July 13, 2024

By Lois Heron

Everyone receives love in one or more ways, according to several books by family counselor Gary Chapman: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of love. These five “love languages” don’t limit how the Lord demonstrates his love to us, but he has created us to receive his love uniquely. No doubt, you can remember moments of consolation where he revealed his love to you profoundly; more than likely, you received that love in your language.

Let’s consider the first of the five love languages to discover how we can love our children as God loves them.

Physical touch

Everyone needs physical contact, but love shouts through touch when our primary love language is physical touch. Some children just light up when they receive physical touch. Two of our grandchildren sit extra close rather than far away; they are quick to cuddle and hug. How can we draw them into receiving God’s love their way?

Consider reading or telling this beautiful account of Jesus and the children while you rock them or sit close to them. A good time would be at bedtime when you can rub their back or stroke their arms as they lie listening to you.

“People were bringing little children to him so that he might touch them, and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it,’ Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them” (Mk 10:14-16).

Some questions to ask your child: What part of that story did you like best? If you were Jesus, how do you think you’d feel when you got to hug the children? If you were one of the children, what would you like best: Jesus holding you, Jesus placing his hands on your head, or hearing Jesus say nice things about you?

A prayer to end with: Jesus, even though we can’t see you, thank you for always holding [child’s name] safe in your arms. Amen.

You may even encourage your physical touch lovers to kiss the crucifixes and Bibles in your home as a way for them to love God in their language. You could purchase a cross-shaped pillow (Etsy) for them to hug as they sleep at night to remind them of Jesus’ love for them.

The teen years can be tumultuous because our children are at loose ends about who they are and their place in the world. These are prime years for them to learn of God’s unfailing love for them, and we are the ones to model that love. One of our teenage grandchildren who “speaks” physical touch visibly softens when she is touched. During the hormone-driven years, how can we draw her into feeling God when we are in a conflict? Tenderly speaking words of understanding coupled with an embrace or a touch on the shoulder may reach her better than any lecture.

Consider this passage from Matthew 23:37 where Jesus said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!”

You could say: I know you are angry, and I understand how frustrated you may feel about [current frustration]. Jesus was angry and frustrated by people’s behaviors, too. He desired to gather them into his arms, and I believe Jesus wants to gather you into his arms and hold you close as you tell him what you are angry about. Would you be willing to let me hug you?

A prayer for these moments: Jesus, I love [child’s name] so very much, but I know you love her even more than I do. Please help us calmly share our feelings about what is happening. Would you draw us into your arms and shelter us from hurting each other with our words? Amen.

The Lord instructed us to train up our children in the way they are destined to go. When they are old, they will not depart from it (adapted from Prv 22:6). When we love our children the way they are created to receive love, we ensure they will receive the Lord’s love more readily as they mature in their faith.

Recommended reading:
“The 5 Love Languages of Children” and/or “The 5 Love Languages of Teens” by Gary Chapman

Lois Heron is a parishioner at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Sioux Falls. She is a retired educator and a writer.