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Communicating with children

Guideline 2B

Offer positive models for adults in their relationships with children


Communication for children should be a positive model for caregivers and all adults in their interactions with children. This is always important, but especially so in communities where children live in difficult circumstances and for various reasons do not have access to nurturing and attentive caregivers; or where there are few positive media alternatives (where media present primarily negative images of caregivers who scold, fight or are abusive). The adults targeted by these communications include parents, other family members, teachers, health-care workers, child protection officers and others. If communication primarily models unsupportive or abusive adults, this can be construed as the “norm”, even when there are many adults around the world who support and take good care of their children.

In every community there are models of caregivers who nurture development and resilience, and who build skills in children that will help them cope with everyday crises, such as being bullied or exploited, living with illnesses like HIV/AIDS, or surviving disasters and emergencies.

Positive Example: Models for adults in their relationships with children

At School, What if...? (Early Learning Resource Unit, South Africa) is a children’s book about a girl named Ncebakazi, who uses crutches. She and her mother talk while they get her uniform and pencils ready for the first day of primary school: Ncebakazi wonders if her teacher will shout, if children will laugh at her, and what will happen if she cannot get to the toilet. Using calming words matched with humorous and imaginative illustrations, the story acknowledges and respects a child’s real fears, and supports her while she creatively imagines both problems and solutions. It also suggests simple preparations and adaptations that teachers and students can make to include children who are disabled. Download book

 Turning Theory into Practice

This guideline can be translated into communication in many ways, including showing positive adult/child interactions, for example:

  • Orphans and vulnerable children being told the truth about their sick or dying parents by kind, loving adults who accept their range of emotions and help them grieve 
  • A father using simple conversation and games about healthy eating colours, counting, classifying, sharing, etc., to combine stories with fun, learning concepts and values
  • Parents, educators and other community members diffusing their own tensions and addressing anger in healthy ways to model stress management
  • Real-life “positive deviance” caregivers addressing sensitive and difficult topics like exploitation, HIV/AIDS and violence by listening, following the child’s lead, and building confidence and resilience
  • Young adolescents are provided contacts with trusted adults via instant text messaging, websites, radio, posters, call centres, etc., to help them survive and cope with abuse and exploitation



 Guideline 2A Guideline 2B   Guideline 2C



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