There are many definitions of love, but ultimately each of us understands love in a subjective way. This is true for adults, but especially for children, because many of the skills and perceptions of the future adult are formed in childhood.
In The 5 Love Languages of Children, authors Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell argue that there are five different “languages” that make children feel loved. Typically, a child will respond to one or two of these languages more keenly than the others, and so it is important for the adults in their lives to learn to identify and “speak” the child’s love language. The five languages are the following:
1.Physical touch – from birth it is important for little ones to understand that they are loved, and the only way we can show them love is by physical touch. They do not understand words but feel the caresses and hugs on their parents’ chests. It is valid even later, towards adolescence, but physical touch can evolve through activities done together. Some children are no longer comfortable with caresses, and practicing a sport or art form together, such as creative dance that involves touching, are suitable options for those who communicate through this language.
2.Words of affirmation – some children feel loved when they hear such words or when they are encouraged and praised. This means that they communicate through this language. It is important that the people around them – parents or teachers – understand the role of the words they say. Praise should always be accompanied by the reasons they are being praised. Children need to understand that they will not always receive the same answers in life, because people are different. It is advisable to encourage them at school and in the other activities they are doing. This helps them build confidence in themselves and overcome failures when they arise. It is important to understand that your love is not determined by its successes.
3.Quality Time – it is very important to spend time with those we love. Children who speak this language need physical, emotional presence and attention. Keeping eye contact when talking to your child is paramount; another example would be reading stories and later having discussions with them. Tell him about yourself, about how you see the world. Help him get to know you. If your child has a passion — dancing for example — be with him at rehearsals and performances, find out what dancing means to him and how he feels when he does it. Stay connected as it is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics in this article.
4.Gifts – are another way in which children feel loved, when they receive what they want. The price of gifts is not important; children do not know the value of money. It is important for them to see that we are paying attention to their needs and to see what they enjoy. Children who have this language are attentive to details, to the packaging, they open with patience, emotion and joy, remembering these moments even many years afterwards. The gifts can range from physical goods to experiences (courses, creative dance workshops, holidays, etc.) and we do not have to wait for a special occasion to offer them.
5.Acts of Service – at a very young age, children are dependent on adults to perform certain activities: washing, dressing, going to kindergarten, etc. These children feel loved when they receive help and this remains true even later, when they grow up. Without becoming the child’s servants, but being there for him unconditionally when he needs, we take a step towards filling his emotional tank. Staying with the examples in the world of dance, we can help them by taking them to classes, we can carry their backpack if it is too heavy, we can film them when they dance to be seen from the outside. Thus, we offer them an example of behaviour and mutual help that they can use later in life.
Every parent loves their child, but it is important to love him “in his own language.” Think effectively about foreign languages: if you tell your child “I love you” in French, but he only knows Romanian, he will not understand that you love him, even if you tell him from morning to night. By showing love to the child, you will cultivate feelings of security, belonging and trust, which he will recognize and express in turn. Ask him questions, listen to him and he will tell you what his language is.
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