When I discovered that each of my children (and in fact everyone) has their own way of receiving love from another person, known as their “Love Language” it changed the way I interacted with them particularly when they were not their normal selves.
I discovered “The 5 Love Languages” established by Gary Chapman when my daughter was around seven years old and frequently became anxious about separation and unusually emotional at home. It appears that everyone has one dominant love language in which they receive love from others – the Languages are Physical Touch, Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time and Gifts. My daughter’s dominant language at the time was Physical Touch so when she came home from school we would sit down and have cuddles and tickles and I would stroke her legs and arms. There would also be some bonus quality time as it is hard to do anything else when giving your child that attention. The idea is that this fills your child’s ‘love tank’ to carry them through tricky times and emotions. My son’s love language, I then discovered, was ‘Gifts’. He loved receiving a gift from me, although this isn’t necessarily a bought gift. If I bring back a sweet from a restaurant, the free toiletries from a hotel, or a special pebble or shell or some ‘treasure’ found in a charity shop his face would light up and he would find somewhere special to keep it in his room. By thinking of him and bringing him something it reassured him of my love for him and made him feel secure and safe.
As they have grown older, I continue to use the Love Languages to ease them through their growing years, and I discovered that my favoured love language (and therefore the one I would predominantly use to show love for others) is not necessarily theirs. Whilst your own love language will always be the most favoured way of receiving love (mine is Acts of Service) once you learn your child’s, partner’s or siblings one you can adapt your love giving to their favoured one. I think of this as another way of communicating with them and particularly when they are troubled, anxious and upset.
This is how you show each of the 5 Love languages:
- Physical Touch: Hugs, tickles, holding hands when you go for a walk.
- Words of Affirmation: Telling your child how great they are, and how much you appreciate them (Also these children can take negative comments very hard)
- Quality Time: By stopping what you are doing and giving your child your undivided attention will suit these children. If you are not fully present with them they will crave time with you.
- Gifts: Children whose love language is gifts will feel noticed, appreciated and important when you take the time to think of little trinkets and gifts that will speak to them
- Acts of Service: By doing things for your children such as making their bed or brushing their hair, they will feel treasured by you, even if you know they are able to do these things themselves it is an important way of showing them you love them.
Once you learn your child’s love language you can find the best way to communicate and interact with them and to avoid clashes where your love languages are different.
Interestingly as both my children have grown older their Love Languages appear to have shifted to also include Quality Time (this often happens as they become young adults). My son appreciates spending time together (one to one with either Mum or Dad), to have us supporting him at his Basketball matches or just being at home when he is at home so that he can chat easily. My daughter loves going shopping just the two of us (what a dream!) or taking a walk or bicycle ride together.
Have fun discovering yours and your children’s Love Language!
(For more information and ways to find out your child’s and your own love language you can visit: 5Lovelanguages.com – The 5 Love Languages for Children by Gary D Chapman and Ross Campbell also The 5 Love Languages for Teenagers by Gary D Chapman)