Helping your Child Understand Body Language

There are many people choose to communicate feelings and show emotion using both verbal and non-verbal cues. Understanding non-verbal cues can be hard for some children with learning and attention difficulties. These children may find it hard to decode body language which can create friction in their ability to form positive relationships with both peers and adults. Understanding body language is not only vital for effective communication but also for future survival, therefore, parental effort is required to teach body language skills early in life.

If your child is having trouble understanding body language, read on to see how you can help.

Explain how different body movements can mean different things. 
Show the movement and explain the unspoken message behind it. Similarly to learning new vocabulary and the possible definitions, learning non-verbal cues can be like learning a new language. It is important to match the action to the different possible meanings. For example, folding your arms may be a sign that you are cross, bored, relaxed or cold.

Show examples.

Show examples of people’s body language by using body movements and explain how they could be read in situations. For example, tap your fingers and say I am tapping my fingers to show that I am agitated. Television can be a good way to observe body language and can allow for a variety of non-verbal cues to be explored. Pausing a film or turning the sound off will highlight the actors’ body language, which can then be read if paused.

Make explanations explicit. 

It is important for your child to understand that body movements alone do not give the whole message. They must also listen for a tone of voice and observe facial expressions, too. This can be hard for the child to understand and may require some time before they begin to grasp the same gesture in different situations and its possible meaning.

Use games to deepen understanding.

Games like charades can help with the practice of non-verbal cues. Write age-appropriate actions on folded pieces of paper, and take turns acting out the activities. You can then advance to a different version of the game, keeping the emphasis on facial emotions. Put emotion words on folded pieces of paper for your child to pick from and act out. Use your family time to initially exaggerate non-verbal cues and then gradually start to make them more subtle.


Body language may differ across countries, however, there are some gestures and body language patterns that are universal.

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Till next time…


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