The evidence is accumulating; good social skills may depend on the ability to decipher facial expressions, particularly expressions in the eye region (DeClerk and Bogart 2008).
As parent s and educators, we may think that most kids are aware and understand the body clues of others. This does not appear to be the case. Kids benefit from direct teachings of body clues and how to interpret them. And teaching does work. In one study, researchers gave typically-developing elementary school kids training in the identification and self-production of facial expression cues.
After only 6 half-hour sessions, kids improved their ability to read emotions compared with controls (Grinspan et al 2003).
By being able to read a peer’s body clues, a child may have an empathetic response to someone that appears scared or lonely. Developing this skill set can contribute to the development of friendships.
Body clues can also indicate if a person is listening to us. We can teach our children that when a person is ready to listen, they look at us and their body is calm. One of the most meaningful ways to teach our children anything is to model it for them, and body clues are no exception. If you are in conversation with someone and a child interrupts you, you can remind them, “You will know that I am ready to listen to you when I stop talking and turn to look at you.”
You don’t need to buy expensive cue cards or games to teach these skills. Here are some inexpensive ways to teach Body Clues:
- Look in a mirror and express different emotions- draw attention to the eye brows, shape of the eye and mouth
- Role change- ask your child to demonstrate how you look when you are mad, sad, frustrated. You might be surprised at the body clues they observe
- When you are reading a book or magazine, ask your child to tell you how the person in the picture is feeling
- Point out their body clues. “I can tell you are disappointed because your arms are crossed, your eyebrows are down and you are frowning.”
- Take pictures of your child with different facial expressions and make a story book together