Great relationships begin with great communication. How can we best foster these skills in children so they will grow into effective communicators as adults?
Beginning with very young infants, we try to connect by urging them to look at us and to respond with a smile. Do you remember the first time you got a smile from your son or daughter? It was so wonderful for me, that I smiled right back and then shared the news with all those closest to me. If Facebook had been around then, I probably would have posted a picture there.
Eye contact is crucial to any conversation. By connecting with your child at a young age with eye contact, you are able to communicate many things: love, joy, sadness, questioning, understanding, patience, and much more. You are also beginning a very important journey in relationships as the child grows. Through eye contact, you are also a teacher for your child. If you have his/her attention, you will be more likely to convey something you want them to learn. We may begin by focusing on parts of the face – where is your nose, where are your eyes or mouth? This will be expanded quickly to other parts of the body like the arms, elbows, knees, and who can forget the toes?
When children enter the school environment, social interaction becomes very important. Making eye contact for a school aged child is important to helping them develop quality friendships and enhance their social skills. Other children are more likely to consider interaction with a child who is able to communicate effectively with them in a group situation. Eye contact is helpful. The following article has a list of several steps that may be employed in tackling eye contact in children. http://thesocialexpress.com/improving-childs-social-skills-making-eye-contact/
Eye contact is also a very important to signal that you are really listening to the one who is talking. Children need that assurance from adults as much or more than the adults need it from the child. Later, as a child progresses through school, it becomes increasingly important for them to maintain eye contact with their teachers or other adults with whom they interact. You often see teachers trying to get their students attention fully by having “all eyes on me” or pointing two fingers at their eyes and then toward the child signaling that attention is needed. Although there may be exceptions to this important skill (see article on people with autism http://www.iidc.indiana.edu/?pageId=472), eye contact is essential.