How can we adapt our dialect to speak the love language our teenagers long to hear?
If you’ve read Gary Chapman’s book on Love Languages for Children, have a fair idea of your kids’ love languages and are becoming fluent in them, well done! You are already well on the road to helping them feel loved and not rejected. You might expect to carry on filling your new teenager’s love tank in the same way right into adulthood, but you will probably be in for some surprises! Let’s just say: what worked before may be rejected as they enter adolescence.
The cuddly little boy who loved to sit on your lap and be tickled and kissed may suddenly push you away, especially in front of his friends at the school gate. The challenge when parenting a teen whose main love language is Touch, is to find appropriate times and ways of maintaining physical contact, and asking permission: “How about I give you a back rub or massage your legs after that football match?”. A quick kiss on the cheek or hug, a squeeze of the arm or even a wrestling match with Dad could be appreciated.
Young children love hearing they’re the best at something & we often use superlatives when we encourage them: “You’re the fastest runner! I couldn’t keep up with you!”. Particularly with teens whose love language is Words of Affirmation, praise them for all the practice they put in to win a race or game, or for their problem-solving skills in repairing something that broke. Likewise, congratulate them for the study which led to the result, rather than simply praising them for a high grade. In other words, encourage them towards growth and lifelong habits rather than innate abilities or even exaggerated ones. Even Albert Einstein said he wasn’t more intelligent than others, he just persevered with a problem longer than others!
Raising teenagers can be like riding a roller-coaster, and in their search for identity, they will often change opinions, moods, attitudes, likes and dislikes from one moment to the next. They will probably also suffer from feelings of low self-esteem and insecurity, so it’s worth putting in the effort to learn their new dialect when speaking our teenagers and young adults’ love language, so they remain convinced of our unchanging love for them.