What Are the 5 Love Languages?

The idea of the 5 love languages became popularized by Gary Chapman, Ph.D. in his series of books about strengthening relationships. The general theory behind love languages is that due to individual differences, we all feel love and give love in unique ways. Understanding how to use the 5 love languages to comfort kids is a helpful tool in discovering which communication styles they find the most comforting.

According to Chapman, the five love languages are:

  • Touch
  • Gifts
  • Quality time
  • Acts of service
  • Words of affirmation

What do the five love languages have to do with comforting kids?

Working as a nurse, I quickly learned the connection between quality care and speaking the same language.

The children’s hospital where I worked cared for children who came from all over the world. As a nurse, it was important for me to know what language they were most comfortable speaking and understanding.

I experienced firsthand how care became compromised when a competent interpreter was not available to those who didn’t speak the English language.

Communication challenges

Language barriers caused difficulties for several reasons:

  • I couldn’t understand all the problems the families were facing
  • I couldn’t answer questions the families had
  • I couldn’t explain everything I was doing and why
  • It was hard to know what the family’s preferences were and how I could best serve them

Luckily, due to rapid technological improvements, more options for interpretation became available. Circumstances where interpretation was unavailable became less frequent.

As we became better at meeting our patient’s communication needs, the quality of care we provided improved.

Communicating with our children

When we become aware of our children’s love language, we will be better able to connect with them in more meaningful ways. As their parents, we will understand their unique needs, and in turn, have the ability to serve them more effectively. Ensuring our children feel loved is at the very core of what parenthood is about.

A parent hands a gift to a child. Close up of hands. Gift giving is one of the five love languages.

Understanding the 5 love languages for children

  1. Words of affirmation

Words of affirmation have to do with how you verbally communicate with your child. Affirmations are the truths from your heart spoken out loud. Some examples include:

  • I love you
  • I appreciate you
  • You are valued
  • I’m thankful for you
  • I believe in you

When your child needs comfort, words of affirmation can be powerful in helping your child feel loved and safe. Even if this is not your child’s primary love language, words of affirmation are important to express in any relationship.

2. Acts of service

Acts of service are the actions we take to help or assist someone. Service can be given in many different ways. As parents, we have the opportunity to serve our children every day. Some examples of how you could comfort your child with acts of service could be:

  • Taking over a chore they are usually assigned, like doing the dishes
  • Making their bed extra nicely before tuck in
  • Arranging a playdate they have wanted
  • Giving a teen a ride somewhere they could have easily walked

When you complete acts of service for your child, you are letting them know that they matter to you. You demonstrate to your children that love is shown not only by the things we say, but the things we do.

3. Gifts

There’s a good reason most hospitals have a gift shop located somewhere inside the building. Giving gifts is something many people like to do to demonstrate love and support. Many families bring to comfort to their loved ones by purchasing flowers for adults and stuffed animals for children. Giving your child a gift at home doesn’t have to be something you go out and buy. Gifts from the heart include:

  • Making your child a card
  • Preparing one of their favorite foods
  • Taking a picture and printing it out for them
  • Creating a craft with things you already have around the house

Giving gifts to show your love is an opportunity to use your creativity. Think carefully about something that would be meaningful for your child to receive.

4. Quality Time

Quality time is when we give someone our full attention and presence. In a world where our screens are becoming more intrusive, giving time is a wonderful way to say “I love you”. In our house, we call it “momma or daddy time.” With five children in our home, special one on one moments are highly valued by all of my kids. Quality time can be done in many different ways:

  • Just sit and talk
  • Go for a walk
  • Play a game
  • Do art together
  • Sing together
  • Read together

I believe one of the real keys to quality time is being completely present. This means putting down your electronics and being fully engaged with your child. When a child is in need of comfort, your full presence can mean the world.

5. Touch

Physical touch is another great way to comfort children. My kids, even my teenager, all love to cuddle. Snuggling with a child who is sad, or giving a hug to a child who has skinned their knee, can go a long way to helping a child feel better. Touch is one of the love languages where knowing what a person is comfortable with is essential. Some people are huggers; others prefer you don’t cross into their bubble. As a pediatric nurse, the best part of my job was comforting babies by rocking them to sleep.

A mother smiles at her daughter.

How do you figure out your child’s favorite love language?

Be an observer

Take the time to become consciously aware of how your child demonstrates love to you and other people. Does your child run to hug you when you get home from work? Does your child constantly ask if grandma is going to bring a treat? These types of actions can clue you into how your child is wanting to feel loved.

Be a listener

Most children are quite vocal about their needs. Is your child frequently asking for one on one time? Does your child want to sit and talk with you right after they return home from school?

Talk about it

If your child is old enough to understand what love languages are, take the time to teach your child about each one, and ask them which one they prefer. Teenagers are likely to be open about their preferences. They will appreciate that you took the time to communicate instead of guessing. 

What to do when love languages clash

It can be difficult when our children’s love language is different than our own. Sometimes this means that as parents we need to step outside our comfort zone to meet our children’s needs. Here are some things to remember.

Be mindful of their age and developmental stage: The way your children express and receive love can vary depending on their age and developmental stage. For example, a young child may respond well to physical touch, while a teenager may prefer quality time. Consider your child’s age and what they may need at different stages of their life.

Experiment with new approaches: If what you’re doing isn’t working, be open to trying new approaches. For example, if you’ve been focusing on words of affirmation but your child doesn’t seem to respond, try giving them a gift or spending quality time with them instead.

Compromise: Try to find ways to meet each other halfway. For example, if your child’s love language is quality time but you don’t have much free time, find small ways to spend time together, like having breakfast together or taking a walk after dinner.

Show love in multiple ways: Even if your child’s love language is different from yours, you can still show them love in a way they appreciate. For example, if your child’s love language is physical touch, but yours is acts of service, you can still show physical affection while also doing things that make them feel cared for.

Be patient: Changing the way you express love can take time, so be patient with yourself and your child as you work towards meeting their needs.

Additional Information

Available quiz:

On his website, the five love languages author has created a quiz to help individuals figure out what their love languages are. While this quiz is directed towards adults, it can give you better insights into your own love language and how you can figure out your children’s as well.

Final Thoughts

As you carefully observe and listen to your child, you will begin to see patterns of what their needs are. Remember, even if a child has a preference for one of the five love languages, it is important to use all of them at different times. Understanding your child’s love language will help your kids in a way they recognize and appreciate. Have fun exploring the five love languages and discovering what works best for your child!

For more information about comforting communication with kids check out more articles:

Sincere Empathy: A Powerful Way To Comfort Your Child

Love your children, trust yourself

Parent Burnout Happens: How to recognize it and make it better

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