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Discover your child’s love language

You’ve probably heard of the five love languages and may even have a sense of what yours is. It might even color your approach to college savings. But have you ever realized that your children also naturally prefer certain expressions of your love?

Gary Chapman first wrote about this concept and revised it for children when he co-authored “The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively. In it, he shares that all of us have a preferred way (or two) of receiving love, and that we show love in the same way. That’s helpful for observant parents: By watching how children show us their love, we can discover our child’s love language and pay it back. Here are some examples:

Your child’s love language may seem to change as they grow into new stages, so stay observant to discover new ways to connect.

Words of affirmation: Does your little one like to tell you how pretty or funny you are? Do they light up when you tell them they’ve done a good job? Words of affirmation might be their love language. Show them love by praising them around others, leaving notes in their lunchbox, and paying compliments at their eye level.

Physical touch: If your child loves to sit in your lap, wrestle, touch your hair or receive hugs, cuddles and high fives, they are probably craving your touch. Hold their hands, hug them often, tickle them and read stories with them in your lap.

Gifts: Does your little one give you freshly picked flowers or the prettiest seashell at the beach? Kids whose love language is gifts are not just pandering for more stuff, and you don’t need to spend lots of money to meet their emotional needs. Keep a small stash of inexpensive gifts. If you’re traveling, leave something for them and come home with something as small as a rock you found – something that shows you’ve been thinking of them.

Acts of service: These children are especially grateful for your help with tying their shoes, school projects and homemade meals. For parents, this is a blessing and a curse: Most of these acts of service just come with being a parent, but it’s our job to lead them to do these things on their own. Still, you can show these children love by checking their homework, picking them up on time and surprising them by doing a chore.

Quality time: Does your child want you to watch them do cartwheels or play in their room? They will love it when you pause your tasks, put down your phone and give them some undivided attention. It can be short, but let them choose the activity and make it count. When you can’t abandon your task, explain that to your child but tell them you would love just being in the room with them while they play or draw.

While parents might have to observe their younger children carefully to figure out their love languages, older children can take an online quiz to discover and share their results. The 5 Love Languages website has quizzes for kids ages 9-12 and for teens, plus tips for parents of kids of all ages.

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