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Communicating with children

Guideline 3D

“Do no harm”


There is a fine line between showing children accurate depictions of reality along with useful information to teach or protect, and sharing too-explicit or graphic information which inadvertently harms or further traumatizes them.

Even as children grow older, it is always better to err on the side of presenting positive solutions and caring adults providing physical and emotional “protection” when presenting sensitive issues (such as armed conflict, sexual or other abuse, emergencies, etc.)


Positive Example: Do no harm

Nozipho’s Story (Soul Buddyz TV, South Africa) is part of a community programme and learning package about a girl witnessing a violent robbery. The photo-based comic is aimed at Grade 7 learners. Using minimal but important text, it shows an adolescent girl going to school and being threatened with a knife on her way to choir practice.


Rather than being too explicit about the crime or simply preaching about a child’s right to protection, the comic focuses on the emotional and learning impact on Nozipho, how she shares the experience with her friend and how a kind teacher helps her. It takes into account the reflective thinking abilities of the adolescents as well as the importance of guiding them through difficult times and decisions.


The comic continually asks questions of the reader while also providing simple and child-friendly facts about how one can be affected when bad things happen. It also suggests many ways to deal with feelings and emotions. It ends with a story about “All Stars”, a trauma peer-support group for children. The comic inspires, motivates and stimulates problem-solving while presenting a difficult topic in a gentle manner. It is a model for presenting a wide range of sensitive issues related to child protection, response to violence, and exploitation and abuse. Download book



 Turning Theory into Practice

This guideline can be translated into communication in many ways, including:

  • Presenting communication about children’s common fears (of abuse, abandonment, living through an emergency, going to the doctor or to school, being bullied, etc.), but refrain from explicit, violent, over-dramatized scenes, and minimize the “scary” action to less than 10 percent of the production
  • Modelling loving and gentle adults, who listen to children’s and adolescents’ stories of difficult experiences and feelings, and who empathize with them, absolve them of blame, affirm their fear, shame and guilt as well as their resilience and worth, and “brainstorm” with them regarding various coping strategies
  • Modelling change agents in communities living in distress (conflict, disaster, etc.), including other children, without over-dramatizing pain and suffering


 Guideline 3A  Guideline 3B  Guideline 3C Guideilne 3D 



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