Feeling loved helps children overcome many obstacles, contributing to a feeling of well-being that will help them excel in school, friendships and all other areas of their lives. “Often, parents assume that their kids just ‘know’ they are loved, or that saying ‘I love you’ will be enough.” said Gary Chapman and Ross Campell in their book “The 5 Love Languages of Children.” But to feel truly loved, children need the caregiving adults in their lives to put those feelings into action. By learning to speak a child’s love language, a parent can ensure the child feels loved.


Many parents are familiar with the love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service and receiving gifts. Like adults, children each have a primary love language that they respond to best. In addition, children’s love languages may change over time as they

If your child is younger than five years old, Chapman and Campbell recommend treating all five love languages equally. An older child’s love language can be discovered in several ways. One way is by paying careful attention to how she expresses her love and affection to you and others. Is your child always drawing pictures for you? Maybe her love language is receiving gifts. A particularly snuggly child’s primary love language may be physical touch, while a child who is generous with compliments may have words of affirmation as her primary love language.


Another good way to find out more about your child’s love language is to listen to what your child requests and what she complains about. Does she often ask your opinion about how she is doing in her work or play? This might show a preference for words of affirmation. Likewise, complaints about you being too busy can be considered a request for quality time. Be careful to look for patterns and remember that a preference for quality time at age five may have changed by the time your child is 10 or 15.


One last way to search for your child’s love language is to give her choices. Says Dr. Suzanne Barchers, Education Advisor at Lingokids, “If your child is old enough, it’s fine to say, ‘I noticed you weren’t interested in that gift I brought you. If you had a choice, what would it be? Going to dinner together, just you and me? Going with me to work and helping me out for a few hours?’ Probe until you get some clues.”


Quality Time

Quality time is important to all children, but particularly so if this is your child’s primary love language. If you already have activities you know both you and your children enjoy, try to examine how often you’re doing them and see if you can increase your time spent together. Even activities such as cleaning and chores can have the desired effect of making a family feel closer. Quality time should be as free from distractions as possible.


Physical Touch

If your child’s love language is physical touch, you are in luck. Parents have ample opportunities to give a hug or cozy up and get snuggly. Helping your child feel loved can be as easy as choosing a spot next to her on the couch for movie night, or extra hugs before school in the morning. Even physical activities such as wrestling together or a tickle fight can help your child feel loved.


Words of Affirmation

For a child whose love language is words of affirmation, prioritize encouraging words, words of affection and specific praise. Say, “I love you” often. Showcasing her artwork can send an affirmative message to a creative child. Try sending an older child an encouraging text message.


Acts of Service

This love language can be a delicate balance. Of course, we want our children to mature and become more independent as they grow. Still, children can feel particularly loved when their parents perform acts of service – doing things for their children that they may not be able to do independently. An act of service might be carrying your child to bed even though you’re sure she is only pretending to be asleep, making a special surprise meal for your child, or helping your child do chores if she has had a hard day.


Receiving Gifts

Receiving gifts can be one of the more complicated love languages. Children will sense if a parent is trying to bribe them with a gift or if a parent is just buying gifts to make up for the fact that they don’t have time to spend with the child. Says Dr. Barchers, “Gifts don’t have to be big and extravagant. They should, however, be thoughtful. Finding that perfect color of a barrette or a memorable trinket can be just right.” Don’t make the gift contingent on certain behavior and make sure that the gifts reflect the interests of your child.

To find out more about the love languages of children, read “The 5 Love Languages of Children” by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell.


Pam Moore is an occupational therapist turned freelance writer and mom of two kids.


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