The powerful thing about love is that you don’t just feel it when it’s directed at you, you also experience it when it’s directed at someone you deeply care for. Think of how your heart swells with pride, joy, and love when you see your child or significant other being shown love by another human being.

Our wise great-aunt Maya Angelou once said, ​​“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Shuuu!! Aunty Maya must’ve read one of my childhood journals or dairy as I called it back then. I am a first-generation “Model-C” kid who was raised in predominantly white spaces. Not only were my mother and I raised in different generations, but we were also raised in completely different cultures. Mom worked hard to ensure that my brother and I got a private school education – that was how she was expressing her love for us and she couldn’t understand why that wasn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong, I’m deeply grateful for the blood, sweat, and sacrifice that went into my education, I however needed to feel love in another way. Thanks to marriage counsellor and author of the best-selling book ‘The 5 Love Languages’ and co-author of ‘The 5 Love Languages of Children’ Dr Gary Chapman I am now able to name what my primary love language is. 

As we approach Valentine’s Day 2022, AoS would like to challenge parents to think of unique ways to communicate love in such a way that they don’t just know it but feel it! Dr Chapman believes that people express and experience love in the five following ways; 

  1. Physical touch
  2. Words of affirmation
  3. Gifts  
  4. Acts of service 
  5. Quality time

While we all may express and experience love to varying degrees through what Dr Chapman has coined the 5 love languages we all have a primary love language.“You have to know how to communicate love to a child so that they genuinely feel loved,” Chapman said, in response to a question from Oprah Winfrey.

How Do You Identify Which Love Language is Your Child’s Primary Love Language? 

PHYSICAL TOUCH: Physical touch is one of the first love languages children learn to express and exercise their autonomy over. Think about how most babies soak up all the cuddles, hugs, and kisses. Then they become toddlers and our hearts break into a million pieces the first time your squishy, cheeked little human turns down an opportunity to hug or kiss you! 

However, should physical touch be their primary love language, prepare yourself for years of endless snuggles, back tickles, lingering hugs, and messages. Sometimes something as simple as a high five goes a long way for a child who values this love language. 

On the flip side, while all children respond in a similar way to spankings for a child whose primary love language is physical touch, spankings are a special type of devastating torture. 

WORDS OF AFFIRMATION: Does your child light up the moment you praise them? Or do they sweetly shower you with sweet nothings? When my nephew was a toddler he used to throw arms around my neck, then cup my cheeks between his chubby 3-year-old hands and he’d look me in the eye and say, “aunty Ebogen, you’re my faywit aunty!” — I thought about this as his 16-year-old self opened up to me about an incident that had happened recently where he didn’t feel affirmed. 

Children whose primary love language is words of affirmation need to hear your words of love and praise for them. For the most impact make sure you crouch down to their eye level when communicating these affirmations or praises. Another way to communicate your love and affirmation is by writing a special note and leaving it in their lunchbox or on their pillow. 

Dr Chapman notes that insults or admonitions that include “I love you but…” cut deep and can communicate that your love is conditional. 

GIFTS: Who doesn’t love gifts? While most people can’t wait to tear into the wrapping paper covering their birthday, or Christmas gifts, you might have picked up on how your child is especially delighted when you gift them something as simple as a toy from a kiddies meal! Another sign to look out for is how they approach picking and giving gifts to their siblings or friends. And while you may not want your child’s playroom or toy box to become the perfect candidate for the TV show ‘Hoarders’. 

“ Children whose love language is “gifts” can feel thought of and cared for simply by receiving a flower from the yard or a handwritten note in their lunch box. A small, meaningful gesture can make kids feel loved.” Adds Dr Chapman. 

There is a distinct difference between communicating in your child’s love language and overcompensating for not being present in your children’s lives.  

ACTS OF SERVICE: Is your child constantly trying to help you with the cleaning of the house or the packing of laundry or groceries? Or do they beg you to do things for them that you know they can do for themselves? Perhaps they are not trying to be lazy or act spoiled, this may be the only way they know how to communicate a need they don’t know how to fully articulate. 

Children whose love language is “acts of service” feel loved when people they hold dear to them make them a meal, fix a broken toy or help them get dressed in the morning. Filling the love tank of a child whose primary love language is acts of service can be as simple as throwing their outfit for the day in the dryer for a minute or two on a cold winter’s day. 

“You certainly don’t have to jump at every request,” Dr Chapman told viewers of the ‘Oprah Winfrey Show.’ A thoughtful response suffices even if your response is in denial of an ask.

QUALITY TIME: Almost all children relish some form of quality time with their parents. Dr Chapman says he figured out his own daughter’s primary love language was quality time because she would regularly say, “Daddy, come to my room! I want to show you something.” Children who feel most valued when you choose to spend time with them are satisfied with a 10-minute dance party, singing their favourite song with them in the car ride to school, or setting aside time every week to spend “quality time” with them goes a long way in not only filling their love tank but building trust and a deeper and more meaningful bond. However, don’t assume that quality time means abandoning your plans, just being in your presence can be enough for them. 

If your method of discipline is sending your child to their room and your child’s primary love language is the quality time you might want to rethink how you discipline them as isolation can create abandonment issues for them. 

Even though Dr Chapman believes that love languages are like personality traits that stay with us for life, he does point out that your child’s preference might seemingly change from one stage to another. A child whose love language is words of affirmation may grow sceptical of your affirmation and instead require a little more quality time during that stage.

Over the next few days leading up to Valentines take some time out of each day to intentionally listen to how your child asks for affection and observe how they express their love for you, a family member, and their friends. More often than not, the way they express their affection to others is how they best experience/feel love.