As a parent, you love your child unconditionally. It’s that unspoken thing; that moment when you first see those tiny hands—all you want to do is love and protect them. And, during the baby stage, it’s pretty easy. But, as your child grows and develops a personality all her own, loving can become more complicated.

Take out the guess work by understanding his love language. Popularized by marriage counselor Gary Chapman, his bestseller “The 5 Love Languages” focuses on five ways people express love: physical touch, gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service and quality time. You can find more information on the love languages and take a free quiz online at

Though originally designed for adults, you can take the quiz for your child to help understand her  better. Pay attention to how your child shows you love—we often tend to offer affection in the way we wish to receive it. And, remember, your child’s love language may shift over time, so keep observing.

“Hug me, mama!”

Do you have a child who constantly wants to be attached to you? While it can be overwhelming because, let’s face it, we all need personal space, this could be your child’s way of seeking affection.

For kids who crave physical touch:

  • Instill good morning and good night hugs
  • Hold hands when walking together or running errands
  • Cuddle more
  • Create a special handshake for the two of you
  • Stroke her hair or rub his back

“I want, I want!”

Is it impossible to go to Target without your child asking for a new toy? The good news for your bank account is that it might not actually be about the thing; your child could be asking you for validation of your love, which doubles down on the old adage: It’s the thought that counts.

For gifts:

  • Include a special something in his lunchbox every once and awhile
  • When grocery shopping, let her pick out an item
  • Create a photo album or book about him
  • Pick wildflowers to leave in a vase in her room
  • Make sure to choose gifts that fit his interests

“Daddy, I love you!”

Does your child often express how they feel toward you and other family members? Return the sweet sentiments openly with your child to ensure they understand that you love them.

For words of affirmation:

  • Tell her how proud you are of her accomplishments
  • Share a sweet thing he did today with your partner at a time where he’ll hear it, too
  • Skip the sarcasm, mockery and put-downs, even if teasing
  • Call her by a special nickname
  • Write love notes to stick in his lunchbox or in special spots in his bedroom

“I need help!”

Does your child often seek assistance doing tasks he can complete on his own? Chances are, he is looking for you to show you care through his help. When you do special things for your child, without making her reliant on you for developmentally-appropriate tasks, you can be sure she feels supported and loved.

For acts of service:

  • Help him tie his shoes or make his bed
  • Pick out her clothes for the next day
  • Make his favorite meal, drink or dessert and bring it to him
  • Prepare a special bubble bath for her, or hold a spa night where you give her a manicure or pedicure
  • Offer to help with homework or a school project

“Mom, Dad! Did you see that?!”

While you might be tired of watching your 4-year-old jump into the pool for the hundredth time, paying attention to your child in those little moments can go a long way. Remember to put down the phone and show you’re there for him.

For quality time:

  • Spend uninterrupted time doing an activity she chooses
  • Ask questions—deep or silly
  • Enjoy hobbies at home together: cook dinner or dessert, play a board game or read
  • Go for a walk around the neighborhood
  • Head to his favorite restaurant for a meal, just the two of you

No matter what love language your child connects with, when spending time with your child, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Try not to seem judgmental about his hobbies. If he starts to feel that you don’t care about what he loves, he may no longer want to share with you.
  • Each age group will connect differently. Implement age-appropriate activities or conversations when spending alone time.
  • When you’re interacting with your child, show up and be attentive. Put your phone away to just be in the present moment and let everything else go.
  • If she asks you a question first, follow her lead by asking her the same question. Or if she asks for your opinion, start with “What do you think?”
  • Play is the language of children and the primary way in which they learn. Play and laugh together to connect with your children.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends active listening, which will help your child to feel like he can communicate with you. You can find more tips at

— Tali Benjamin and Emily Webb

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