February is the month of Love. We begin to see Hearts and Cupids wherever we go. Those icons can serve as reminders to us of the importance of loving our children well. It is easy in the midst of life’s business to become more perfunctory in our role as a parent. We fall into routines and habits of starting the day with getting the child awake, dressed and ready for school, doing homework, making lunch and snacks for the next day, transporting to extracurricular activities, and then it is time to feed , bathe and get them to bed only to start again the next day. It is easy to be on auto pilot as you go through the daily routine. So take the month of love as an opportunity to evaluate how well you are communicating love to your child. Gary Chapman in his books on Love Languages tells us that there five main Love Languages: Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Acts of Service and Gifts. Take a minute to consider your child and what their love language might be.
Praise: Consider whether your child hears more corrections and criticism from you during the day or more words of praise and affirmation. For some of us giving others praise comes easily , but some of us need help in this area. Check out http://cfcc.info/handouts/101praise.pdf for ideas on how to praise your child. Praise your child for both what they do well (affirmation) and also for who they are (blessing). We all want to know that we are loved and accepted for just being who God created us to be.
Touch: You might have just spent all day with your child at the zoo and the park. You might have purchased a special treat like ice cream and yet your child still doesn’t seem to be content. If their love language is touch then they may be in need of a different type of attention from you. So incorporate touch as you go through the day. Hold hands as you walk, sit closely on the couch, give back rubs, swing in a hammock together, brush and braid hair, play clapping games and rub lotion on hands and feet before bedtime to fill your child’s need for touch and to communicate your love for them.
Time: Quality time means making sure that we are both emotionally as well as physically present with our child. This will mean taking a break from our screens and phones to focus on the child. Listening well and asking questions that promote understanding is a big part of quality time. Allow the child to lead you in their play. Arrange time for activities they enjoy like biking and hiking or maybe even take up a new hobby and learn together. Showing interest in their activities by attending their events like ball games and recitals communicates love and support in a powerful way.
Service: Parenting by it’s very nature is a continual act of service. If your child’s love language is acts of service then being intentional to target that child with a service of kindness. For example you might make their favorite desert, surprise them by helping with a chore, suggest taking their friends for ice cream or to the park. Volunteer to help them with a school project or homework. This can also include serving together. This might be working together at a local homeless shelter or doing a chore for an elderly neighbor.
Gifts: Giving of gifts should be done with “no strings attached”. For the child whose love language is gifts consider keeping a small assortment of their favorite things to give them when they need encouragement. Consider giving items that are special to you and hold meaning, such as a family memento. The presentation of the gift can be just as important as the gift itself. Pretty wrapping paper and a thoughtful note attached can be just as significant as the gift itself.
Conclusion: Being aware of your child’s love language is a step toward growing and enhancing your expression of love for them. Scripture reminds us that we are able to love because God first loved us (I John 4:19). As you are filled with God’s love then you are able to love your child. For further insight check out Gary Chapman’s series of books on the Love Languages. To explore your own love style go to https://howwelove.com.
Developed by: Lynn Beckett, LBSW References: Chapman, Gary (2005), The Five Love Languages of Teenagers. Chicago: Northfield Publishing. Keck, Gregory C. & Kupecky, Regina M. (2009), Parenting the Hurt Child. Colorado Springs: NavPress.