Building Attachment Using the Five Love Languages


In the book The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman’s explains that each of us gives and receives love in different ways. Everyone has a primary love language and it is how you communicate love with others. Dr. Chapman explains that everyone has an "emotional tank" waiting to be filled with love. When a child really feels loved his or her love tank will be full. But when the love tank is empty, the child may have behavior problems. If you are struggling to understand why your child does not feel loved or is having behavior problems it may be that you are speaking the wrong language.

Identifying and expressing affection according to a child’s love language is a great way to build attachment, especially with adopted children. Many adopted children come from situations where the child might not have felt loved and may have developed a distorted love language. These children will have to work harder to feel and communicate love and develop a genuine understanding of love.

The five love languages are: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. It is important to be able to recognize both your own love language and the language of those you love. Dr. Chapman has some helpful love language assessments on his website to help you discover your love language; a child assessment is also available if your child is old enough.

  • Words of affirmation – If your child’s love language is “words of affirmation” then praises, encouragement and compliments mean the most to them. On the other hand, insults can leave your child feeling heart-broken. In this case, actions do not speak louder than words.
  • Quality time – A child’s love language is “quality time” if they feel loved most through spending time with you. Being there for this child is very important and watching TV does not count. This child needs quality, uninterrupted, focused attention with quality conversation. This child may benefit from activities like taking a walk, going to the zoo, museum, park, baking cookies, doing crafts, reading books or playing games together. A good activity for an adopted child might be working on his or her lifebook together. Ignoring this child can be especially hurtful.
  • Receiving gifts – The receiver of gifts thrives on the thought or effort behind the gift. It’s all about showing this child that they are cared for. Forgetting a birthday or recital or remembering, yet giving them a thoughtless gift would be devastating. Gifts do not need to be elaborate; they can be simple, inexpensive or handmade as long as it is heartfelt.
  • Acts of service – It’s pretty easy to provide children with acts of service because as parents we are constantly cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and other things for our kids. This child appreciates the above and beyond. Tell your child that today you are going to do his or her chore for them. Actions truly do speak louder to a child whose love language is “acts of service.” Try not to make extra work for your child or break commitments.
  • Physical touch – In order to show physical touch to your child sit close, hold hands, or hug them often. This one might be tougher to express with some children especially if they have a history of abuse. Make sure to be careful and remember to respect your child’s boundaries and take things slow, looking to your child for cues that they are ready for the next step.

It is harder to determine a younger child’s love language, and at first you may have to try all of the love languages with your child to discover the language he or she responds to the best. Look at how your child expresses love to you to give you clues. Expressing your love to your child using their love language is a great way to show them how much you truly care about them and will help build healthy attachment.

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.