Actions speak louder than words. We as parents need to help our children realize that there is more to communication than just words. Understanding the importance of eye contact, gestures, facial expressions and posture can help children make a good impression and adapt more easily to the complexities of social life. A starting point is to start raising awareness of this unspoken and integral aspect of communication that is often overlooked.
Body language is a means of non-verbal communication that is done subconsciously. Here are some aspects of body language that you can help your child develop.
1. Observe body posture: demonstrate to your child how different movements of the body can convey various feelings and emotions. Crossed arms while talking to someone, constantly fidgeting and hands on the hips; carries a lot of meaning even without using a single word. Parents can develop this sensitivity by using interactions between people in the real world or videos as examples. When dining out, draw your child’s attention to how different people are sitting and ask them to choose their favourite posture. Ask leading questions to find out why and then talk about what it means – the family is having fun, looks like that couple has had a fight. This will make children more aware of how they sit and how they are perceived by others. An upright posture makes you look more sophisticated and elegant.
2. Be aware of facial expressions: Point out ways in which they can notice these nuances to pick up on the underlying emotions and intentions of people. A fun game to play with your family is charades – act out different emotions and take turns to guess. You can get some more wonderful tips from this website.
3. Use gestures to add meaning: Gestures play a crucial role in presentations. Rather than standing with your hands behind the back, encourage your child to use hand movements to add meaning to what they say. TED talks by kids are a great way to show an example of how gestures can be better used.
4. Maintain eye contact: many of us have been taught that looking into the eyes of grown-ups can be a sign of disrespect. On the contrary, not maintaining eye contact can mean that you are hiding something, not interested or lying. Some ways to teach your child how to better their eye contact skills is by parents modelling this behaviour. Look at your child when you speak to them rather than into a laptop or phone. Make them feel that you are really listening and this conversation is important to you. Expect the same from your child when the situation demands it.
5. Encourage positive body language: Positively reinforce by saying “I really like it when you look at me when I speak to you” or “I really liked how you looked at the server at the restaurant and said thank you, it was really polite.” You can use this video to get some ideas of fun games to improve eye contact.
6. Build presentation skills: Eye contact is an important skill to develop even for public speaking. At home, when practising speaking in front of an audience, remind your child to look at them while presenting. With your eyes, make a sweeping motion from left to right and front to back; to make sure that each member feels included. This creates a bond between the speaker and the listener.
These skills will definitely come in handy when your child enters the corporate world and has to socialize with others while working in teams.
-Ridhima Somaiya, Teacher British Council