I was sent for another ultra sound to see what was going on. Note that by the time I had surgery, there were eleven fibroids altogether. I wish I were joking about that number, but apparently, the twins had twins. The largest two were the early ones that plagued me for years. I began in earnest to research possible treatments and to try at-home remedies. Unfortunately, none of the latter worked. I started my process by getting a deep understanding of fibroids. It’s how I process things: I intellectualize them. They became a course of study.

While the treatments vary, hysterectomy should really be a last resort unless there are some other pressing circumstances mitigating your decision. After all, it’s 2013, and there are numerous advances in medicine. Typically, treatments range from hormone therapy to full-on organ removal. I considered several options before undergoing laparoscopic myomectomy, a fabulous, minimally invasive procedure that is quite intense; I needed a month off from work to convalesce.

Before settling on this treatment option, I read blogs written by women who had tried the different procedures. I even tried hemp-seed oil therapy after watching a series of videos about its benefits. I’m sure that as an anti-inflammatory agent it does have some benefits, but I was apparently well past reaping neigh a one.  And, the oil itself is expensive. Hemp oil also gave me acne. I next turned to the fascinating research coming from Europe, such as UTE and hormone therapy.

UTE, or Uterine Fibroid Embolization sometimes referred to as Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE) was one I seriously considered. Originally used as a pre-op procedure in French hospitals to reduce bleeding during surgery, it was found than in 40% of women, the UTE alone reduced the size of the fibroids enough to eliminate the need for surgery altogether. The doctor injects an artery leading to the uterus with micro-pellets that permanently block the blood vessel, and thereby, starve the fibroid. A woman has to sign a contract saying that she will not attempt to get pregnant after this procedure. There a lots of scary things about having tiny plastic parts injected into one’s body.

We found the risks were much too high.

The more I learned about hormone therapy, the more frightened I became. From what I read, it was ostensibly chemotherapy treatment for non-cancerous growths. Our bodies are not designed to tolerate such chemicals, and I believe we do so in order to save our lives when fighting aggressive cancerous growths. To me, as miserable I was, fibroids were not life threatening. In fact, if they had been life threatening, simply removing the uterus would most likely be the most effective course of treatment. With this in mind, I read several blogs written by women who had submitted to this chemo for fibroids; they didn’t recommend it. One wrote that she had no idea what was signing up for. She advised readers to run. I did.

With the right doctor, laparoscopic myomectomy can be great solution to this devastating problem. Using four small incisions in the abdominal cavity, everything is removed through tubes after being cut into small pieces. Everything gets mapped out in advance using CAT Scan images. The result of this procedure is minimal scarring; there is also less pain and tissue trauma. Some damage can occur during surgery, such as tearing or puncturing of bladder or intestines; doctors can take precautions and repair these quickly, before one leaves the operating table. As a bonus, some women can regain normal bladder function after this procedure, depending on the cause.

Not every woman needs surgical intervention. My sister had one the size of a grapefruit during her pregnancy. It hurt, but it didn’t cause any problems. In my case, I had so many that my uterus was literally deformed. In retrospect, I wish I had undergone the treatment when there were only two fibroids. Still, the other nine might have been emboldened. We can’t know the mysteries at work in our bodies. We must simply be able to listen to its rhythm and dance its dance.