I’d been having relationship difficulties with my husband. This felt normal, as I know relationships require continual work and effort. Got it.
While this was happening, though, I seemed to be withdrawing into my isolated mental safety zone and further away from my husband (and children). I was focused on trying to figure out how to work through this thing between my husband and me.
I didn’t see the change in my relationship with my youngest son because it was so subtle and gradual (and I was dealing with my own stuff, ya know?).
But there it was—one day I looked at my son, who is eleven, and I realized I hadn’t really looked at him, hugged him, or connected with him for several weeks. WEEKS! I’m typically a very connected parent and I work hard to make sure my children feel loved and cared for each day, but in this moment I knew I was further away from my son than I probably ever had been.
Insert tears. Insert lots and lots of tears (and sprinkle quite a bit of guilt in there as well).
Because not only was I struggling with my husband, I was also the worst mother on the planet (not really, but I couldn’t have felt much worse about it).
Awareness is so powerful, right?
As I realized what was happening, I knew that I definitely needed to repair my relationship with my youngest son and I needed to do it soon. My oldest son, who is fourteen, seemed fine, so I went where I knew my energy and love was needed most.
I’m very happy to report that I was able to repair our bond quickly. Do you want to know what I did? I asked him to go on a date with me to one of his favorite restaurants.
He immediately said yes and hugged me. I felt my heart lighten in that moment. “Yay! He still loves me!” I screamed inside (and I probably said it out loud as well).
We had a wonderful dinner together. I left my phone in the car, and I sat across from my son and listened. I made awful jokes, laughed at his awful jokes, and walked across the love bridge back to my son, all within a few short hours.
But how did I reconnect so quickly and how did I know what would work?
I was able to reconnect with him quickly because I know his strongest love languages. He loves spending time together and he loves food. He’s like putty in my hands when I make his favorite soup. He’ll even dance with me in the kitchen while we cook together.
Are you familiar with the five love languages? Gary Chapman, best selling author the world over, has many books published based solely on these five languages.
The five love languages:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Let’s look at each of these to ensure you have some easy and clear ideas for how you can make sure your children feel loved, especially when you find you’ve drifted way too far away from them!
Hugs and kisses of course!
Our family went through a very difficult transition about two years ago. During that time, I rubbed my youngest son’s and my stepdaughter’s feet each night right before they went to bed. There was quite a bit of tension, and I thought it would be helpful right before bed so they could sleep well.
The whole bedtime process is a ritual that continues to this day and is grounding and loving. They can draw or read for about ten minutes to have some quiet time alone, and then I come in to each room and put lotion on their feet, skin to skin. I turn their lights off, tell them I love them, and wish them sweet dreams.
It’s probably one of my favorite parts of the day. I think that’s because I know I’ll be able to stop and focus my attention on them, and I’ll be touching them in a kind and generous way.
Words of Affirmation:
Following are some of the easiest and most powerful phrases you can say to your children (when appropriate and with personal tweaks of course):
“I love you!”
“You look beautiful in that dress you picked out and those mismatched socks are super fun!”
“I had the best time at the park with you today. I hope we can go again soon.”
“Did you know your teacher told me how kind you were when your classmate was crying today?”
“I’m so proud and honored to be your mom. I wonder how I got so lucky!”
“Wow, you’re super creative! Those colors you drew with are bright and joyful, and I see lots of circles!”
I think when we say these things too often they can lose their meaning, but the right sprinkle of loving words when you truly mean them can lift most any child’s heart, especially the ones who respond to this love language the most.
My oldest son loves to talk. And talking requires an audience much of the time. If he gets focused time for about twenty minutes, where I’m completely engaged in his story, he’ll be happy and content the rest of the day.
Quality time can include watching movies together, although some kids prefer eye-to-eye contact if it’s been too long since you talked and giggled together. Taking walks and playing in the yard or at a local park are some of the very best ways to fall in love with your children
and have them fall more in love with you as well.
Playing games is always great fun, but I have met parents who just aren’t into Candy Land (totally cool—definitely do what you can). If you don’t games, maybe color together or going to an art class series? Or maybe you like to work in the yard. You’ll need someone to rake or get garbage bags.
