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I got to thinking the other day, how my new baby will get to see the world as she grows up in a very different environment to my toddler. It started when the family care nurse mentioned that some babies were not taking well to their mothers wearing face masks during the nurses visits, when they were already having difficulties with sleep settling or breastfeeding. The idea of face masks within the home is not really a thing, but it did give me an idea about how she may portray people out in public, for all of her tiny life so far, any stranger we’ve seen is wearing a face mask, so how will she ever get to know what face-related social cues to read from people outside her circle.
From my psych studies, it is concepts from Neuropsych and Developmental psych that remind us to make exaggerated faces and hold eye contact with babies, we are naturally drawn to doing it. The baby’s brain has a big area assigned to face recognition and how to read faces, so how is all that affected when people are wearing face masks?
Here’s where we could learn a thing or two from horses…
The horses typically read the whole body of a person. I have been consciously aware of wearing my hat and sunnies around horses I’m working with as they are a part of my “equipment” and who I am when I’m around them. The fact that my face is covered by a hat and sunnies should make no difference to how I work with you, show you affection, and ask things of you. Rarely have I needed to take them off to help a struggling horse, but I am conscious of the fact that therefore my body has to have the cues for them to read rather than my face. In sessions we may notice where and how people move their feet, how someone may relax (or cock) their leg, turn their shoulders, remove their eye contact, or wave their hands in the air.
From a Natural horsemanship perspective; we look for the moments when the horse is giving us a ‘good face’ (eyes towards us, ears forward, head lower and jaw relaxed) and respond in that moment, typically by removing pressure. The longer we delay or miss those moments the less the ‘good face’ means in the relationship. I want to be able to find the exact moment when the horse is doing the tiniest hint of what I want, to give him that opportunity to give my ‘good face’ in return. Building on those positive moments makes the relationship more enjoyable for both of us, and the horse (or child) wants to do more positive things.
Body language is such a huge, and often forgotten, way of communicating, it is often not taught consciously, so therefore kids often find it harder to understand and comprehend why adults react differently to their different behaviours. Simple things like kneeling down to hug a child (instead of bending over at the hips), sitting on a playmat or picnic rug so your eye level is the same or below theirs is a beautiful way of connecting to kids. Doing things/tasks/activities ‘shoulder to shoulder’ instead of face to face is also a revised way of connecting to kids that you might be “distancing” from.
In reflection I’m reminded how important our home life is to our children and when I need to remind myself to find an opportunity to give a ‘good face’ to my kids, maintaining that eye contact, smiling when you’re pleased with something they’ve done, when in this environment faces are harder to find.
For more ideas and strategies get in touch with us, or to book a session call the office on 4684 3663.