Have you ever tried communicating with someone who didn’t speak your language? It’s very challenging. Some of the information comes across through hand gestures or sounds, but much of it is lost. This can also be the case when communicating love to our children. We may be communicating love in the “language” we like to receive love, but sometimes our children receive love in a different “language.” The concept of “love languages” has been part of our collective consciousness for years, but at times we overlook this important feature of our parent-child relationships. Helping children feel loved in the way they most need can be crucial to fostering a strong relationship.

The 5 Love Languages

The concept of love languages was originally developed by author and scholar Gary Chapman in 1992. Although the concept was designed for spouses and romantic partners to help them strengthen their relationships, its relevance to parent-child relationships was immediately apparent. Five years later, Chapman teamed up with psychiatrist D. Ross Campbell to expand the concept for application in families with children. 

The central idea focuses on the concept that each individual feels love in different ways. Although individuals express love in a variety of ways ⏤ words, actions, affection, etc. ⏤ each individual also feels love more strongly in one primary way. The way in which a person feels or accepts love most readily is their “love language.” There are 5 primary love languages:

  • Words of Affirmation: Some individuals feel loved when their partner or parent expresses their feelings in words. These can be verbal expressions of love or written cards, notes, texts, etc. If this is a child’s love language, they feel most loved when a parent affirms their positive qualities, writes lunchbox notes, or cheers them on at a sporting event or competition.
  • Acts of Service: Individuals who gravitate towards this love language feel most loved when others do things for them. In a parent⎼child relationship, this might mean that a parent makes a child their favorite meal, helps them with homework, or simply washes their favorite shirt so they can wear it to school. Although all parents regularly do acts of service for their children (e.g., all those meals you prepare each day), children who have acts of service as their love language especially focus on this as a way of feeling loved.
  • Gifts: Some individuals feel especially loved when a person gives them gifts. Of course, all children like gifts, but some focus specifically on this act as a way of showing love. Children who identify with gifts as their love language tend to focus on the thoughtfulness that the gift represents. For example, a child with the “gifts” love language might feel loved by receiving a handmade gift, a personalized gift that requires the gift-giver to know them well, or a sentimental gift that no one else but them would value.
  • Quality Time: Individuals who identify “quality time” as their love language feel most loved when others spend time with them. All children like and need attention from parents, but those with this love language especially interpret quality time (particularly uninterrupted time) as a form of love. Children with this love language might enjoy parents watching them play, showing off their creations to parents, playing games or sports with parents, and working together.
  • Physical Touch: Individuals who identify with “physical touch” as their love language feel love through affection. Children who gravitate towards this love language are usually easy to identify. These are the children who love to give and receive hugs, back rubs, or hold hands with those they love. For these children, physical affection is not just an afterthought but a primary way in which they feel loved by their parents.
Love language

How to Discover Your Child’s Love Language

There are a variety of love language quizzes available online to assess your child’s love language. However, you can also get a strong sense of your child’s love language by asking questions and observing their behavior. You might ask, “What makes you feel loved?” or “How do you know that I love you?” Observing your child’s habits or patterns of behavior can also give you insight into their love language. For example, what actions from you really make their day or make their countenance “light up.” 

Another approach is to consider how your child shows love to you most readily. Do they tend to show love through affection, words of affirmation, doing acts of service for you, or something else? This form of love might also be their love language. Sometimes individuals show love to others in the “language” in which they like to receive love.

Why are Love Languages Important?

The concept of “love languages” has resonated with so many people and has been applied to different relationships because it addresses a core need of all humans ⏤ to feel loved and accepted.  Especially for children, feeling loved is a key element in their development. It’s one thing to know that you are loved, but it’s a slightly different experience to feel loved. Science backs up the notion that feeling loved by one’s parents contributes to overall well-being. Scientists call it “flourishing.” Children whose parents were warm and loving grow up to be adults who are more likely to flourish ⏤ that is, they have high levels of emotional, psychological, and social well-being.

Researchers who study love from a scientific level report that feeling love is not simply a nice emotion but that it actually shows up at a physiological level. For example, when parents and children exhibit love for one another,  a physiological and non-verbal synchrony  occurs. Scholars describe this connectedness as the most elemental unit of love. Thus, anything we can do as parents to refine and enhance this attunement with our children will likely promote greater feelings of love between us. Tuning into a child’s love language and understanding what makes them feel loved can be a crucial step in this process. 

Trying to tune into and express love through your child’s love language is not just another ‘fad’ or parenting trick. The importance of children feeling loved cannot be overstated. When children experience love in a meaningful way, they have the foundation from which to develop well and thrive.

The information provided on this site is NOT medical advice and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, provide medical or behavioral advice, treat, prevent, or cure any disease, condition, or behavior. You should consult with a qualified healthcare professional regarding your child’s development, to make a medical diagnosis, determine a treatment for a medical condition, or obtain other related advice.

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