This article is part two in a five-part series on how to show love to your child.
We are walking through the five love languages taught by Gary Chapman in his best-selling book, The Five Love Languages of Children. We looked at the gift of time in February, and this month we’ll shift our focus to the love language of touch. “Physical touch is one of love’s strongest voices. It shouts, ‘I love you!’” says Gary Chapman.
Infant-toddler. Psychologists have verified that babies held and snuggled are emotionally healthier than those left in cribs without physical touch. During these ages, snuggle and cuddle your toddler while reading a book, watching a video, comforting a sick child, or for no reason at all. If your toddler resists, maybe touch isn’t his language. It doesn’t mean you don’t snuggle; it just means you’ll need to figure out his love language. Dads can get in on the action by tossing your child in the air, giving piggyback rides, or carrying a child on your shoulders.
School-age. Look for times to give your kids hugs, such as before they take off for school or when they return. Pay attention to how your child responds to these attempts. If they snuggle next to you, rub their back or an arm. You might notice your child’s love language is touch if they play with your hair or cuddle next to you in the car or on a pew. Wrestling on the living room floor provides dads an opportunity to show love.
Pre-teenage years. Your parenting techniques change as your child grows. Girls will need more affection from their fathers, and boys will need more from their mothers. Early adolescents may hesitate and pull back from affection, but don’t give up. Try to find ways to hug privately, such as at home. Tackling in a backyard football game or arm wrestling are ways dads can fill a son’s emotional tank.
Teenagers. One day I was sitting on the couch watching the evening news when my teenage son plopped down on my lap. I already knew his love language was touch (like mine), so I rubbed his back. He didn’t say a word. I gently rubbed and rubbed. Finally, he got up and said, “Thanks, Mom.” That was it! He needed his emotional tank filled. Dads, it’s essential to provide physical touch to your daughter, or she’ll find it from some other man and the wrong kind. Try giving her shoulder massages or side hugs even if she doesn’t respond.
You, the parents, are the best people to show your child what appropriate and loving touch looks like.
Sally and her husband enjoy an easy rhythm of life as empty nesters. You can follow her on Instagram at @sacressman or read more from her at www.sallycressman.com.