Have you read or heard of the book The 5 Love Languages of Children and The 5 Love Languages: The secret to love that lasts? There are 2-3 different types of the book, one for children, one for men, and the other for adults in general. While I don’t typically read books on relationships and making love last, I found The 5 Love Languages of Children quite interesting because parents and families are often in search of news ways to connect with their fast growing children.
Parents and families of children (young or older) with a mental health or behavioral problem often struggle through multiple stages in their life. It can be difficult for the sufferer and the caregiver to remain emotionally connected overtime. A client of mine has struggled for years with pediatric bipolar disorder and his mother confided that she has felt detached from him because of his behaviors. Not only does mom feel “unloved” by her son (mainly due to his impulsive and explosive symptoms), but the son feels alone and disowned by a mother who is exhausted and discouraged. A challenge for this family was to find ways to re-connect in a loving fashion. We discussed the book The 5 Love Languages of Children and concluded that her son benefited most from physical touch (hugs, pats on the back) and that his mother benefited from acts of service from him. By learning how to cater to each other in their mother-son relationship, they were able to re-connect and appreciate each other.
The topic of “love languages” is important for better understanding ways to connect with your loved one. For our purposes, however, we will look at the 5 love languages that can be used with family members suffering from mental health or behavioral problems. It is important to see the “5 love languages” in a larger context than romantic relationships because they are significant components to building a strong relationship.
The 5 love languages mentioned in the book include:
- Words of Affirmation: Words of affirmation often include positive statements that “re-direct” a person’s thinking off of something negative. For example, if your loved one states “I am so weak, why can’t I control this?” your affirmation might sound something like this: “you are very strong, strong people sometimes need help.” The purpose of affirmations is to affirm a truth, something that is true and positive about the person. The last thing you want to do is affirm a lie. Some people function better when words of affirmation are shared with them.
- Acts of Service: Doing things for your loved one can convey love and concern. Washing the dishes, taking out the trash, making their bed, bringing flowers into the environment, or painting, etc. can all convey love and concern for your loved one.
- Receiving Gifts: Some people feel loved when they receive gifts from the heart. A necklace, a ring, a homemade item, a thoughtful photo, etc. is demonstrative of your love and affection for this person. Giving your suffering loved one a gift (big or small, expensive or modest) can serve as a reminder that you are thinking of them, wishing them the best, and attempting to show your support.
- Quality Time: Quality time is one of the most important “love languages” in the world. In many authentic and unconditional relationships quality time outweighs words of affirmation, acts of service, or receiving gifts.
- Physical Touch: Physical touch can communicate the deepest of emotions to your loved one. A pat on the hand, a pinch of the cheek, a light brush of the hair, a hug, or the holding of your loved one’s hand can communicate not only love, but support, warmth, and concern. Whatever is in your heart can be conveyed through touch. It’s important to be reminded of this powerful gesture and to use it when necessary.
Coping with the mental health needs of your loved one can be very difficult, time-consuming, and discouraging. Examining how to express love and appreciation can possibly aid you and your loved one in reconnecting. It’s also important to share your “love language” with your loved one. For example, as a mother, it’s okay to say “I feel loved when you help me out in the house” or “I feel appreciated when you spend quality time with me.” A relationship is reciprocal, so don’t feel ashamed to share what your needs are in the relationship as well.
As always, stay informed and I wish you well