The voice of a dad, playing with his small child in Spanish. “Dónde está el bebé?....Acá está” (“Where is the baby? Here he is”). The sound of a baby giggling (the most joyous sound to a parent—in any language).
This parenting spot, called “Love” (“El Amor”), is one of 11 public service announcements (PSAs) launched by World Voices Media in association with the Hispanic Communications Network (HCN). Part of its Criando Niños Valientes & Cariñosos (Raising Courageous, Caring Kids) campaign, each spot is a small gem—lasting just 60 seconds, yet offering actionable, expert-vetted advice that can make a lasting difference in a child’s emotional well-being. The “Love” PSA assures parents that children, even babies, can feel the love around them, and that love is built over time, with small moments and simple acts of affection, little by little, day by day.
It’s the kind of guidance that many Latino families with children may be looking for. After all, while there are plenty of places to find science-backed parenting advice in the U.S., much of it is in English and requires time and resources to seek it out. This leaves many newcomers, who face poverty and language barriers, out of the conversation.
But Latino families are also blessed with invaluable assets that help them build happy, healthy relationships with their kids despite these challenges. “Family support, [the] cultural values of working hard and doing all for their families, and hope for the future are important strengths,” explains Natasha Cabrera, professor of human development and quantitative methodology at the University of Maryland, and the campaign’s scientific advisor.
Seizing on these strengths, the Raising Courageous, Caring Kids campaign provides parents the tools that help their kids flourish further. Over the course of April 2019 and February 2020, its creators integrated PSAs like “Love” into popular daily radio mini programs on HCN’s La Red Hispana’s national radio affiliate network. Ultimately, the spots, touching on topics from gratitude to purpose, reached more than 150 affiliate radio stations and millions of Spanish-speaking listeners.
What is a courageous, caring kid?
Aside from offering advice not normally heard on the airwaves, it’s the campaign’s name that might take listeners by surprise. Traditionally, people might associate “caring” as a strength to nurture in daughters, and “courage” as one to foster in boys. They sound like opposites, but part of the Hispanic Communication Network’s goal is to communicate to families that, in truth, these strengths can coexist and are worth building in all children. “Boys need to be brave, but so do girls. It should be encouraged, just as being loving should be encouraged in both sons and daughters,” says Mariana Nonino, digital media director at Hispanic Communications Network.
To get there, the campaign shares insights on nine specific values that help build on those larger strengths: reliability, compassion, forgiveness, generosity, gratitude, honesty, humility, love, and purpose. “Because of their religion and culture, people have heard about these qualities and know what’s right, but how do you put it into practice? Yes, you should love and forgive, but how can you teach kids to do the right thing?” explains Nonino.
The PSAs affirm for parents that they, in fact, do possess the ability to nurture these values in their children. By championing easy-to-implement directives, the campaign assures parents that instilling kids with a kind and brave spirit doesn’t necessarily require reading a pile of scholarly articles. Rather, it can be done with what Nonino calls “little behavior shifts.” “We focused on what’s the most practical thing that parents can do,” says Nonino, who, as a parent herself, connected deeply with the concept.
And the PSAs were just the tip of the iceberg. Each ended with a call to action, inviting listeners to explore the campaign’s page on La Red Hispana’s website. There, parents can read blog posts on the entire range of topics covered by the campaign, all written in Spanish. The PSAs’ messages were further reinforced with Facebook Live call-in shows with family experts, plus targeted social media campaigns.
With all this content, parents are taught specific strategies that put kids on a path to becoming more considerate, confident adults. As with the “Love” PSA, the other spots are just as easy to understand—and the guidance on the range of topics they tackle is universal. Here are some examples:
- To foster reliability, let your child solve small everyday problems. As she gets better at doing things for herself, she’ll believe in herself as someone others can count on, as well.
- To foster compassion, don’t wait for bedtime to give your child a kiss or hug. Be generous and give them one when you feel like it, especially during moments of hardship when they can learn firsthand how expressions of care help alleviate suffering.
- To foster forgiveness, introduce the idea of love, empathy, and caring to four and five year olds before you teach them about forgiveness. Use a book with characters with these qualities to demonstrate this forgiveness.
- To foster honesty, teach by example, including avoiding the small white lies that all of us adults so easily tell.
- To foster humility, take the time to enjoy the vastness of nature with your child, even if it’s just looking up at the night sky. Nature-induced awe, like seeing an expansive view, promotes the experience of feeling smaller, which can actually be beneficial.
- To foster generosity, praise your child for being a giving person, as opposed to rewarding her with material things for a generous act. This encourages authenticity.
- To foster gratitude, lead by example and express your gratitude for what you have; this will encourage kids to not take things for granted, as well.
- To foster a sense of purpose, help your child gain greater clarity on the direction of their life by reflecting on what they have overcome and how they can make a difference in the world.
Ultimately, this campaign reached tens of thousands of viewers online and helped them discover smart, expert-backed advice for raising kind, confident kids, in a language they felt most comfortable engaging in. “I always love to be learning and reading interesting articles,” said one grateful parent in response to a Facebook post. “It is very important to always learn.”
On the same wavelength
While the advice itself is science-based, the Raising Courageous, Caring Kids PSAs use conversational terms that everyone can understand. And what you hear are the voices of dads, moms, and grandparents, and they sound welcomingly like their listeners.
Nonino believes that this is especially appreciated by their Latino audience, whose notion of family and whose multigenerational households can often look and feel different from those of white mainstream America. Other important components color the family dynamic, too, Nonino says, even among Latin cultures that don’t speak Spanish. “There are the values, religion, music, and the flavors and food; there’s the notion of men and machismo,” she explains. “In creating these PSAs, we tried to think of cultural touchpoints that would resonate with the audience so they can connect with the content.”
In doing this, HCN has carved out a model that could serve as inspiration for other programs that are trying to provide resources to specific communities of parents. As Nonino sees it, if the context of the guidance isn’t what’s happening to the parents receiving it, then the message might not make sense and it doesn’t resonate. “We try to create situations that listeners can relate to, and start a conversation,” she explains.
While the campaign has since wrapped, the blog posts and PSA audios remain online, with the hope that parents will continue to reap the benefits of the
expert advice. “The content is always relevant,” says Nonino, who speaks from experience. A parent of young children herself, she has found the expert guidance helpful and evergreen on a personal level. “I connected with this so much,” she says. Whether it’s having a meal at the dinner table with the TV off or making the conscious effort to tell her kids I love you, “the advice is so easy to implement,” she says. “And I can see the positive impact it has in my family.”