There are many ways children tell us how they feel and it is not always through words. As we enter another school year, parents, caregivers, teachers, and others need to be aware of the different ways children communicate. One way to “hear” what a child is nonverbally communicating is by analyzing the five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, smell.
These are some simple questions you can ask yourself, broken down by the five senses, to help determine what a child is feeling:
- What are you seeing them do?
- Are they walking fast or slow?
- What is their body language and facial expression saying?
- Are they making eye contact?
- Do they seem internally calm or chaotic?
- What messages are they receiving from others?
- How are they navigating messages they are receiving from others?
- What messages are they sending?
- Are they listening when others talk to them?
- Are they responding if someone talks to them?
- How do they talk about themselves?
- How do they talk to and about others?
- Do they message thoughts of harm to self or others?
- Are they willing to talk to adults?
- Have their eating habits changed?
- What kinds of foods are they eating?
- Are they feeling wound up?
- Are they feeling down or sad?
- Are they fidgeting with zippers, buttons, toys, etc.?
- Are they open and receiving or closed off to others?
- Is their breathing slow and steady or rapid and rushed?
- Are there scents or smells that seem to be off-putting or triggering?
- Do they have adequate daily hygiene?
By working through these questions, you can identify what actions are normal or abnormal for the child. If you’re concerned about any of the answers to these questions, provide the child a private opportunity to share with you or another trusted individual, and open the floor for future communication. You can also walk them through this 5-senses exercise to help them better understand their behaviors and emotions. With help and modeling from adults, children can learn to move through and better communicate how they are feeling.
This blog article was contributed by Sonja Stang, Marketing Manager and Social Worker at Nexus Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org