From the Extension: Sending messages of love

FRANKLIN LIVING JANUARY-FEBRUARY

Every child – and adult – needs to be reminded often that people love and value him or her. Often we get busy and forget to send messages of love to our children – or we send messages poorly, or we send only angry messages.

Sometimes we send a message of love, but the child does not receive it. It is as though we are speaking different languages. There are at least three “languages” of love: showing, telling and touching. Consider examples of each:

SHOWING: A child who likes show-me messages of love might want you to do things for her. She might want you to wash the dishes for her, buy her a gift, take time with her, take her for ice cream or repair her bike.

TELLING: A tell-me child wants to hear words like, “I love you.” “You’re important to me.” “I love to be with you.”

TOUCHING: A touch-me child might want a parent to hug him, rock him, cuddle him or hold his hand.

That all seems easy enough. Sometimes, however, the message of love does not get through because we do not speak the child’s “language.” For example, if I send a message of love to my daughter by telling her that I love her, but she wants me to take time to fix her bike, she might not get a message of love. She might feel I do not really care. To make it more complicated, if you have more than one child, each child probably has a different way of getting messages of love.

How can you effectively send a message of love to a child?

One way is to notice what your child asks for. Does he want time, attention, a listening ear, materials for a hobby, outings? Another way is to notice how the child sends messages of love to you and others. Does she tell you, hug you, write you notes, clean up the house? Observing these things can help you know how to be more effective at sending messages to a given child.

  You can learn to send the right messages of love to your children. Think of each of your children and consider what method would be effective in sending messages of love.

Schedule special time with each child. It could be a “date” or even a “chore,” as children often enjoy even jobs that seem like “work” if they provide a special time to be with the parent. For example, a child might feel important if allowed to go grocery shopping with a parent, especially if the child is allowed to help.

At least once every day we should find some way of sending a message of love to each child. That might include taking a few minutes in the evening to talk with a child about her day; inviting your son to help you cook dinner; reading a story to your daughter. Every day the message of love should get through to each child.

One additional note: Be sure to send clear messages, and don’t let anger obscure your messages of love. In any family there are times of conflict. It is not reasonable to believe there can be no differences, arguments or fights at home. By learning to control the problems, however, we can be sure the message of love is still getting through.

Children want to know that they are loved and valued by their parents. We can be effective at sending messages of love if we learn their “language,” send messages regularly, schedule special time with them, and avoid letting anger block our message.

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Katernia Cole Coffey is director of the Franklin County Cooperative Extension. To reach the Extension call 256-332-8880.

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