By Marté Matthews, LMFT
In our work with families, I see so many parents and kids with who do love each other very much, but often have serious misunderstandings, and complain they don’t feel loved. I enjoy introducing them to the concept of the “Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, Ph.D. Each language communicates love, affection, kinship or desire to deepen a relationship. This article gives examples for kids and parents about finding ways to create room for understanding, to express the love and compassion you feel for the many important people in your life.
Language #1 Words of Affirmation
Think about what you appreciate about your best friend, your dad or your child, or for a student, maybe even your lab partner. Share your thoughts with them and watch them light up.
I missed you yesterday when you were gone!
I was really impressed by that presentation you did in Lit.
I love the way you encourage people. You are such a kind person.
Language #2 Gifts
Far from being a materialistic, empty gesture, giving gifts is “visible, tangible evidence of emotional love,” according to Chapman. Thoughtful gift-giving is an art.
Give a special pendant necklace to a friend or your sister
Share fresh-baked cookies from a family recipe with a friend or a new neighbor
If you are fortunate enough to have more than you need, share with others.
Reality check: Sharing gifts instead of quality time or words of affirmation can ring hollow, but shared together with other love languages, they develop an even deeper meaning.
Language #3 Quality Time
This phrase has become a cliché, but quality time is fundamental to any relationship. Relationships with friends and family take time to nourish, develop and grow. The key is it’s only quality time if it’s about being together.
Maintain comfortable eye contact and avoid distractions
Listen to what your friend is saying. Listen for the feelings, not just thoughts.
Ask questions that are curious or reflective, not judgmental
Express understanding by using a phrase like “So what you’re saying is…” to clarify and make sure you understand before you react
Language #4 Physical touch
Physical touch need not by sexual or affectionate touch, but a moment of physical connection
A pat on the back, or a high five
Stroking hair out of a friend’s face
Sharing a big hug or a quick squeeze
Language #5 Acts of service
Parents do so many acts of service for their kids, it’s easy to take it for granted. The key the love language of acts of service is that it is a service freely given.
When you get a warm drink, bring an extra to a friend
Teach someone how to do something they don’t know yet, then let them teach you
Help out at home before you’re asked to do something
As you reflect upon the five love languages described, consider: Which language do you speak most naturally? Do you have a second favorite love language? Do you and your best friend speak the same “first language?” You and your mother? You and your son? In what ways could speaking a bit of their “language” be helpful to bring you closer? Each of these love languages can deepen and enrich your friendships, family ties and other relationships as you reach out to loved ones in ways you both find rewarding and meaningful. Truly, anyone at any age can improve their under-standing of others and become more loving by learning to be just a little bit “multi-lingual.”