By: Julie Lipe
It is not just what we say that counts, but how we say it. Everything communicates. Even silence speaks. Activity or inactivity, words or silence, all have value.
Nonverbal communication includes behaviors such as facial expressions, eye contact and movement, touching, gestures, and tone, as well as less obvious messages such as dress, posture, body language or spatial distance between two or more people. Usually, nonverbal communication is learned shortly after birth and practiced and refined throughout a person’s lifetime.
Children first learn nonverbal expressions by watching and imitating, much as they learn verbal skills. All children including those with special needs know and understand far more than they can verbalize and are generally more adept at reading nonverbal cues than adults are because of their limited verbal skills and reliance on nonverbal cues. Even as children develop verbal skills, the nonverbal channels of communication continue to exist as part of the total communication process.
As adults, we need to be aware of what our nonverbal communication is saying to our children. Practice saying some things you would normally say to your child in front of a mirror to see what you look like. Make sure it is the message you want to send and that it demonstrates the skills you want your child to learn. And remember smile while you speak, your children will notice!