As parents, we’re always looking for ways to connect with our children. Knowing your child’s love language is a great way to build on the relationships that are already there. According to author Dr. Gary Chapman, there are five different love languages:

Physical Touch includes hugs and kisses, cuddles, and even roughhousing.

Words of Affirmation begin with “I love you,” but also include any type of verbal or written interaction.

Quality Time isn’t always the easiest one for busy parents. Children with this love language just want to spend time with you.

Gifts. Children who speak this love language want to know that you’re thinking of them when you are apart.  

Acts of Service are times when you don’t have to do something for someone, but do it anyway, without hoping to be repaid. 

You can figure out which love language your child speaks by paying attention. Most people will express their love for you in their own love language. For example, I have one child who is constantly telling me that she loves me. We’ll even try to trick each other by throwing it into the conversation at random times. She’s super verbal and loves to talk. Her love language is Words of Affirmation.

A friend of mine was complaining to me that she felt like her teenage son wasn’t connecting with her unless he wanted something (a new bat, cleats, etc.). You guessed it. His love language is Gifts. He felt closest to her when he knew that she was thinking about him during the day and showed it by buying him something. I feel most loved by my husband when he takes care of something that I need done. It could be anything from rotating the tires to helping me cook dinner. That’s Acts of Service.

There are also lots of online quizzes that you and your family can take to see which love language best matches which family member. With younger children, point out other families and ask your child how that young person knows that he or she is loved. The answer should point you in the right direction.

Listen to what your child requests most often. Do they want to play a game with you? Go with you to the store? Have a snuggle? When are they the most loving?

Even if you figure out your child’s love language, it’s not like you can only do that one specific thing. If your oldest daughter’s love language is Gifts, it will not be possible to only buy her gifts to show her you love her. Please, don’t do that. Try to do a little of each throughout the day. Good morning, good afternoon and goodnight hugs, snuggle as you read together, talk about your day, be specific when complimenting your child — not just “I love you,” but also, “I love your laugh” or “I love the way your eyes light up when you laugh.”

Try to spend time with each of your children alone, at least a couple times a week. Take one to the store with you, walk the dog with another. While we don’t want our children to never have to do anything for themselves, it’s okay to once in a while do something for them without turning it into a guilt trip or lesson on responsibility.

Showing we love each other by buying gifts sounds to me like the toughest language to speak. Do I love receiving gifts? Of course, but I don’t want to spoil my kids or go broke filling up the house with junk either. Consider a note in their lunchbox with a special, unexpected treat that you normally don’t let them have. Take a picture of the two of you together, print it out, and stick it on their bathroom mirror.

Understanding your families’ love languages may take a little bit of time and effort, but it will be worth it in the end. More connections and more time feeling loved is never a bad return on your investment.


Suzanne Kennedy is a former middle school teacher who lives in Pendleton with her husband and four children.

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