The Five Love Languages is a famous book written by Dr. Gary Chapman, which goes onto explain the concept of five different ways to show love. Coveted by many, people have used this knowledge better love their spouses, and even repair broken marriages or family relationships. Eventually, Dr. Chapman went on to publish an adaptation specifically about the love languages of children and how they can be a great tool for parenting. We find the concept of these love languages especially helpful for loving and understanding foster children, who often feel confused and misunderstood to begin with.
Parenting can be tricky. You may be giving your kids all the love and attention you feel as though you can give, but they still lash out. This often stems from the fact that they’re not getting love in the way they best receive it. If you take the time to analyze your child’s reactions and emotions in everyday life with you, you’ll begin to understand what love language they best react to. When you discover your child’s love language (it may be a mix of a few), you can then use that information to fill up their “love tank.” When the child’s love tank is full, they’re more likely to be calm and kind, and less likely to act out. Here are a few examples of each love language and ways to act on them.
Physical Touch- Children who crave physical touch typically enjoy being hugged, holding your hand, cuddle, or held more often than others. For boys, they may show this through wrestling or playing games with contact. For girls, it’s important for them to receive regular gentle touch through their family, particularly their mom. If these children don’t receive the physical touch they need, they may become distant or seek it out in unsafe situations.
Words of Affirmation- This love language is all about verbally expressing praise and love. Some children need to hear specific reminders that you love them and you’re proud of them. If you have a child with this love language, focus on pointing out specific traits or skills that make your child unique, as a form of encouragement. Conversely, negative feedback or criticism might be harder for these children than others.
Quality Time– This is about the gift of undivided attention, and feeling like an important part of the group. Children with the quality time love language value one-on-one time with each parent, and family time together. Try and regularly set aside time to spend with just that child, whether it be intentionally doing something they enjoy, or even letting them help you cook dinner. Quality time kids will always seek out attention- and if their love tank isn’t full, they may begin to act out in order to get that attention.
Meaningful Gifts- Naturally, children love gifts. They love receiving new things that are exciting to them. If your child’s love language is gift-giving, it doesn’t mean you need to constantly buy them new toys. This language is all about expressing your love for the child through thoughtful gestures in the form of gifts. Surprise the child with their favorite dessert in their school lunch, or take them to the park after school. It is all about expressing your understanding of them and what they enjoy.
Acts of Service- This love language typically develops as a child grows older, as parents tend to do most things for young children already. As your child grows older, if you find them being especially appreciative of you helping to clean their messes, cook their food or fold their clothes, acts of service may be their love language. Every once in a while, show them love by doing a task they’re expected to do themselves.
Understanding your kid’s love languages will make a world of a difference, and they’ll feel more understood and appreciated by you. Remember that each child needs a mix of all of these, but focusing on their specific love languages will go a long way in filling their love tanks, so you can better teach them how to love others themselves.