One of them might be mom
Scientific psychological studies confirm what parents know instinctively: that the mother’s eye contact and facial mimics are important when it comes to the development of her childrens’ empathy, communication and feeling of security. One important example is mothers with post-partum depression. Depressed mothers tend to have less eye contact and a less lively facial mimic, and the result can be delayed or even dysfunctional development in the child, emotionally and socially.
Children need eye contact and to be able to study the mother’s facial expressions for many reasons. Among them are:
1) The child learns to read and understand the emotions of others (empathy).
2) He or she learns about non-verbal communication (which is necessary for developing social skills).
3) They can see on their mother’s face if they are loved and safe, and if a situation is dangerous or not (which is necessary for the child’s basic feeling of security).
Niqabs, burqas and child development
While Muslim mothers do not hide their faces when home, many Muslim women wear some kind of facial cover when in public — also here in the West. As kindergartens are almost non-existent in Islamic countries and many Muslim families in the West choose not to have their children in kindergarten, millions of Muslim infants and small children are with their mothers most of the time during the first important years of their life. In most cases, this involves a lot of time — often daily — outside the home when shopping, going to the social office or for a walk, visiting friends, etc. All this time the child is not able to see his or her mother’s eyes and face. Imagine how your baby would react if you put a mask or a piece of cloth on your face every time you went outside the house. Among the most important consequences are:
a) The child has less time during the day where he or she is stimulated with eye and face contact.
b) The child is not able to see the mother’s non-verbal communication with people outside the family.
c) Not being able to get a loving smile or comforting eye contact, it is very much up to the child itself to estimate whether he or she is loved and safe — and as especially small children are unable to do this, they are deprived of this source of basic security in a lot of situations.
Lowered social skills and self-confidence
A basic method of mothers to convey love and confidence to their offspring is done with the eyes and face — especially when outside the home, where there are many unfamiliar sounds and people, unknown and quickly changing situations, etc. The mother’s face is also the first — and therefore the most important — source of learning to read other people’s emotions and learn about non-verbal communication. Finally, watching the mother’s face is a primary way for especially small children to see if the mother — and thereby the child himself or herself — perceives a situation as safe or dangerous.
But what if the child can not see his or her mother’s face?
This subject has not been studied enough, but based on current psychological knowledge about the importance of the mother’s face and eye contact for the child’s psychological development, the Islamic dress code for women may constitute a negative influence on the development of Muslims’ personality.