By Christina Katz

If love is a language, then teach your family members to become conversant. According to Gary D. Chapman in his book, The Five Love Languages, people experience love in five ways. We experience love through words of affirmation, by spending quality time together, by receiving gifts, by performing acts of service, or through physical touch. According to Chapman, every person on earth has a primary “language of love.”

Which acts of love make you feel seen, appreciated and cherished? What about your spouse and kids? We can all learn to communicate what we like and need to our family members so everyone can get their needs met and no one has to end up feeling misunderstood or neglected. Here are seven ways to increase family affection at home:

Set a loving example
If you want your kids to have self-esteem so they can live the best lives possible, you have to teach them to love themselves first and foremost. Unfortunately, if parents can’t model this, the children are not likely to learn it, at least not from them. Love yourself and care for yourself so you can best love and care for others.

Personalize “I love you”
for each family member Childhood nicknames can create affectionate moments in later years. If calling your child by a nickname will offend, even in private, then express the sentiment in whatever way the recipient will hear you best. Forget how you want to say it and opt for what will garner the most positive response from your child.

Love life and it will love your family back
Your attitude toward life is either going to inspire or haunt your family. You may think you are being realistic, but if you constantly chorus that “life isn’t fair,” that “money doesn’t grow on trees,” and “oh well, it could have been worse,” your kids are going to grow up expecting life to let them down. Sure, life can be a bumpy ride sometimes, but never forget that it’s unconditional love and positive encouragement from the people we love most that makes the challenges more bearable.

Spend quality time with each person in the family Love should never be a competition. My daughter loves to spend daddy-daughter time with my husband, and I’m glad she does. They have the things they like to do together, like watching slapstick comedy shows on TV or going out to their favorite breakfast place. And my daughter and I have our favorite things to do, like watching chick flicks or going shopping. Be sure to carve out quality time with every family member, including your spouse.

Teach kids to be caring to others
Teach kids how to make thoughtful gestures that make the most of their talents. Or get them out of the house and involved in assisting a good cause. If family members have trouble expressing care to each other, maybe they will have an easier time expressing affection and concern outside the family.

Hug your family members at every age
It has been scientifically proven that hugging lowers blood pressure and reduces stress, so what more of an excuse do you need? If your older kids try to brush you off, tell them you have to hug them—it’s for their good health.

Squeeze in small gestures of love
Find little ways to express physical touch, especially for those family members who try to shirk it. Squeeze a shoulder, pat a knee, rumple some hair, kiss your hand and then pat their cheek. And mix it up a little. It’s when affection becomes rote that teens roll their eyes at you and groan. So, get creative and say it like you mean it.
When it comes to love and affection, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try consistently, you will find there are plenty of opportunities in any given day to acknowledge and appreciate the most important people in your life.

Picture books about love and affection
• Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBranty, illustrated by Anita Jeram
• Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
• Hug by Jez Alborough
• Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw
• On The Night You Were Born 
by Nancy Tillman

Christina Katz is an author and freelance journalist. She loves her family, her pets, the world, and what she does for a living. Her latest book is Permission Granted, 45 Reasons To Micro-publish.



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