Our relationships with others affect nearly all aspects of our lives. When people have good social skills—and the strong interpersonal relationships that follow—they feel good about themselves, are more productive, experience greater job satisfaction, and are physically healthier than those who have not learned how to be socially skillful. All in all, good social skills build self-esteem and boost resilience.

Teaching children skills around interpersonal communication is one important part of learning how to interact constructively with others. Children can learn to pay attention to all the messages that pass between two or more people—both the verbal and nonverbal language. Importantly, the nonverbal information provides cues for how and when to communicate.

Tuning in to nonverbal cues and language can be taught to children in several ways. Very young children can enjoy a fun game of nonverbal charades. Draw feeling faces on paper or cut out or print some pictures of people with differing facial and bodily expressions. Then act out what people look and sound like when they are experiencing the feelings chosen.

Older children and adolescents can learn to analyze nonverbal language through movies. Turn the volume down as the movie is watched and guess what is happening based only on the cues given in this nonverbal format.

You can also talk about nonverbal communication as you observe people in a store or in any social situation. Guess what is going on as you notice posture, facial expressions, gestures, voice volume, intonations, interruptions, yawning, or how far apart two people are standing from each other when they are talking. What does it mean if people are quiet, busy, or wearing a badge or uniform?

Help your child develop an understanding of nonverbal cues and communication. This understanding is one of the keys to developing the social skills necessary for strong interpersonal relationships.