By Kristin Lyle
Last September, my two boys and I experienced a tragic loss that would forever change our lives. After their father died, I found myself a perpetually single mother who had to fill both their father's and my roles. Suddenly everything I do for and with them is under a lot of pressure, I am always thinking of how I can do things better for them so they do not feel the loss as much. Could I love my boys the way their father loved them, the way my father loved me? My mind often wanders to my childhood. Whenever I think about my parents, I am reminded of their very different ways of loving me. It was my Dad that would spend quality time with me, and it was my Mom who was always rewarding me with positive affirmations, hugs and kisses. After discussing this with a friend of mine, she asked if my boys had ever taken the love language quiz. The five love languages were familiar to me, but I did not realize that children had unique love languages as well. That night, we took the quiz together. What happened next changed our lives.
As a result of taking the quiz with my boys, we both agreed that the results were reflective of how they value receiving love the most. My oldest values quality time and words of affirmation. Meanwhile, my youngest thrives on physical affection and acts of service. I then had the life changing moment! I did not need to compensate for their father’s love, I just needed to love them the way they feel loved the most. You can imagine my relief. I immediately took action. For my older son, I simply adjusted to do things with just him and I (quality time) whenever I could. I also made sure to praise him for every small and large effort (affirmation). For my youngest, I began to snuggle him just a little longer (physical affection) and do a little extra for him, like cleaning his cleats and making his bed the day he forgets (acts of service). These adjustments were not big, not overwhelming, and did not take up time throughout my day. I just adjusted the way I expressed love to them, to reflect the way they feel loved the most. Doing this has resulted in an increased sense of self-confidence and positive behavior from my boys. While we will forever have a heavy heart, I can be assured that it will always be filled.
Below is a link to Dr. Chapman’s love language quiz for kids. I encourage you to do the quiz together. Then confirm with them that this is how they feel most loved. Adapt the way you express your love to them through their love language, they will notice and so will you.
Physical Affection: A lot of physical affection makes these kids feel loved. Hand-holding when you are out on a walk, tickles, and hugs. They are reminded of your love with each little touch. You may also find that they are very affectionate with other people.
Words of affirmation: Words make these kids feel loved. Acknowledging their hard work or expressing your appreciation will mean so much to them! Negative comments might be particularly hurtful for them.
Quality Time: When you give your full attention to these kids, they are going to feel loved. If you are not fully present with them, they will be acutely aware and will crave your presence above all else.
Gifts: How much do your kids ask for gifts? Sometimes we mistakenly perceive this as being selfish or a bad trait, but oftentimes we fail to consider the possibility that this is one way to understand our love. The children that love gifts will feel noticed, appreciated, and important when we take the time to choose little surprises and treats that speak to them. Make them their favorite meal or put a piece of candy with a love note in their lunch box. It doesn't have to be something from the store.
Acts of Service: These kids will feel loved when you do things for them. Make their bed, or clean up their messes with them. Maybe this child asks you to do things they know they can do. This is not because they are dependent or lazy, but because they feel valued by you when you do these things for them.
Everybody wants to be loved, and when it feels right, love provides a sense of security. By feeding my boys love the way they recognize it, I have been able to connect with them on a new level which has benefited everyone in the family. Try it for yourself, love them in their language.