My 5 year old daughter is just starting to learn to write and she loves to give people love messages. She even asked the other day if her school has a day where you can tell everyone how much you love them. She didn’t mean Valentine’s Day either! As a parent it is easy to become distracted and caught up in the daily grind of surviving that we forget to show our children how much we love them. We assume by taking them to their activities, buying gifts or giving bedtime cuddles – all loving gestures - we are showing how much we adore them but according to one author they may not always perceive these acts as acts of love.
Shortly after my husband and I were married a family member gave us the best book I have ever read on understanding love - The 5 Love Languages by Dr Gary Chapman (more recently the same person also gave us The 5 Love Languages of Children and Teenagers). Dr Chapman breaks them down into: Words of affirmation; Quality Time; Physical Touch; Receiving Gifts and Acts of Service. Understanding which language your child is speaking helps you to truly connect with them. For example, there is no point showing you love them by buying everything they ask for when their love language is not receiving gifts but instead quality time.
My love language is physical touch so I am always cuddling, kissing or scratching my children’s backs as a way to show them that I love them. However I also have to take into consideration each child’s personal love language. One child loves quality time and feels loved when I do something with him like going for a walk just the two of us. Another son’s love language is also physical touch so according to the rules of this book he would feel particularly loved from me because his love language comes naturally to me.
When my children were younger I use to play a game called the cuddling monster. I would chase them around the house until they were caught when I would then cuddle and kiss them before one of their siblings saved them. This game was a way of showing how much I loved them and as they all enjoy physical touch and quality time it ticked both those boxes and they would beg to play it. Other children who might feel more loved through acts of service, receiving gifts or words of affirmation this game mightn’t have been so thoroughly enjoyed.
We all love our children unconditionally and naturally we also hope and assume our children feel and know this. Discovering what love language your child speaks means that you can fill up their love tanks even more quickly. For the child who loves words of affirmation it might be putting a note in their lunch or complimenting them on something good they have done that day. Quality time doesn’t have to always be scheduling in a one on one activity - it could be as simple as watching a tv show your child enjoys or make the time to sit and eat a meal together. Act of service can be shown in so many ways as a parent. Anything from spending a little bit more time then usual putting them to bed to surprising them with their favourite breakfast on a weekend. When I was sick as a child my mum did an amazing job of always making sure I had everything I needed close by and even coming home from work in her lunch hour to check in on me. These acts definitely made me feel loved. When thinking of how to express love to a child whose love language is receiving gifts you don’t have to spend much money. Gifts could be rewarding a child with stickers or giving them something of yours that was special to you as a child. Physical touch can be hard if it doesn’t come naturally to you but stroking your child’s hair or giving them a cuddly toy can help them feel loved.
It is amazing once you understand your child’s love language how small changes can be made to make them feel extra loved and pampered. After all, love is the most important thing. It is the reason we have children, not to discipline or run them from activity to activity but to truly experience the love that a parent has for a child.
Counsellor & Author of 'Ben's School Daze'
Owner Motherhood & You
Co-Director Magnetic Moves