14.1  Using good communication skills

An important aspect of good communication skills, which should begin on the mother’s first visit to the health post, is to counsel, that is to teach or advise, a mother about how to care and treat her child at home. Part of the discussion will include asking questions, listening to the mother’s answers, praising and/or giving relevant advice, helping to solve problems, and checking her understanding.

This study session will help you to understand how to communicate effectively with mothers. We set out the steps below that you should follow.

  • Ask and listen to find out what the child’s problems are and what the mother is already doing for the child
  • Praise the mother for what she has done well
  • Advise her how to care for her child at home
  • Check the mother’s understanding, for example about home treatment.

Ask and listen

Listen carefully to find out what the child’s problems are and what the mother is already doing for her child. Then you will know what she is doing well, and what practices need to be changed.


It is likely that the mother is doing something helpful for the child, for example, breastfeeding. Praise the mother for something helpful she has done. Be sure that the praise is genuine, and only praise actions that are indeed helpful to the child.


A health worker talking to a mother whose child is sitting on her lap.

Limit your advice to what is relevant to the mother at this time. Use language that the mother will understand. If possible, use pictures (mother cards or similar) or real objects to explain. For example, show amounts of fluid in a cup or container.

Advise against any harmful practices that the mother may have used. When correcting a harmful practice, be clear, but also be careful not to make the mother feel guilty or incompetent. Explain why the practice is harmful.

Some advice is simple. For example, you may only need to tell the mother to return with the child for a follow-up visit in two days. Other advice requires that you teach the mother how to do a task. Teaching how to do a task requires several steps.

Learning Outcomes for Study Session 14

14.1.1  Teaching the mother how to treat a child