Every child expresses, craves and receives love in different ways – through acts of service, gifts, quality time or physical touch and words of affirmations. Each of these expressions represents a distinctive ‘love language.’ As parents, it’s easier to treat all of our children the same way. However, it is imperative to remember that each child is different. What works with one may not work with another. And what communicates love to one child may not be received the same as with another child.
By understanding the five love languages concept as introduced by the renowned author Gary Chapman in his book, we can more easily discern the emotional needs of our children. So how to figure out which love language your child speaks most fluently?
The first step is to pay attention to how your children show you love. This is because we all tend to naturally speak our own primary love language the way we wish to receive it. Or you can simply ask them, “How do you know mummy and daddy love you?”. You can also quickly figure out by observing their responses when you speak one love language more than the other. Chances are, that’s your child’s preferred love language.
Words of Affirmation
Does your child light up whenever you praise or compliment them? Or tells you sweet words like “You’re the best, Mummy” or “I love you, Dad”? If so, then that would suggest that your child’s love language is Words of Affirmation. They adore hearing all the things you love about them as this reassures your child that you value them. They feel loved best and become more confident about their self-esteem when you shower them with praise, compliments and supportive words. Even simple things like slipping small encouraging notes in their lunchbox or sending them a short positive text can make their day.
Acts of Kindness
For children with acts of kindness being their primary love language, it means a lot to them when you are there to help ease the burden of their responsibilities. It shows them that they can count on you and not feel like they are alone. Examples of this love language in action are helping to tidy up their bedroom or helping them complete a project or even with their homework. That said, it is not necessary to jump at every request your child makes, but the occasional acts of kindness that show you care will go a long way to making your child feel loved.
What about gifts? Do you have a child who takes joy in receiving gifts? Or do they take their time unwrapping the presents with care every year and remember what you gave them for years after receiving them? If your child measures love through gifts, that means those gifts symbolise an expression of your love for them. This kind of love language should not be confused with materialism, and the gifts do not have to be expensive or fancy. They can simply be a meaningful handwritten note or a thoughtful handmade token. Since these gifts are from you, they will surely be cherished.
Children who speak this love language simply want your undivided attention. Parents can achieve this by dedicating some time during their busy week and doing an activity that their children like or want to do. It can be an activity such as baking their favourite dessert, playing board games or taking a walk in a park together, making sure to keep it as distraction-free as possible. As they get older, this same dedication of quality time together can be found in having conversations, sharing stories or spending one-on-one time with them each day. The idea is to give your child your presence and focused attention.
If your child constantly wants to touch you, be held or simply be in your space-then that’s a signal that your child’s primary love language is physical touch. Positive physical affection is vital to the child as they literally want to feel your love. You can express your love by snuggling with them often. Boys might enjoy a playful round of roughhousing, but even holding hands, giving high-fives or offering morning and goodnight hugs also fill up their love tank. Having a secret handshake or signal such as squeezing their hand three times to signal “I love you” is also a fun way to express affection.
Remember that there is nothing more important for a child than to feel loved, safe and accepted by their parents. And as they grow up, their preference might change from time to time. Even if work and life calls, remember to take note and tune into the changes in reactions and behaviours. When you intentionally and consistently communicate love in the language that your children understand best, this will positively impact their ‘love tank’ and help you stay connected with them.