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9 Non-Verbal Ways That Tell Your Child You're Listening
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  • According to several studies on non-verbal language, body language accounts for 93% of a message. Oftentimes, children, especially those who are in their teens, don’t communicate verbally with their parents or siblings because they prefer to be cooped up in their “own little world” so to speak, chatting on social media or surfing the internet. We may not know it, but sometimes our children send us non-verbal communication that we fail — or even refuse — to recognize. But why is it important to read their actions?

    Positive non-verbal communication can improve your relationship with your child and boost emotional connections in your family. Most children love being hugged and kissed, just like my youngest daughter who oftentimes, out of the blue, asks for a hug. This warm and caring body language sends the non-verbal message that they want to be close to you.

    Negative non-verbal communication like a frown or being suddenly very quiet when you are in fact, talkative, may send the wrong message to children which can make them feel rejected or let down, especially if this happens consistently.

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    This shows that non-verbal communication is important in strengthening verbal messages to your child. This says a lot about your child’s needs which they may not be able to convey verbally. 

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    Sometimes, adults’ non-verbal communication sends a different message from their words. This may hold true for children as well — they may say they are okay, but their actions may portray otherwise.

    Your non-verbal communication is also important in teaching your child how to relate to and get along with other people, which is an important skill for life. When you use warm and caring body language towards your child, like hugging, leaning, or even touching, it teaches your child how to express love. When you stop what you’re doing to listen to your child talk about his day, it shows and teaches him how to give people his full attention, too.

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    How your child knows you are listening

    You make eye contact.

    Parents often overlook the significance of making eye contact with their children. When a child can look her parents in the eye when talking, it just shows that he means what he says and is true to her words. Avoiding eye contact conveys a message of untruthfulness and insincerity. When talking to your child, drop everything and concentrate on your conversation. 

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    You see through their eyes.

    As William Shakespeare once said, “the eyes are the window to your soul.” They show the truth, no matter what face we put on, in any situation. The best way to know your children is to look them in the eyes and observe what they reveal about their emotional state. There may be times when you see your child very upbeat and carefree. But try to look at their eyes. Do their actions match their emotions?

    You speak at your child’s “level”.

    Bending down and speaking at your child’s level not only makes you more approachable and less intimidating to your child, but you are also making the message more audible and accessible. This shows your child that you are willing to listen to what he has to say.

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    You use an open communication posture.

    When we hold our arms to the side, as opposed to crossed or wrapped around our bodies, we show our children that we are receptive to what they have to say. This might encourage them to want to listen to us and communicate. The same arm placement is true for children. Crossed arms may signify that they are closed to arguments. It may also convey that they feel vulnerable or insecure.

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    You let it show through your facial expressions.

    Smiling, slightly upturned lips, and eyes widened in excitement are some examples that can also affect how our children respond to our message. By imbuing a positive expression, we encourage our children to have positive responses. The emotional responses that children experience from others shape their responses throughout life. Hence, it is very important for them to receive positive ones for them to learn how to do the same.

    You use gestures.

    Head nods, the thumbs-up sign, hands up in excitement and high five also positively impact interactions with children. We are nonverbally expressing acknowledgement and encouragement to our children by showing these. 

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    You listen actively.

    Uttering sounds such as a-ha, hmmm, and so on, show our child that we are engaged in what they are saying. It can also encourage them because we are showing them that we are actively listening. Hearing the same from our children also signifies that they are listening but sometimes would rather not comment on what we are saying.

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    You pay attention to the proximity between parent and child.

    For young children, it’s important that the space between parent and child be relatively small, which is around 1-2 feet. As our children become adolescents, it’s natural for the space to widen. The space signifies the relationship and protection we want to convey to our children. When our children try to approach us about something that has been bothering them, the amount of space they put between themselves and the parent signifies how much help they need in a given situation.

    You're aware of your movement.

    The amount of movement a parent should/should not make in order to show the child that she is engaged in talking to him is important. Our movements should be limited to gestures and expressions. Walking and pacing is not only distracting, but also takes away the closeness and connection you want to have to effectively communicate with your child. On the other hand, walking and pacing prior to having a conversation with their parent shows uneasiness on the part of the child, and indicates his difficulty to express what he wants to say.

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    It is amazing how paying attention to non-verbal communication and intentionally making a few minor tweaks can have such a huge impact on the way we connect with our children, how they interact with the world around them, and how they themselves convey their actions. 

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