I recently celebrated my fifteenth wedding anniversary. I’ve been thinking about love a lot lately. How do we know we are loved? What things do the people in our lives do for us that tell us most deeply that we are loved?
After I first got married, I encountered the idea that people have different languages for showing and receiving love, an idea made popular by the many books of Gary Chapman. Some people spend time together. Some need words of affirmation. Some give gifts. Some rely on physical closeness while others show love through acts of service.
As a newlywed, this idea helped me understand concrete ways to nurture my relationship with my spouse, and lately, I’ve been wondering about how these ideas impact my relationships with my children.
I tell my children everyday that I love them, but do they feel it? Do they feel loved when I tell them with words? When we wrestle? When we play games of Go, Fish? When I wash their laundry or take them to swimming practice? When I buy them something special?
If they feel loved in ways that I less naturally show, then they might feel less connected to me than I think, so I am making a commitment to learn the ways they show and receive love by asking these simple questions:
How do you know that I love you?
What things do I do that help you know I love you?
With older children, this can happen with conversations. For younger children, we can experiment to discover what kinds of interactions bring them the most joy.
For many of us with children, our days are filled to bursting with daily life: waking, meals, naptime, soccer practice, dance class, school drop off, laundry, grocery shopping, arranging childcare, doctor’s visits, class projects, birthday parties, and picture days.
We make choices about how to spend our free time. If I know how my children feel most loved, I can concentrate on engaging with them in their own language as much as I can. I want my children to experience life knowing that they have a place in their family and that they are loved. I can prioritize those things.
In 2017, with the calendar of unspent days stretching out in front of me, let’s learn about the ways in which our children feel loved. Happy New Year!