Let’s Talk Love: Identifying the Love Languages Within Your Family

By Tracy Grant, MA, LMFT
Travel Notes from a Family Therapist
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It’s February, the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day, the month of love! Most often we think of it as a day for romance and endeavor to make sure our significant other knows we care. This is typically expressed between couples through token gifts such as flowers, chocolates, jewelry, and verses on heart-shaped cards. When couples become parents, however, the love that they share is now embodied in the children that bless their lives. There are many ways in which to shower your children with love, and they need it every day of the year!

 

The Love Languages

You may be familiar with the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. It details his findings, as a marriage counselor, that:

“There are five emotional love languages, five ways that people speak and understand emotional love. The number of ways to express love within a love language is only limited by one’s imagination.”

He stresses that the important point is to speak the specific love language of your loved one even if it’s not the one you personally prefer. The five love languages Chapman identified are as follows:

1) Words of Affirmation

2) Quality Time

3) Receiving Gifts

4) Acts of Service

5) Physical Touch

 

Make a List

In order to apply this principle and to improve the way your family communicates love, first identify the top one or two love languages that really fill your love tank. Are you a “Words of Affirmation” and “Quality Time” person or “Physical Touch and “Acts of Service” person?

Next, list your significant other and each of your children with their preferred love languages based on your observations over the years. Do you tend to give them what they like to get? Do you speak their language or are you metaphorically speaking Chinese to someone who speaks Spanish? If they like “Words of Affirmation” but you are a “Physical Touch” person, hugs will only go so far to light them up. It’s time to break out of your comfort zone and write them a loving note or verbally express your appreciation for them. If they are a “Quality Time” and “Gifts” person, often giving the gift of an experience is the way to go and family travel is an excellent way to do it!

 

Making Time Together Count

Traveling as a family can be a wonderful bonding experience, but you want to make sure everyone’s love languages are spoken during the trip or you risk behavior problems. Chapman says:

“When a child really feels loved, he will develop normally but when the love tank is empty, the child will misbehave. Much of the misbehavior of children is motivated by the cravings of an empty ‘love tank.’”

To prevent this problem, make sure to include every member of your family’s love language in your daily travel plans. For instance, if your family is taking a trip to San Francisco, and your spouse needs “Physical Touch,” you need “Acts of Service,” you have two boys who are “Gifts,” and a girl who prefers “Words of Affirmation,” how could you make everyone feel loved and included? First you could make sure to hold your husband’s hand during your ocean walk on the pier, let each child pick out a worthy souvenir to remember the trip by, and for yourself, allow your family to help you with packing luggage and do other acts of service to help lighten your load. Finally, make it a point to emphasize your daughter’s contributions and verbally express your appreciation for her good behavior that day. It is a rewarding experience to see everyone’s love tank full, especially during an adventure together.

This is what lasting memories are made of!

 

Everyday

When was the last time, on an ordinary day, you created something magical for someone just to show you care? You might pull some pillows and blankets onto the living room floor, pop some popcorn, and invite your spouse or one of your children to play a game, talk, or watch a fun movie with you. If you don’t know what someone’s primary love language is, you can really never go wrong with spending quality time with them. In fact, when I provide counseling to children, no matter how angry or walled-up they are against their parents, they always end up expressing the same wish in the end. . . they desire one on one time in order to feel significant in the eyes of their parents.

 

Perceived Quality Time

I counsel parents every day that if they wish for their child’s behavior to improve and for the relationship between them to thrive, their child must have “perceived quality time.” What I mean by this is that you could spend fifteen hours a day focused on your child, cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, driving them to and from activities, and they will still complain that you never spend time with them. But if you set your phone and other distractions aside, look your child in the eye and say “Hey, I have fifteen minutes to spend some quality time with you, just you and me, because I love you and want us to have a good relationship. . . what would you like to do?” That child will get more out of those fifteen minutes than the fifteen hours because you named it.

You brought it to their awareness that you care and want to spend time with them doing something that they enjoy! If you regularly make those deposits into their “love tank,” when those moments of insecurity come in life, they will remember that “perceived quality time” and those memories will assure them that they are loved.

 

Tracy Grant

Tracy Grant

MA, LMFT

Tracy Grant M.A. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist working with individuals, couples, and families in the Denver, Colorado area. She received her undergraduate degree from Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota and graduate degree in Counseling & Psychotherapy with an emphasis in Marriage & Family Therapy from the Adler Graduate School in Richfield, Minnesota. She is a member of the American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy (AAMFT), is certified as a Prepare/Enrich Couples facilitator, and helps clients with a variety of issues including anger management, depression, anxiety, and life balance. Tracy has 15+ years of experience educating and coaching children, teens, couples, and parents; helping them to improve family functioning and to manage a variety of mental health issues.Tracy currently lives in Monument, Colorado and enjoys music, art, traveling, and spending time with friends and family. Feel free to reach out to Tracy at coloradocounselingandpsychotherapy.com.

Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading

The 5 Love Languages of Children

By Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell

Learn More

7 Comments

  1. I love these ideas! It reminds me when I was a kid that my mom really knew how to make small moments special, even when she didn’t have a lot of money. From having candle light to dinners and then we would camp out in the living room. It was just a way of making family time really special and that has always stayed with me!

  2. I am familiar with the book but frequently forget that my husband’s love language is different from mine. What we crave and give isn’t necessarily what the other person needs/wants. Thanks for the refresher.

    1. I agree the most challenging part is learning a love language that is different from our own. I am certainly an affection and affirmation person and my son is quality time and gift individual. It shows a lot when we make an effort to show our families that we love them in their language. Thank you for sharing!

  3. My best friend and I were just talking about love languages the other day. I’ve never thought to apply the same concepts to a family, as it’s usually talked about in regards to couples. There are some great tips in this post – especially on how to utilize these love languages while travelling, since family travel can be a challenge in and of itself!

  4. I have found with my husband and I that we both give love the way we wish to receive it without realizing that we may not have the same love language.

  5. I love the everyday special days! I think it’s a way of making even the smallest moments memorable. Ah and especially even the shortest of quality time makes such a difference.

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