Patience is crucial when spending time with our kids. Depending on their age, quality time will look different for your two-year-old versus your fourteen-year-old.
Along with birthdays and Christmas time, I used to put gifts in my kid’s car seats when I picked them up from the first day and the last day of school (and any other time I thought of it, but always those two days).
Gifts don’t seem to be either of my kid’s strongest love language, but who doesn’t love treats? Their favorite candy or a small part of a current collection can really help them feel loved when they’ve had an especially difficult day. I also believe spontaneous gift giving “just because you love them” can boost any child’s happiness to the moon and back.
I believe that making your child a homemade gift can be incredibly special for them, even a lifetime treasure if receiving gifts is their strongest love language. How many of you still wear your noodle necklaces? I know I do. I have a river necklace my son made for me years ago that I still wear often.
Acts of Service:
My youngest son, who likes to shirk chores in general, loves it when I help him clean his room. I know that can really fill a young heart to the tippy-top if I get in there with him and make the process go faster and add some fun.
Maybe it’s making their favorite meal or packing their lunch, depending on their age.
If their favorite toy is broken or their tricycle needs fixed, it’s not just the result of your effort; it’s the effort to get it done that helps them feel loved by you. Your children might want help learning something new; your time to find the resources and share the lessons is the ultimate happiness for their wonderful hearts.
How to determine your child’s strongest love language
Chapman’s Five Love Languages of Children takes a wonderful in-depth exploration of each love language, including examples and ways to tell what your child’s strongest love language is. You can also use your parental intuition.
I have done all five acts of love for my children throughout their lives. I feel super fortunate to really enjoy having children and making my life about them. Mostly the way I determined their preferences was how I felt afterward and how it seemed that they felt.
Keep in mind that the ways I show my love changes as they do. When they were little, I would hug them and hold them each day, but now physical touch looks different. I hug my fourteen-year-old maybe once or twice a day, and my eleven-year-old still snuggles with me on the couch if we watch a movie together. We still hold hands when shopping or taking walks, but I’m certainly not carrying them around!
After I took my son to dinner and reconnected with him, he hugged me almost the entire following day. With that information from him, I knew I touched his heart. He felt comfortable again, secure that I loved him as much if not more than I always had.
One other great way to determine their love language is to listen to others share reflections back to you. I remember my husband saying one day, “You know that food is a form of love for him, yes?” And I did know, but those words from my husband really helped me focus more often on sharing the foods he loves.
I believe there is enough love to go around, and the more it’s given out, the more there is. I also believe love makes for a healthier humanity and that love needs to be grounded in our homes and families first and foremost.
We can do all five love languages for ourselves and our families, especially our children, each and every day. And doesn’t that feel wonderful?
Every act of love from you to your child is helpful for creating a strong bond you will both benefit from. Even if you never determine your child’s strongest love language, you can do any of these acts of love to help them feel treasured.
Mostly though, you’re invited to have absolute fun and joy with your children each and every day! Think about the times you’ve seen them happiest and know you’ve already touched on their strongest love language time and again.
What you can do right now
In this moment, try to imagine what your child’s most prominent love language is.
Again, the five love languages are:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
If you’re not positive about it, what would you guess each of your children prefers and feels the most loved by? And for a bonus, what is your preferred love language? It’s such great information for creating a more wonderful and loving life together.
What you can do to be loving over the days to come
For the next five to seven days, you’re invited to fully act on each of the five love languages for your children.
Gift them: Get them a small gift you know they’ll love.
Tell them: Tell them how happy you are to be their parent.
Help them: Offer to help with a chore they are expected to accomplish that day, or fix something you know they’d appreciate.
Be with them: Invite them on a date with you and work hard to do whatever they request.
Touch them: Hold their hand when you go to the store together. Touch your cheeks together and smile a really big smile full of love at them. Have them sit on your lap the next time you watch TV or a movie.
See if you can tell what their favorite was. When were they happiest? When did they hug you tightest? Did they say anything that makes you think you found it?
Please share your “love experiences” so we can all learn more ways to create stronger and more loving bonds with our children and, thus, the world around us.
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