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How to Parent Adopted and Foster Children with the 5 Love Languages

Building Attachments with Love Languages


Mother kissing daughter on the cheek
Daniel Hurst Photography/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
Cover art for the book

"The Five Love Languages" was written by Dr. Chapman.

Cover art courtesy of Northfield Publishing.

I believe in the wisdom behind Dr. Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages. The idea that each of us gives and receives love in different ways, just makes good sense. The use of love languages is a way to build bonds with anyone that you care about, but also a wonderful way to build an attachment with foster or adopted children.

Dr. Chapman feels that each child has an "emotional tank." When a child really feels loved his love tank will be full, but when the love tank is empty, the child will have behaviors. "Much of the misbehavior of children is motivated by the cravings of an empty 'love tank.'" How many of us are parenting children from the foster care system or from an orphanage that are operating on empty love tanks?

Why Does My Child Still Feel Unloved?

If you have ever wondered why your child still feels unloved, even after being in your home for several months or even years, the answer may lie in the fact that you are speaking the wrong language.

What Are the Five Love Languages?

  1. Words of Affirmation
    Use lots of praise and encouraging, kind words if your child's love language is Words of Affirmation. Remember to leave the past behind with your child and not relive every mistake. Post affirmation messages such as, "I am loved" in your child's bathroom or bedroom. Catch your child doing well, look for strengths and notice those strengths. "I noticed that you did your chores today without being reminded. Thanks."

    Showing love with words of affirmation.
  2. Quality Time
    The child who feels love best through Quality Time, enjoys spending time with you. Not just watching a movie together, but focused attention with quality conversation, eye contact and real listening. Take this opportunity to reflect back feelings with statements like, "It sounds like you are disappointed" or "It sounds like you had a really fun day," or "It sounds like you're nervous about visiting your birth mom tomorrow." Many of our children don't have an understanding of their emotions and struggle to identify them. Quality time together may be a wonderful way to reteach feelings and that there is no such thing as a bad feeling. Work on lifebooks together, or camp out in the living room. There are a ton of fun ways to spend quality time with your child.

    Showing love with quality time.
  3. Receiving Gifts
    The old saying, "It's the thought that counts" is the real point behind this love language. Dr. Chapman says, "Gifts are visual symbols of love."

    The great thing about the love language gifts is that according to Dr. Chapman, it's the easiest one to learn, if it's not your primary love language. Gifts can be simple, inexpensive, and even handmade. It's about telling the receiver that they were remembered, which means loved to those who speak this love language. Don't forget the gift of self, especially in times of crisis.

    Showing love with receiving gifts.
  4. Acts of Service
    When it comes to children, this love language can be pretty simple. As parents we are usually providing acts of service to our children, by making meals, driving them to appointments, and doing laundry. If you would like to do more for your child, announce that you will be doing their chore today saying, "Because I love you, I will do the dishes tonight."

    Showing love with acts of service.
  5. Physical Touch
    Dr. Chapman included the following bit of information, "Numerous research projects in the area of child development have made that conclusion: Babies who are held, hugged, and kissed develop a healthier emotional life than those who are left for long periods of time without physical contact."

    As foster parents we know that children who are not loved and held may develop attachment issues. This is not news to us. So, fulfill the physical touch love language for a child in your care by sitting close to them while watching television. Hold hands while taking a walk. Give a quick side hug and tell them that you love them. Physical Touch may be a bit rougher to express with some children, especially those who have suffered sexual abuse. So, remember boundaries and make smart choices for your welfare as well as the child's.

    Showing love with physical touch.

How We Receive Love Best Is Also How We Are Hurt the Easiest

One important point that Dr. Chapman shared in his book is that the way we feel love best is also the way we can be hurt the easiest. "A slap in the face is detrimental to any child, but it is devastating to a child whose primary love language is touch."

The same is true for other love languages. A father who works too much or ignores his a child to work on a computer, would be particularly painful to a child whose love language is Quality Time. Hurtful, negative words full of criticism would be especially damaging to a child whose love language is Words of Affirmation.

Discovering Your Child's Love Language

When they are little, don't be afraid to try all of the love languages on your child. As they grow, the easiest way to determine your child's love language is to watch and see how they express love to you. Does your child ask for you to come into their room to show you a project - Quality Time. Does your child often hug and kiss you - Physical Touch. Does your child create gifts and spend time wrapping them - Receiving Gifts. Does your child ask to help you with projects - Acts of Service. Does your child compliment you or tell you that you did a great job with dinner - Words of Affirmation. Remember, it's easier for us to offer love to others through the love language that we like to receive love.

If your children are old enough, there is also a test that was formatted specifically for children that I located online by a Christian group, Growing Families International.

Remember each child is different and has their own love language. It may be a good idea to explain the concept of love languages to your children and share what your love language is too. Think how much stronger your family will be when you are all speaking each other's love language.

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