Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Teaching Kids Non-Verbal Communication

My kids say they know my looks. There is the look that says “Who just shot me in the butt with a Nerf dart?” and the one that says “You are one of my favorite people in the world.” Non-verbal communication is a key component for connecting with and understanding the world around us. As parents there are several ways we can increase our children’s understanding of non-verbal cues and help them to use them every day, starting when they are just babies in our arms.

  • Look at your baby in the eyes when you talk to her, and don’t be afraid to make faces (the bigger the better!). Infants take special cues from our facial expressions. When our daughter was just weeks old I remember the joy my husband had when he got her to mimic his facial movements – elongated “O” with his mouth and nose scrunches drew the most attention from her.
  • Use voice inflections that match your physical actions. If you are really happy, let your voice sound like it and make sure you do things like smile and give reaffirming nods.
  • Play charades. Acting out words, phrases, and situations helps give kids tools for understanding and demonstrating non-verbal cues.
  • Flip through a picture book or magazine with your child and ask him what he thinks the people are feeling or doing in each picture. Encourage him to make up a story about where the person might be going or thinking in the scene.
  • Play the emotion game. Take a list of emotion words (excited, frustrated, embarrassed, etc.) and put them on individual slips of paper. Take turn drawing out a word and giving clues to the other person without using words. This is a great game to demonstrate how our body language on the outside can show how we are feeling on the inside.
  • Watch a silent movie together. The non-verbal cues in these were tremendous, and the new film The Artist (for older kids) brings them back to life for us.
  • Use white face paint and have fun together as mimes and exagerrated expressions.

Why is non-verbal communication so important?

Communication is a key component of any healthy relationship, and this includes the understanding of giving and receiving non-verbal cues. Researchers have noticed that those kids who tend to have a harder time fitting in – are maybe a little more awkward than their peers – are often the same kids who lack non-verbal communication skills.

Children who are not equipped with all of the tools needed for clear and healthy communication are at higher risks for social and emotional difficulties. These can even include children who suffer from depression or are more likely to engage in risky behaviors. They just don’t understand the world around them and how they do or don’t fit into it.

According to Nonverbal Communication: Teaching Your Child the Skills of Social Success, by Cynthia Burggraf Torppa, Ph.D., there are different types of non-verbal communication that we need to include in our own ways we react, especially with our children so they can learn from us. These include:

  • Appropriate facial expressions
  • Awareness of personal space
  • Awareness of appropriate touch
  • Representation of ourselves through objects (how we dress, comb our hair, etc.)
  • Representation of time (rushing, interrupting, respecting the time of others, etc.)
  • Paralanguage (tone, projection, and intensity of our voices)

Communicating with kids isn’t always easy, so we need every extra tool we can get. So the next time I hear my kids say, “Uh-oh, Mom has that look,” I guess I should just smile and be happy they know what it means. However, if I smile they might think that my butt is an approved target for Nerf darts – which it is most definitely not.

Related posts:

  1. On the Verge of Verbal Communication: Understanding His Frustration
  2. 3 Foundations for Teaching Kids to Be Good Friends
  3. 10 Tips for Better Communication with Your Child

View full post on Parenting Tips For Raising Successful Kids | BetterParenting.com

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