Parents and children write one another love letters in invisible ink all day long. Deciphering those messages, recognizing expressions of love when they happen, is our difficult task. As parents, we operate in daily cycles of giving to our children, often conditioned to expect little in return. This can feel exhausting, leaving us on the hardest days to wonder, “What is the point?” But if we had the language and perspective to see how our children do return our love in full every day, we might find ourselves more easily replenished, even made whole. If you’re familiar with the idea of love languages, we’ve written our own short list of three ways parents and children can express and receive love from one another. One or two of these love languages may feel easy, already rooted in your relationship. But there might be an area of your dynamic that is filled with opportunity to grow and deepen your understood love with one another.
3 ways we give + receive love with our young children
How we show love
Our children crave our undivided attention. Whether it's during evening bath, an hour of playtime together, or a walk around the neighborhood, the goal is to be completely untethered. Let your babe or toddler take the lead in how you’re using the quality time. Silence the phone, turn off the TV, forget the to-do list. When we get lost in enjoying one another and sharing our interests, our bond becomes stronger and capable of more flexibility in the long run. What we receive
Being fully present for our little ones can be challenging, even under the best of circumstances. But when we lean into the moment together, that is when we discover our children. You notice a new freckle on their little finger. You catch that first smile. You learn of a new interest from what they point to in a book you share. You see them trying to mirror your every move. In offering our undivided attention, we also set our children up to thrive independently for longer periods of time.
2/ Connected Touch
How we give
After 20, 30, 40 years of being the sole owner/occupant of your body, your babe show up and shatters this state of being. Whether growing a tiny human or caring for one, our bodies become co-owned. We are our children’s first home. We are their safest place. Their calm sea when things feel hard or scary. The smile and warm arms they crave when they feel pride in themselves. We honor this by letting out the reins of our personal space to meet the needs of the moment. What we receive
We all have our limits for being laid on, stood on, walked on, climbed on, and wallowed on. Set reasonable boundaries for yourself and your little ones when you’re feeling touched out. But when you are open to giving love with physical touch, savor the still moments. They come. Easily during infancy,with increasing rarity in toddlerhood. And when the stillness comes come, it almost always feels like exactly what you needed in that moment.
3/ Unconditional Acceptance
What we give
This love language might be the most challenging for us as parents, but it’s also the most powerful. It’s easier in the moments of success. Seeing our little ones in their moments of triumph with encouraging eyes and warm hugs—affirming their work with feedback that acknowledges what they’ve overcome and accomplished. When their actions, moods and words move into the territory of sadness, anger, jealousy, failure and so on? This is when their need for unconditional acceptance becomes most acute. The key to offering unwavering support here is softness. Think soft body, soft words, soft eyes, soft voice. Like the most comfortable pillow after the longest day. What we receive
When we offer our babes the gift of non-judgemental complete emotional security, they gift us with openness. They offer us themselves, and that includes all the good, beautiful and hard. We are able to raise children who feel known and seen. And what could feel better than knowing your child feels loved for exactly who they are?