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The Importance of Facial Expressions

The Importance of Maintaining Facial Expressions

 

In recent years, we’ve seen big changes in how we use and interpret facial expressions in daily life. The widespread use of face masks during the pandemic reduced psychological and emotional connection with adults, particularly young children. How does hiding our facial expressions — or even lacking facial movement due to cosmetic treatments — affect our children’s emotional development? This question has become increasingly important to explore, especially as a Mother.

The Importance of Facial Expressions for Children

Facial expressions are a fundamental aspect of human communication. They are crucial for expressing emotions and intentions and play a pivotal role in forming social bonds, especially during early childhood development. Since young children are still mastering language, facial cues and expressions play a crucial role in helping them understand and navigate their feelings and the social world around them. When you smile at a toddler or show compassion through expression – it does more than communicate feelings. Showing emotion helps to build trust and teaches them about empathy and emotions. These silent, expressive moments foster a secure and understanding bond. While reading a story, using angry facial expressions when the Grinch is being – well a Grinch – or using scared facial expressions as Simba runs into the desert, can convey more than just what you’re reading to them. It helps to build their emotional intelligence.

Studies based on the “Still Face Experiment” have consistently demonstrated the importance of dynamic facial interactions between parents and their children. When parents maintain a neutral, unresponsive facial expression, infants and toddlers often exhibit signs of anger, confusion, and anxiety. They become unregulated and distressed. This research underlines the significance of facial cues in emotional and social development.

Masking Emotions – The COVID 19 Impact

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced a significant new challenge to interpersonal communication: face masks. These masks cover the lower half of the face, significantly reducing our range of visible facial cues. It has been discussed that the use of masks during the pandemic impacted young children’s ability to understand and respond to the emotions of those around them. While research suggests that older children might find ways to adapt by focusing more on the eyes and tone of voice, younger children, especially those in pre-kindy years, faced more significant challenges. Pre-kindy toddlers depend more on full facial expressions for emotional and social learning and language development. Covering our faces with masks has potentially affected the ‘COVID babies’ emotional growth and social skills.

Aesthetics and Expression Limitation

Parallel to the issue of face masks is the use of neuromodulators in aesthetic treatments, particularly their use in the elevating muscles of the face. Recent studies show that understanding language is more than just grammar; it involves simulating what words mean, using the same brain areas involved in feeling emotions. A study by David et al, discussed Botox, a neuromodulator approved for the temporary paralysis of facial muscles and explored this further. Participants were recruited among first-time patients receiving Botox to treat their frown lines. The authors then read the participants through emotive sentences (happy, sad, angry) before and two weeks after their Botox treatment. Interestingly, when the participants in this study had their frown lines injected with Botox, they had a more challenging time processing emotional words.

The connection between the limitation of facial expressions due to aesthetic treatments discussed above and the need for children to read facial expressions to learn about emotions is significant. Just as research shows that adults with temporarily paralysed facial muscles struggle more to process emotional language, similar restrictions in facial expressivity can impact children. Thinking back to the bedtime story – how can you portray the anger in the Grinch if you cannot fully frown? Can you accurately display shock, excitement or confusion if the elevating muscles in your forehead cannot move? What about exhibiting joy with the smile lines around your eyes? Children’s ability to learn and interpret emotional cues accurately stems from us – their parents. Kids learn primarily about emotions through observing and mimicking the facial expressions of those around them. Thus, reducing the ability to convey or read facial emotions could affect a child’s emotional and social development.

Raising Connected Kids

Children rely heavily on visual cues to understand the world around them. From storytelling to everyday interactions, our faces convey complexities of emotions that words alone cannot. Both face masks and aesthetic treatments that limit facial mobility can pose challenges, potentially impeding a child’s ability to interpret these crucial emotional cues. As parents, caregivers, or simply as adults in their lives, maintaining our ability to express emotions clearly through our faces supports their emotional growth but also aids in building their social skills and emotional intelligence. Considering these factors is essential to ensure children develop a robust emotional and social understanding.

At Aesthetic Allure, we are all about maintaining natural-looking enhancements whenever we discuss anti-aging treatments that can assist with wrinkle formation or relaxation. It is important to preserve natural expressions even when using anti-aging treatments. This approach ensures that while we help soften wrinkles and signs of aging, we also maintain the facial movements necessary for expressing emotions. By opting for treatments that support natural-looking results, we help ensure that adults can continue to provide the visual and emotional cues that children need to learn and understand emotions effectively.

 

– C x

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