The Beatles said it, so it must be true: “all you need is love.” But did you know researchers including Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell have identified five different “languages” humans use to express their love?
As parents, many of us naturally turn to hugging our children and/or saying “I love you.” But as it turns out, these expressions aren’t always the most comfortable for our children to receive.
This is NOT to say our children don’t enjoy our hugs and verbal expressions of love. Of course they do! But what it does suggest is that there are other ways we could be expressing our deep love for our children that will connect more naturally with them – and because it helps them feel the depth of our love, and to feel truly “seen,” it can strengthen our attachment.
Here are the five main “love languages:”
1. Physical Touch – hugs, kisses, a soft pat on the head or rub of the back. Some children love to be physically touched, while others do not. (If your child doesn’t love your hugs, don’t feel rejected! They just have a different love language!)
2. Words of Affirmation – offering your child genuine compliments each day. Some children live for such expressions of your confidence and support… others don’t.
3. Quality Time – spending quality time with your child, where you focus your attention on and listen to them. For some of us, this is what love really feels like – no hugs or special words required.
4. Gifts – thinking of your child and offering your child small thoughtful gifts. All children love gifts; but if yours is sentimental about the gifts you give them, there is a good chance this is their language.
5. Acts of Service – helping your child with tasks just because you want to support them. People whose love language is acts of service are “show me, don’t tell me” people.
The idea here is *not* to categorize your child in one of these groups and then try to artificially express love in that one way. You can and should express your love in all the ways that are natural to you! But if you can pinpoint which of these is most natural to your little one, you’ll know how to express your love in ways they are most likely to truly understand.
Think you know your child’s love language? (Think you know your own? Your partner’s?) Gary Chapman’s Five Love Language Quizzes can help you confirm you’re right… or see what you may not have noticed before.
While we may have differing love languages, one thing all children need to know is that our love for them is unconditional. They don’t need to earn our love – they have to know we will always love them and be there for them, no matter what.
Children who grow up in loving environments, where they know they are important, and respected, and loved unconditionally, build confidence and strong relationships of their own as they grow. That’s the most loving gift you can give.