“I already know that dad, you didn’t’t have to say that to me.” (Brian, Age 6)
Brian sat on the couch with his legs relaxed in front of him, his head tilted down and his breath softened. He asked his father to help him set up a game and waited patiently. His father, however replied “I know Brian you have to wait, and be patient. I will be there in a moment.” Brian made an aggravated sound and crossed his legs, arms, and turned away from his father. He had been waiting patiently.
How can Brian’s father learn the “tells” of Brian’s nonverbal communication? He had assumed Brian would do what he felt he consistently did …which is to start to repeatedly ask his dad the same question, to increase his volume to yelling, and start to even throw the game pieces. Yet, if Brian’s father had looked at Brian he would have noticed that Brian’s body was not going to present those behaviors or movements.
Nonverbal experts claim that a person will cross his/her legs when feeling comfortable as crossing the legs provides a less secure base and a person would only give themselves a smaller base, and an obstructed posture if they felt they absolutely were safe. However, a child, especially a child with sensory challenges (a child that may perceive his/her environment as threatening and disorganizing) tend to cross their body (legs, arms) when seeking organization from the chaos of being misunderstood. For instance, a child’s legs will twist under one another to find the mid line of the body and hold tightly together. When a child feels more relaxed the child may separate the feet and appear limp or softened. Of course, there are many versions of these movement stances. Most importantly, the observer (parent) must look before responding.
When I supported Brian’s father to notice not just what Brian says (as that sent his father into a downward pattern of upsets and misunderstandings) but rather to what Brian did with his feet…then his father had accurate information to communicate.
Brian would wiggle his toes in anticipation of changes. So, Brian’s father could use words to narrate the timing. Brian’s father could move his own body as quickly as Brian’s toes and then model slowing down to support co regulation and connection. The Body Knowledge allowed for supportive strategies and a positive bond.
Everyday, I work with children of all ages and their families to support their communication styles, movement choices, and beautiful connections! For more ways to learn how to embody parenting and support your child through life, Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please Note: These stories are based on real moments but all names, ages, and identifying information has been changed to ensure confidentiality and safety for all individuals involved. The events are a composite of related scenarios used to illustrate the work; bringing understanding to the benefits of supporting children through a mind/body connection.