Diana A. Rivera is an early childhood educator with The Puerto Rico Department of Education, who expresses her passion through teaching kindergarten-aged children and working with students ranging from preschool to high school. Her newly formed online Instagram account and blog platform provide information on the intricacies of childhood brain development. Rivera acquired a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Early Childhood Education from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, before attaining an M.S. in Psychology with a specialization in Educational Psychology and an M.S. in Early Childhood Studies with a specialization in Administration, Management, and Leadership from Walden University.
Q: What inspired you to create your Instagram account specializing in child psychology and neuropsychology?
A: My Instagram account was created to promote and provide knowledge about the most important years of a human being, which are the first five years. Many parents, caregivers, and early childhood educators do not realize that fact. So, in order to contribute to the well-being of children, I see it necessary to bring knowledge. I think it is more effective using easy and understandable terms and concepts for people that may not engage with scientific terminology. Child psychology and neuropsychology bring scientific facts and the knowledge we need to give children what they deserve for healthy cognitive, socio-emotional, physical, and language development. That’s the only way we could have productive and competitive adults in the future. Researchers make their work, then we have to promote that work spreading that message (findings) to as many people as possible. Social media is an effective way to do that.
Q: Could you explain more about your own educational background, and how you came to become a teacher and an educational psychologist?
A: I came from a poor family with limited resources, but I overcame those challenges caused by poverty thanks to the wonderful mother that life gave me, and the extraordinary teachers that believed in my potential. This time is more complicated than the ’70s and ’80s, the time I was born and raised. Since I was a little girl, I decided to be a teacher. I wanted to work with children. I began studying psychology and during that time, I also decided to be a teacher. So, I studied both careers at the same time. At that moment, I realized I was doing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Working as a teacher, I spent time working with families. First, sharing my story and background to increase their confidence that they can thrive and they can support and help their children thrive. I emphasize creating positive relationships among family members and provide resources to help these families. The interactions with families and experiencing positive outcomes in these families made me study graduate studies to be an educational psychologist and an administrator for early childhood programs in the near future.
Q: What is something that you wish parents understood about neuropsychology?
A: I want to spread the message that all that happens in the brain and the rest of the nervous system of a child influences and affects that child’s cognitive development and behavior. I want parents to understand that neuropsychology is a tool of knowledge they could use to treat and understand child development and what and how they could contribute to addressing their needs in a positive and healthy way.
Q: What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to a parent that wants to help their child succeed in school and beyond?
A: I believe in the importance of establishing positive relationships with their children. Children deserve to be valued, respected, loved and cared for as human beings. Parents do not need expensive resources to contribute to healthy child development. They need to be supportive and responsive to the needs of their children. For example, to play with them, to talk to them, to explain how things work, to walk them in nature allowing children to touch trees and leaves and to observe butterflies and other little creatures, to read them stories and books, to express love by hugging and kissing them, to express with words how much they value them, to correct patiently their behavior, and so many other actions that do not cost money, but are more powerful and effective for that purpose. Children who have these experiences will develop confidence and resilience to overcome challenges in their lives with great possibilities to thrive at school and beyond.
Q: Do you think COVID-19 has/will have an impact on childhood development? If yes, how so? Do you have any advice for parents in navigating the strange circumstances that the pandemic offers?
A: COVID-19 has changed everything in all aspects. We are learning to live with the circumstances that the pandemic offers. Children have received a great impact because probably they could have difficulties to understand what is happening. I think that it will affect child development, but could not precisely how. Parents need to be as supportive and responsive as the circumstances allow them to be. Probably joining social media groups of other parents they could support each other and share ideas to do with their children to promote learning and wellness. One aspect I’m researching in my country Puerto Rico is the impact of the socioeconomic status of parents that lost their jobs by the pandemic. The unemployment rates are increasing and the availability of economic support is getting problematic to reach for these families.
Q: Where can someone find out more about you, or read your content?
A: Be the Voice for Children has a blog that I’m developing ,with weekly posts related to healthy children and brain development, learning, and growth of children using credible resources to address early childhood education and care, parenting, diversity, effective teaching practices, and other topics to bring knowledge and understanding about children. The posts are written using a simple language very easy to understand for all parents, caregivers, and early childhood professionals, especially those who need that knowledge. Each platform can be found at the following links:
Website: Be The Voice for Children
Facebook: Be the Voice for Children
Twitter: Diana A. Rivera Twitter
Instagram: Be the Voice for Children