How to connect with your child using their love language

 In Mindful Parenting

We all express our love for others in different ways. For some of us, love means giving lots of hugs and kisses. Some of us show our love by doing things for those we care about. And others spend hours choosing just the right gift for that special person. These are our “love languages” and they are the key to feeling truly connected to the people we love, including our children. Which is why it’s so important to understand your child’s love language.

What is a love language?

Love languages is a concept introduced by Dr Gary Chapman, who believed that we all have one or two primary ways we prefer to give and receive love. He identified 5 love languages – physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts and acts of service. And the idea is pretty simple – we need to ensure we are speaking our child’s primary love language if we want them to truly feel our love. Which means we need to express our love for them not in the way that we prefer, but in the way they do.

You may truly love your child, but unless she feels it – unless you speak the love language that communicates to her your love – she will not feel loved.

Dr Gary Chapman

Now of course, in any family there will be a range of love languages. Because we all have different preferences. So sometimes the way you express love to your children may not be the way they prefer to receive it. This may result in your child knowing they are loved, but not feeling loved by you in a way that truly helps them feel seen, understood and accepted just as they are.

Why is speaking my child’s love language important?

Speaking your child’s love language is a way to fill their emotional tank. And filling their emotional tank is about meeting their emotional needs – for acceptance, respect, safety and security. It’s about meeting their need to feel valued and important as well as their need to belong and feel connected to others.

Filling kids emotional tanks is about affirming and accepting your child exactly as they are. And when you are able to adequately fill your child’s tank, you can strengthen your relationship with them. It’s about creating a strong foundation and a strong connection with your child – and it is this deeper feeling of being loved as opposed to knowing it on a cognitive level that really builds that strong foundation.

This unconditional love is what helps children feel safe and secure. It helps them develop a healthy sense of self. And it helps them feel seen and understood so they can grow into their authentic selves.

How to connect with your child using their love language

1. Physical Touch

All humans need loving physical touch to feel safe and loved. In fact, we can’t survive without it – touch literally helps an infants brain to grow. And when our children are infants, they receive a lot of it because infants need hands on care. When we rock them to sleep, bathe them, comfort them, feed them and change them, our babies receive lots of gentle, loving touch.

But as kids grow older, we tend to use touch less and less. Research shows that as kids get older, we begin to use touch only when necessary. But research also tells us that older kids need touch just as often as babies. And if your child’s primary love language is physical touch, they need this kind of interaction from you even more.

Here are some ideas to try:

  • Giving your child plenty of hugs and kisses throughout the day
  • Wrestling or rough housing together
  • Holding hands, giving high fives, or fist bumping
  • Giving your child a massage
  • Reading your child stories in your lap
  • Rocking or patting your child to sleep
  • Brushing, stroking or ruffling your child’s hair
  • Snuggling on the couch together while you watch a movie

2. Words of Affirmation

Words are powerful. They can lift our children up, build their sense of worth and help them feel positive about themselves. Words of affirmation can include expressions of appreciation, encouragement and positive guidance. But it’s not only about WHAT we say. It’s also about HOW we say it.

Using words of affirmation to express our love for our children is also about adjusting our tone and regulating our mood when we speak with our children so that they feel our love and care for them. It is so much more than just empty words – it’s about communicating warmly and with empathy.

Here are some ideas to try:

  • Saying “I love you”
  • Leaving your child love notes around the house or in their lunch box (see our Mindful Little Lunch Notes for some inspiration with this!)
  • Saying positive things about your child while they are in earshot
  • Expressing gratitude for your child: “I’m so grateful for you/to be your mama!”
  • Giving your child encouragement: “Wow, you did it!”
  • Acknowledging your child’s hard work or effort
  • Using special names of affection with each other
  • Telling your child the reasons you love them

3. Quality Time

Quality time is dedicated time where you provide your child with your focused, undivided attention. It is all about them. It sends a clear message to your child that you love and value them and enjoy spending time in their company. The key thing to remember about quality time is that it is about connecting with your child. It’s not so much about what you do – it’s about the time you spend together.

So use this chance to get to know your child better. It’s an opportunity to show them you are interested in them, that you want to understand them, that you value them and that you are prioritising them. Nothing says, “You are important”, more than quality time.

Here are some ideas to try:

  • Stopping what you’re doing when your child enters the room
  • Watching your child’s favourite TV show together
  • Scheduling a special date night with each of your children
  • Playing games together
  • Eating meals together as a family
  • Going on family walks or bike rides together
  • Taking your child along when you run errands and chatting in the car

4. Receiving Gifts

Gift giving has long been a way of letting people know we love them and appreciate them. However, it’s important to ensure giving gifts doesn’t become a replacement for the other love languages. Because when this happens, children will feel they are being manipulated and the gift won’t feel like a genuine expression of love.

Keep in mind that for children whose primary love language is gift giving, these gifts are an extension of your love for them. They are more than material items – they are a symbol of your love for them, so they will treasure and value these gifts for what they represent.

Here are some ideas to try:

  • Select presents that match your child’s interests
  • Mail your child a gift if you are away from home
  • Spend time selecting special wrapping for your child
  • Find a special spot in your child’s room to display their treasured gifts
  • Wrap up necessity items like school clothes or underwear
  • Create a treasure hunt for a gift
  • Give them a gift you can enjoy together

5. Acts of Service

Acts of service are about doing things for your child to help them feel special and cared for. And they are completed with no expectation of gratitude or of receiving anything in return. They are acts of love completed freely and without expectation.

It’s important to note though, that expressing your love through acts of service is not about fulfilling your child’s every whim or always trying to keep them happy. It’s simply about recognising that when your child asks you to do something for them, fix something for them, or help them with something, what they are really asking you to do is fill their emotional tank and help them feel a little extra loved.

Here are some ideas to try:

  • Help your child with their homework
  • Make a special surprise breakfast for your child
  • Allow your child to choose their favourite dinner on their birthday
  • Help your child practice for sports events
  • Help your child tidy their bedroom
  • Give your child extra attention and care when they are sick
  • Volunteer together
  • Do one of your child’s chores for them ‘just because’

Knowing your child’s love language really is vital if you want to develop a stronger, deeper connection with them. Understanding what it is you do that helps them feel unconditionally loved and valued will leave your child feeling truly loved and appreciated. And that feeling will have a lasting impact on their self worth and sense of identity.

Want to know more about how to identify your child’s love language (and use it to strengthen your connection)? I hear ya! This topic is such an important one, I have a whole masterclass dedicated to love languages inside of my mindful parenting membership, The Mindful Little Mama. Join the waitlist here to be the first to know when doors open to new members again!

Showing 2 comments
  • Sharice Enis

    This is a great post. How do you identify your child’s love language? Is it best to just try to do a little bit of each to cover all of the bases? I’m guessing touch is big for toddlers or at least my child because she’s constantly touching me. I’m trying to take the cues from whatever I can observe.

    • Sarah Conway

      Hi Sharice! I cover this more in the masterclass inside of my membership, but in short – pay attention to how she expresses her love to you! And yes, definitely show love in all 5 ways, especially if your child is under 5 yo as they don’t really have a strong preference when they are still so young!

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