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Understanding Your Child’s Love Language

Understanding Your Child’s Love Language
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Have you ever really needed a hug? To have someone give you words of encouragement? Maybe you’ve been in dire need of connection through quality time? Or perhaps you really wanted someone to buy you a gift? It can be frustrating when your needs for love aren’t being met as an adult and it’s even more frustrating for kids. 

Love languages are a phenomenon created to help us identify and love people in a way that feels most authentic to them. Gary Chapman outlined the love languages in his book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, which was released in 1992. Shortly after, in 1997, he released The Five Love Languages Of Children. Love languages are similar in adults and kids, but there are sometimes nuances in understanding them in our youth.

“Children grapple with specific developmental stages exploring themes of Trust vs. Mistrust, Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, Initiative vs. Guilt, Industry vs. Inferiority, and Identity vs. Confusion. Consequently, love languages received aid in their maturation and also serve as they relate to the world,” says Sydelcis Mendez, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, Calif.

She adds that children’s developmental needs become more complex as they grow, meaning their love language needs may change over time.  Nevertheless, as parents raising growing kids, it’s critical we meet their needs. Here are some ways to understand your child’s love language and also to deliver that love. 

Acts of Service 

When kids need acts of service, you might notice them light up when you bring them breakfast, clean up their toys with them, or help with homework. If you notice this in your kids, or they often request you help them with things, it may be a sign to lay the acts of service on thicker. If you aren’t sure what acts of service they need, ask them.

Quality Time 

“Quality Time is especially important within relationships amongst adults as these relationships shape their world views, perspectives, and sense of security,” says Mendez. 

Spending quality time with kids at every developmental stage can help create a secure attachment in them, however, the way that quality time is given may change over time, says Mendez. 

If you have a young child, quality time may look like engaging in play, while for teens, it may look like scheduling activities that they enjoy doing like going to the movies or an amusement park. 

Physical Touch

A child constantly wanting to snuggle up next to you, hold your hand, or even play fight may be in need of physical touch. They may also vocalize needing a hug or wanting to sit next to you all the time. To meet their love language needs, make an effort to touch them a few times a day by putting your hand on their shoulder while talking, hugging them in the morning or randomly throughout the day, or giving forehead kisses to show affection. 


Kids who get excited about receiving gifts and often request them may have this as a love language. 

“If a child’s primary love language is receiving gifts, the parent(s) and/or guardian can set a budget on ways to reward their child or even giving small gestures as ‘just because’ gifts,” says Marline Francois-Madden, a therapist in Caldwell, NJ.

Remember, a child feeling loved through gifts doesn’t mean you have to spend excessively. Sometimes the gifts may be small but meaningful. For example, you could pick them flowers or cook their favorite meal, says Francois-Madden. 

Words of Affirmation 

Some kids want to hear how special they are, how wonderful they are and how much you love them as much as possible. It can be exhausting if this isn’t how you express love, but you can get creative about telling your child these things. 

For instance, you could put notes in their lunch box or leave Post-it notes around their room with words of affirmation. You may also have a white board where you write them a special love note every day. 

If you find it difficult to love your child in their language because it doesn’t come natural to you, it can be helpful to explore the barriers hindering you.  

“Through sessions held with parents I often discover that some of the reasons for these barriers are being limited by time, finding it difficult to find the ‘right words,’ financial challenges, beliefs, and specific trauma/lived experiences,” says Mendez.

No matter what barriers you experience, remember there is no perfection in love and learning how to love someone takes time, even when it’s your kids. 

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