We all know the importance of our body language as adults. An eye roll, a shrug, a smile – all of these nonverbal signs play an important part in how we communicate with and understand the feelings of those around us.
One study even reported that up to 93% of all communication is non-verbal! That’s a lot of communicating we’re doing without even opening our mouths.
But have you ever thought about the importance of non-verbal communication in child development?
Nonverbal communication with a child at a young age has a big effect on their relationships with friends and family. It can also play a significant part in their emotional development and sense of self-worth.
Helping your child to develop good nonverbal communication skills is sure to make them a better listener and give them the skills needed to express their own emotions in a clear and mature way.
How can body language improve communication in kids?
So, how can teaching good nonverbal communication, and practicing it as often as possible, improve your kid’s communication skills?
Well, let’s use an example you might encounter quite a lot:
“Please can you tidy your room?”
Have you ever asked this question, only to be ignored? Probably.
But your nonverbal communication in this scenario can play an important part in how your kid responds to you. If you’re already annoyed or frustrated, your child might pick up on this from your body language – and respond badly as a result.
Getting down to your child’s level, making eye contact, smiling, and using a calm tone might just get your child to really listen to what you’re asking them to do – which can work wonders!
Practicing best-practice nonverbal communication with children can, therefore, help you to form a better parent-child relationship.
Good nonverbal communication will show your child that they’re really important to you. By focusing on your child and giving them your full attention, you’ll be improving their sense of self-worth, too.
What’s more, kids always mirror our behavior – so you’ll be helping your child to develop their own nonverbal communication skills as well. This’ll improve their listening skills, emotional intelligence, and empathy – which will help your little one to build meaningful relationships with others as they grow up.
5 nonverbal communication methods
So, what kinds of things count as nonverbal communication? There’s a good chance that you’re already doing a lot of them, without even realizing it!
1. Body movement
The way we move and carry ourselves can tell our children a lot about how we’re feeling about a situation.
If your kid sees you crossing your arms, slouching, or facing the opposite direction when they’re talking to you, they’ll quickly realize you’re not interested.
Instead, make sure you’re sitting up straight, facing in your child’s direction, or bending down to their level. This shows your child that you’re interested in what they’re doing or showing you and paying them your full attention.
Physical touch is a nonverbal communication method that children really respond well to.
Hugs and kisses are a big part of how we make our children feel safe and loved. Touch can say a thousand things without actually saying anything.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how important physical touch actually is – so try and keep it in mind when you’re interacting with your child.
A gentle hand on their arm, a hug when they’re upset, or a kiss to show you appreciate them can make the world of difference.
It’s also a brilliant way to develop your child’s own nonverbal communication. It shows them that gentle touch is the correct way to interact with others. It also teaches that using touch in the wrong way when they’re angry is not acceptable.
3. Eye contact
Making eye contact with your child when they’re speaking to you is an excellent way to show you’re listening to and engaged in what they’re saying.
Eye contact is also a vital nonverbal communication skill for kids to develop at an early age. It’ll help them to build better relationships with others, connect with friends on a meaningful level, appear more confident, and – as an adult – perform well in interviews and presentations.
Make sure to use eye contact with your child as often and frequently as possible – when you ask them questions, when you talk to them about their day, and especially when they come to you with a problem.
4. Facial expressions
As adults, we know that facial expressions can provide a lot of insight into what someone is thinking – often even more so than the words they’re saying!
Try to be aware of what your face is saying when you’re interacting with your child. If they’re telling you a story or need some encouragement, smiling and widening your eyes can go a long way.
At the same time, if you’re not happy with something your child is doing – let your face do the talking. Your child will quickly realize when you’re telling them off with a frown.
Space is something that we might not immediately think about when considering our nonverbal communication.
But have you ever felt uncomfortable when someone has invaded your space during a conversation?
Teaching your child how to correctly use space in their nonverbal communication is crucial. Show them the importance of giving people personal space, but also teach them how they can comfort people with a close hug.
Having an understanding of space as a nonverbal communication method plays a big part in your child’s development.
Developing good nonverbal communication in kids is a great way to help them understand their own and others’ emotions
If you’re looking for some additional ways to help your little one understand how they, or the people around them, are feeling, try out our Mood Examples and Worksheets.
It’s also a good idea to teach your child that other children they meet might struggle with their nonverbal communication. Our World Autism Awareness Day Facts & Worksheets are a great starting point when explaining autism to your child.
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