Let’s talk about our languages of love. Perhaps you’ve read the book ‘The Five Languages of Love,’ one of the many classics by Gary Chapman. It’s an absolute cracker which was first released in 1992 and is still going strong around the world today.

We know that our innate need to receive and give love is a big ticket item in the human quest for ongoing health and wellbeing; mentally, socially, emotionally,  physically and spiritually. Love has large shoes to fill, so it makes sense we explore the wisdom of Gary Chapman and relate it back to teenagers and families, especially at this most uncertain and unpredictable time in our lives. 2020, the world is changing, rules are moving and curve balls are coming in thick and fast, but there’s always a but, because the way we (teenagers especially) experience love is not changing and moving as fast.

Surfer teen boys talking on beach shore

The five language of love are:

  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving gifts
  4. Acts of service
  5. Physical touch

Each language is a simple way to describe our preferred way to receive and show love. Neither is better or worse, good or bad, it is merely a system that feels right for us. I liken the 5 languages to 5 significant muscles in our body. Each has a role to play, but we obviously rely on some muscles more than others. So it’s often the case we have our favourite love language and our least favourite too.

As an example, here’s my love languages in order of preference:
1. Words of affirmation
2. Acts of service
3. Physical touch
4. Quality time
5. Receiving gifts

My teenager’s :
1. Words of affirmation
2. Quality time
3. Physical touch
4. Acts of service
5. Receiving gifts

Being aware of our own preferences and that of our teenagers, is really helpful in uncertain times, especially if your teenager’s top two languages are physical touch and quality time. As social interaction is limited and strict boundaries are in place right now, it can be quite challenging for some teenagers to carry on as usual. They can’t hug their friends, shake hands and high five, which simply feels like their love line is being cut off.

In comparison, a teenager who relies mostly on words of affirmation to receive and give love, has many open avenues available through social media and non face-to-face contact. Therefore it’s important we pay attention to the different ways each person in our family reacts and responds to the escalating rules and boundaries surrounding the COVID-19 health alert.

If you’re unsure of your teen’s love language, you can explore more here

It’s fair to say teenagers who receive and give love through physical touch and face-to-face interaction are going to be feeling the impact of current world events in their own way and they may need additional support to fill the emotional gaps and better understand their own struggle.
We can help our teens by –

  1.  Having a conversation so they are aware of their primary love language. Knowledge is power which can lead to more self-awareness and regulation.
  2.  Reassuring that this crisis isn’t permanent. This too shall pass.
  3.  Normalising feelings of social disconnect which are usually appeased with hugs, closeness and touch.
  4.  Loving animals, cuddling fur friends can trigger the release feel good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin.
  5.  Using this time to explore and strengthen other love languages.
  6.  Using sensory tools to fill the ‘touch’ gap for now – weighed blankets, fluffy rugs and comforting personal items.

Young people especially operate at their personal best when they feel safe, connected and in the loop of their social networks. Understandably when this changes dramatically, teenagers are faced with a challenge: to focus on what’s missing or focus on what’s is available, possible and do-able. This world event can serve to highlight and enhance teen resilience in ways we would never expect and with this in mind, we can encourage ourselves and our family to explore our love language so to enhance our communication with each other, regulate and take care everyone at this tough and uncertain time.

In these challenging times, tapping into our teenager’s love language can be as simple as:
Words of affirmation – tell them how well they are handing this uncertainty and how you have noticed them keep informed with up-to-date information.
Quality Time – make time to hang out together doing the thing you love. It doesn’t need to be an outing, it’s the togetherness that counts.
Receiving gifts – hot milo made the way you like it. Write in a card. Make their favourite meal.
Acts of service – send a reminder text. Help with homework.
Physical touch – physical connection – hugs, lean in, hair rub, holding hands, wrestle, jumping on each other and having fun.

This is a vital part of a teenager’s self-awareness journey. Understanding our love language is a skill we will never regret learning. It’s not instant or easy, but it paves the way to living a ROC solid life.

Have fun experimenting

R🌟resilience
O🌟optimism
C🌟confidence

This idea is shared with teens in Claire’s book  ROC and RISE. Endorsed by Maggie Dent and loved by teenagers and their families worldwide.