For some parents, showing their child love in a way that he understands can be a real challenge. This is often because our own upbringing tends to dictate how we are comfortable expressing love to our children.

For example, parents who grew up in homes with a lack of physical affection are often uncomfortable showing love through physical affection to their own children. This doesn’t mean these parents love their child less than a parent who does show physical affection. It simply means in their childhood, physical affection wasn’t used regularly as an expression of love.

If you observe your child closely enough, you’ll notice that there are times when he feels most loved. These are the times when he seems to be confidently connected to the love you have for him. For some children this may be during a hug, for others it may be when he hears the words “I love you.”  For example, when my own mother tells me “I love you” I truly feel connected to her love for me. When she tries to hug me or kiss me, it’s nice, but I don’t feel that same connection. That’s because I feel most loved when I hear her tell me she loves me because those words are important for me to hear. (My love language is definitely Words of Affirmation. If you have never read The 5 Love Languages of Children by Dr. Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell, it’s very insightful and helpful).

If you’re struggling with communicating your love to your child in a way he understands, try expressing your love in these ways.

Show affection

Whether a pat on the back, holding hands while reading a story, or a long embrace, some children feel most loved when they are shown affection. Try expressing your love to your child through physical touch.

Say “I love you”

The spoken word is powerful. Be sure to tell your child you love him regularly. For some children, even adult children like me, hearing those words are so important. Speaking positive things to your child like “What a great job putting your shoes on!” and “I’m so proud of you! You did it!” are also important to a child who feels loved most through hearing words of affirmation.

Spend time together

Spending quality time with your child is a wonderful way to express your love. Whether it be rocking your baby or playing a game with your toddler, spending time together doing something that you both enjoy is a powerful way to express your love.

Give a gift

Has anyone ever given you a small gift and you’ve thought “Wow that was so kind of her to think of me? She must really care about me.” For children who feel most loved when they receive something from their parents, it’s the same way. It’s not about the gift, but about what’s behind the gift.  Growing up my mom would always get us “prizes.” Actually, to this day she still regularly says to me “I got you a prize” when she’s picked up a gift for me. Whether it was a sticker book from the dollar store or a freshly baked cookie, giving me something was her way of showing me she was thinking of me and that I was loved.

As parents, we should strive to show our children love in all these ways regularly. When we do, we’ll notice that one way seems to speak loudest to our child. When we discover how we best communicate love to our child, we can then take advantage of communicating our love in a way he’s guaranteed to understand.