Last week I sat on the couch next to my older son as we went through the Love Languages Personality Profile for Teens in Jolene Philo and Dr. Gary Chapman’s new book, