Take a conversation you had with a friend, family member, or clerk at the supermarket that your child has witnessed and ask her to point out the language, body language and facial expressions that were exchanged. You can also role play with her stuffed animals or favorite toys to show what she would have done in that situation. Even though your child was present when you had this exchange, it’s always a good idea to ask her what she thinks happened, how people felt, and how she could tell this, before you provide your own interpretation of the situation.
A good way to teach your child about body language, emotions, and empathy is to have her play a game of “Feelings Charades.” You can use flash cards with different faces, or even write emotions or behaviors that hurt others on pieces of paper and let your child pick one out of a hat. Take turns acting out the way a person would be feeling with either the emotion that’s on the paper or the face that’s on the card. This will help start discussions on topics that a child this age might be reluctant to talk about otherwise.
If you have pets, you can also use them to help teach your child about social awareness. A dog or a cat, for example, will behave in specific ways when it is feeling happy, angry, playful or tired. Point out these behaviors to your child as they appear, and explain to her how these emotions are similar to those experienced by the people around her.
Be specific when you are talking about what’s appropriate and what’s not, and provide her with visual cues. For example, you can have her stretch out her arms and explain that this is her personal space, and that she should provide other children with that much space when interacting with them. Remind her that when she gets too close to another person or touches them, they might react negatively. You can also use stuffed animals or action figures to act out what’s appropriate and what is not.