Valentine's day is not just for adults
Children benefit from love. Feeling loved not only helps improve your child’s well-being, but also improves their physical health, brain development and memory.
Communicating love to your grandchild can feel like a challenge if you don’t see them very often. These days, lots of families are navigating the challenges of loving their little ones from a distance. The good thing is, there are lots of ways to express love to a child. It’s not all just hugs and kisses!
What are the Five Love Languages?
The concept of the 5 Love Languages was created by a marriage counselor called Gary Chapman. Through his work with married couples, he discovered that different people receive love in different ways. Actions that mean a lot to you, might not mean the same to your partner.
He categorised these actions as languages. The 5 Love Languages are Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time and Receiving Gifts. He cites examples in his book of couples struggling to understand their partner’s efforts of communicating love. After all, if you’re not a fan of physical touch, having a partner who expresses their love by constantly touching you is not going to feel good! This concept has helped many relationships worldwide. Not just with married couples but with friends, work colleagues and children. Once you understand how somebody prefers to receive love, you can cater your actions to reflect this.
Usually, each person has one primary love language, and one secondary. So, your love languages could be physical touch as the primary and words of affirmation as the secondary. Any combination of the languages is possible.
It’s also worth noting that the way you express love is usually the way you like to receive love.
How the Love Languages Can Help Show Love at a Distance
Learning the love language of your little one can help you to communicate with them. Communication is key when you’re working on a relationship from a distance. Speaking to your grandchild in their love language can help build bonds and bring you closer. Children love to feel loved. You can create lasting memories and leave a lasting impression if you can communicate your love effectively.
Discovering the Love Language of your child from a distance
Now, this could be really obvious to you, or an absolute mystery. It’s ok if your grandchild’s love language is unclear. We have a few suggestions that might help you discover them remotely:
- Start by asking! If your little one is at an age where they can talk to you, there is always the option to ask. You can talk about what makes them feel loved. If they are unsure, talk about what makes you feel loved, or even describe some of the love languages and see what evokes a reaction. ‘Grandad bought me a new puzzle book today! I love getting gifts from Grandad. Do you like getting gifts?’
- Notice how your child expresses their love for you. This might offer a clue as to how they want to receive love.
- Use a teddy bear or stuffed animal to role play the question. Instead of asking the child directly, they can express themselves through a toy they like. All you need is a stuffed animal of your own to communicate with.
- Test out each of the love languages on your little one and see how they react. This might take a little longer but it’s a wonderful way to get to know your grandchild from a distance.
Using the Five Love Languages to Connect Remotely
Each love language can be used to connect with young children remotely. See our tips and explanation for each of the five love languages below.
Is your little one a big fan of hugs and kisses? Do they ask you to hold them or like back rubs when they need comforting? Asking for high fives can also be a sign.
This might seem like a barrier if you live far away from the little one and physically cannot touch them! However, with teddy bears and a little bit of magic, you can overcome this. Tell your little one that your teddy bear is magic and can send your hug to them! All they have to do is hug their own teddy bear at home. Refer to the teddy and say: ‘I’m giving Bear a really big hug for you right now!’. In turn, they can hug their teddy to send a hug back. This also works in a pre-recorded video. You can even ask your grandchild – ‘Did Bear give you Grandad’s hug?’.
Receiving your undivided attention might be how your child feels the most loved. Kids who respond best to quality time like to be focused on. Eye contact is important. Making sure you take the time to ask them questions about themselves.
Quality time does not have to mean a special outing. You can give your child quality time remotely. This can work in a live video or even a pre-recorded one. Make it clear that you are dedicating this time to sit down and address them. It might be as simple as watching them play with a toy.
Lots of people like to receive gifts, especially children! But for some, it can be the ultimate message of love. To be clear, this is a freely given gift that the child did not have to ‘earn’. Gift giving is not the same as a ‘reward’ for completing a chore or behaving well. This can send mixed messages. The child should feel worthy of love even if they aren’t excelling in a certain area of behaviour. The idea is for the child to feel loved unconditionally.
Gifts do not need to be of great monetary value. You do not need to constantly buy expensive things for your grandchild. Gifts can be anything you find that makes you think of them. A nice leaf you saw when you were out for a walk. Their favourite food or snack of choice. When you communicate with your child from a distance, you can show them the gift in the video. ‘Look at this beautiful shell I found for you when I went to the beach!’. If your relationship is very long distance, you can collect the gifts in a box for the next time you see them. This can serve as a nice time capsule, punctuating your relationship with memories and milestones.
Acts of Service
Some people feel most loved when certain things are taken care of for them. With adults, this can be small acts like making a cup of tea or completing chores around the house. Completing these acts can have a very positive, love affirming impact on the receiver. For children, this can be a little more complex as it is important to encourage them to complete simple tasks themselves. You can still find acts of service to do for them, such as brushing their hair and styling it the way they like. Or repairing a broken toy or piece of clothing they are fond of.
Acts of Service works nicely from a distance. You can listen to the interests of your little one and learn more about them in your own time. You can research the things they like to tell them useful tips, or finding solutions to problems they have. ‘I heard you’re making cakes to take to school! I’ve found a lovely recipe I think your class will enjoy’. Alternatively, you can mend or replace an item they are fond of. ‘I heard your favourite teddy needed some help. Mummy sent him to me in the post and I have fixed him up for you! He’ll come back home on Wednesday.’
Words of Affirmation
If your child’s love language is words of affirmation, they will respond well to kind words, compliments, and praise. Your grandchild will simply enjoy being told they are loved.
This one is particularly easy to achieve remotely. In your videos or messages to them, make sure to include praise on a recent thing they did or even an aspect of their character. ‘I love how kind you are to your friends!’. Simply tell them how important they are to you and they are sure to feel loved and worthy.
You've Got This!
Discovering your grandchild’s love language can be a useful tool for bonding remotely. With a bit of creativity, you can build a meaningful connection and support the child in their development and growth. The creator of the 5 Love Languages (Gary Chapman) describes each child as having an ‘empty tank’ ready to be filled with love. Bad behaviour can be the result of an empty tank! You can help support the parents of your loved one by filling this tank with them. What a wonderful contribution to their life that everyone can feel good about.
About the author
Dr. Alyea Sandovar is a gamification and child development expert. She is currently the COO at Peekabond.
She was inspired to get into games through games she played with her Abuelita Lela in Colombia. Later as a psychotherapist she saw the power of play and games to transform the lives of her clients which led her to her studies in video games.
She believes creating playful products should not be a headache. As a Kingdom woman, she aims to bring love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and determination, to every client project. She loves God, cocoa drinks, traveling, dancing and is a bit obsessed with UFOs and Sci-Fi. Her super power is prayer!
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