Letter: Positive mental health development begins in early childhood; vote ‘yes’ on 1A | VailDaily.com

Letter: Positive mental health development begins in early childhood; vote ‘yes’ on 1A

Childhood is filled with learning, some of which is easily seen, like learning to walk and talk. Other skills, like learning to get along with other children, learning to share and learning to control one’s emotions, take more time. When children struggle with these skills, it can be frustrating to parents and teachers. The job of an early-childhood teacher or parent is complex, and without support, we may not always know how to help children.

I have worked in the early-childhood field for more than 20 years locally, as an early childhood teacher, director, early-childhood special education specialist and advocate. My work now is with Early Childhood Partners as an early-childhood mental-health consultant working to improve children’s social and emotional well-being by building the capacity of parents, teachers and other caregivers to promote healthy child development and manage challenging behaviors.

Just as children need to be taught to read or write, many children need to be taught social and emotional skills or specific strategies to remediate challenging behavior, which doesn’t always come naturally.

We know that the preschooler who does not learn to control their emotions and make friends will more likely become the middle-schooler who does not know how to make friends, who gets into fights and who has a high likelihood of dropping out of school. The preschooler with behavior problems and poor relationships with caregivers and peers is likely to be the kindergartner and first-grader with behavior problems and poor relationships and so on.

This cycle leads to social isolation, an increased likelihood of depression, increased risk of school dropout and incarceration and a significant increase in risky behaviors at early ages.

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Far too many young children are coping with issues beyond their years. We need to support parents, teachers and caregivers because we cannot, and should not, think that children are separate from those who care for them.

As a community, we can do better to make sure our children become healthy adults. Proactive, preventative programs are proven to help our young children develop good mental health. Ballot Issue 1A, a tax on recreational marijuana sales, will provide desperately needed resources for mental-health care for our residents from birth throughout life.

Please join me in voting “yes” on 1A.

Liz Costaldo McGillvray

Early Childhood Partners

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