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Communicating with children

Guideline 2A

Use an integrated rather than single-issue approach


This is true insofar as it brings focus, but there are simple ways to integrate holistic aspects of child development even when focusing on a single issue. Children process and experience learning in integrated ways using all their senses and mental processes. Developing communication that simultaneously meets their emotional, social, cognitive and physical needs makes scientific and practical sense.

In addition to paying attention to the main or intended messages, children learn from incidental and unintended elements of a story (for example, whether the characters behave according to traditional gender-prescribed roles, how caregivers visually react to children’s fears or mistakes, etc.). It is, therefore, important to pay careful attention to all aspects of a message, the obvious and the subliminal.

Positive Example: Using an integrated approach to communication

The poster “Let’s Wash Handswas developed for school-aged children during a capacity-building workshop on holistic child development in Indonesia. The group chose a girl to be the model for a photo-based poster; broke down steps for a correct hand-washing sequence (wet, soap, scrub well, rinse); used a catchy rhyme with each photo; and finished with the girl proudly holding out her clean hands. Supplementary activities included adapting the rhyme to a song to be sung at school or at home when washing hands. The poster integrated hygiene, early learning through rhyme and building self-confidence, especially of girls. It can be used as a model to teach a variety of skills to children as well as adults.

 Turning Theory into Practice

This guideline can be translated into communication in many ways, including modelling different ways of coping with a single issue. For example, in communication about:

  • Immunization – include ways children can calm themselves (think happy thoughts, choose the arm to be injected, squeeze a toy, sing a song) to integrate health, self-esteem, choices and emotional resilience
  • Hand washing – use a song that lasts the length of “happy birthday” sung twice over; count words for each finger (using relational words like front/back, up/down; use interesting words like cuticle and epidermis; and use congratulatory phrases (such as “great job” and “every germ washed away”) to integrate health, hygiene, school-preparedness, self-confidence
  • Nutrition – use a phrase such as “eating a rainbow of foods to make us strong and clever” to integrate health, nutrition, school-preparedness, self-confidence
  • Gender-progressive attitudes and practices – model older men and women encouraging and praising adolescent girls and boys when they protect rather than bully and when they band together against negative peers, to integrate gender equity, child protection, self-confidence, life skills



 Guideline 2A  Guideline 2B  Guidelline 2C



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