The 5 Love Languages of Children, Part 1: Physical Touch
As a parent, showing love and affection to a child can be difficult to navigate. A child who once loved to cuddle now as an adolescent values personal space. An adolescent who once wanted to spend time with parents now values time spent with friends. In the article “Learning the Language of Love” I discussed the 5 Love Languages between romantic partners based on the research of Dr. John Gottman. Just as it is important to recognize a partner’s love language, it is equally important to acknowledge a child’s love language. Authors Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell have taken the research on adult love languages and they have applied it to the love languages of children. These five love languages include physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. Today’s article is based on the book by Chapman and Campbell “The 5 Love Languages of Children.”Today, we will be exploring one of the five love languages, physical touch.
The most common way children whose love language is physical touch want to receive and give love is through hugs and kisses. While these two interactions may seem the most common, they are not the only means parents can express love via physical touch to their child. For example, a daughter sits on her father’s lap as he reads her a story. A mother and son’s hands are intertwined as she helps him stir cookie dough while baking. A father throws his son into the air and catches him. A mother braids her daughter’s hair before school.
To some, these may appear to be common occurrences. However, according to Chapman and Campbell, research suggests that many parents only engage in physical touch with their child during routine moments, such as putting a child in a car seat or helping a child put on his or her shoes.
Physical touch is one of the most basic ways a parent can show a child unconditional love. Chapman and Campbell state that research studies suggest babies who receive physical touch, such as by being held, kissed, or caressed, have overall healthier emotional interactions compared to infants who do not experience physical touch for long periods of time.
Even if a child’s primary love language is not physical touch, it is still important to incorporate this love language into a child’s life. However, parents should always respect a child’s desire to not be touched should the child express this verbally (“don’t do that,”) or non-verbally (pushing a parent away).
Be sure to come back next week as I discuss what physical touch may look like at each developmental stage and how parents can incorporate physical touch into their relationships with their child.
If you would like to learn more information on how to connect with your child, therapy can be a great resource to learn parenting skills and coping skills to manage the struggles of everyday life. For more information, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services or contact us to schedule an appointment.