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It’s dengue season and one of the best preventions for keeping your little one safe is to help them take charge! How do we do this and why? Child & Family Development Specialist, Racheal Kwacz, helps us break it down.

I get a variety of parenting questions in my work and it almost always boils down to helping little ones understand and empowering them to be their own little agents of change.

When thinking about dengue, one of the first things to consider is just what is the best way I can keep my little one safe? Unequivocally, it is through prevention.

Better still, it is by empowering your little one to take charge of their bodies and be active in preventing mosquito bites.

As any parent will tell you, the hardest job as a parent is to always be on the look out for potential hazards and situations and the second hardest is “convincing” your child to do anything.

What if you didn’t have to?

What if instead of using all that energy into forcing, bribing, rewarding, punishing, threatening our child into doing something, we could instead focus on empowering them to do it for themselves?

There is the immensely popular saying that says if you give a man a fish, you only feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.

So too is true with little ones, what if we could work with our children and help them take charge by focusing on just three areas – why, what, how.


Helping little ones understand their why is key to motivating little ones to do anything. If you’re a parent, you know that unless your little one truly wants to do it, there is no talking, threatening, punishing, forcing, sweet talking or bribing that will make it last long term. Maybe temporarily, but never long term and self-motivated.


How can we help them understand their why? By helping them understand the what in an age-appropriate context. What are mosquitoes? What is dengue? What happens when they get bitten? Why do they want to stay protected? What helps them stay protected?


But more important than anything else is how. How we introduce and have these conversations is the difference between whether it will just go in one ear and out the other or if it will genuinely stick.

One of my favorite tools I love to use is the PLEASE tool (Prepare, Listen, Empathize, Acknowledge, Sit, Empower). It combines science and the key principles of Respectful Parenting working through any problem by understanding the way our brains think, feel, and communicate.

How is the PLEASE tool applied in this context?


Is this the right time for not just your child but also you to have this conversation physically, mentally, logistically, and emotionally? What is your end goal? Is there anything you or your child might need for this to be a success – materials, nap, snack, reading this article!


Ask your little one, what they might know about mosquitoes or dengue. Listening genuinely allows you to get proper context to know where to even start.

Listening also means getting a feel for what feels right in this moment for you and your little one. There is no specific dialogue but instead, it’s honestly tuning in and asking what is age-appropriate for your child, how would he/she take in this information best – art, storytelling, facts, experiment, play?

No one else knows your little one as well as you do and if we see the world through their eyes, we can authentically respond as parents in the most effective way.


The science tells us that we can’t learn unless we feel safe and loved. Feeling heard and seen is a pivotal aspect that makes a key difference from a nag vs a learning moment.

In this context, if this is the first time your little one might be hearing about dengue, it might be a little scary and confusing and it is so important to validate how they might be feeling.

We don’t want to scare our little ones into taking action from a place of fear, we want them to take action from a place of confidence and knowledge.


This is the hardest step in all the tool and it is to simply make space to respond. It’s not forcing them to “get it” immediately but instead allowing them the time to soak it all in.

There is a strong likelihood they won’t respond immediately as they process the information. The key in this step is to stay present and open.

Asking and listening, checking in with how they are feeling or if they have any other questions, giving them space to respond, trusting that they are whole, able, and competent, no matter their age.


Finally, comes the part that often gets mistaken as the first step. The fun “learning” problem-solving part that cannot happen and be fully mastered unless your little one moves through all the other steps of preparing, listening, empathizing, acknowledging and sitting.

It’s where action takes place but instead of doing it for them, you help them to do it themselves by talking them through what their options are, what they can do about the situation and how to gain control so they feel empowered rather than helpless.

Think about when your boss gives you new information about a role or task. It’s important for you to understand the context, the expectations and responsibilities, move through however you feel about the new task/role before you are fully able to take it on and thrive. So too is the same for our littles.

Some ideas for the empower stage might be:

  • Go on a mosquito breeding ground hunt – great way to talk about how mosquitoes breed and what we can do to prevent it – putting away our outdoor toys after use so they don’t collect rain water, keeping the grounds tidy, picking up trash, etc.
  • Put together a mosquito fighting superhero kit together – allow them to have input on what they think might be helpful to go in there. Some ideas might be mosquito patches or repellent, mosquito net for stroller, aftercare balm, etc.
  • Create an “at-the-door” station of all the things we need when we go out – hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, water bottle, snacks, etc. This serves two purposes – one that your little one feels ownership over the responsibility while having a clear understanding of what is expected and two that there is a sequence and “home” for everything when they come home and when they go out, helping you both organize physically and mentally as well!
  • Making a little go bag that can be stored in the stroller, car, or bike basket that basically has a little kit to reapply sunscreen/repellent when needed. To take the lesson further, you could also go to the pharmacy and store to look at all the different mosquito repellent available. Asking for input, letting them choose between preapproved mama choices, or if looking at diapers, explaining the difference between the ones that have the repellent and don’t.

Lastly, whenever I feel stuck as a mama, I always come back to two questions:

1. How do I want my daughter to respond to a similar situation years from now on her own in college or if I’m not around then building the lesson around it because then I know what I need to equip her with. In this context, if she’s at school or with someone else, what do I need her to take ownership over so that she stays protected from mosquitoes – empowering her to speak up and to know what to even ask for, where to get it, why.

2. Is this connecting or disconnecting? In the end, we want to build healthy children that are kind, compassionate, confident and resilient and that can only come through connection. Whenever I am thinking about what to do or say, I ask if this helps us to connect (empathize, listen, acknowledge, empower) vs disconnect (dismiss, do something to them vs with, punish, threaten, force, distract, trick).

I hope this helps you on your journey to building happy, healthy little ones but most of all, I hope you learn that there are beautiful ways that the everyday things like dengue prevention can help you build strong, loving, relationships with you and your little one through Respectful Parenting that will last not just for this chapter but for a lifetime.

Racheal Kwacz is a Child & Family Development Specialist, women’s leadership speaker and mama tribe writer. As a thought leader, Racheal has had years of international experience working with children, training teachers, leading and developing curriculum for childcare centres as well as being a parent educator. She specializes in equipping and empowering parents with tools for Respectful Parenting through “The RACHEAL Method”. Her most popular sold-out workshops include “Toddler Wars”, “Preschool Wars”, “Food Wars”, and she recently led a dialogue with 180 pediatricians, obstetricians and gynaecologists on “Device Wars”. She is currently leading back-to-back groundbreaking Masterclass programs on Respecting Parenting online for parents from around the world. To learn more, connect with her on her website or follow her on social media @rachealkwacz!



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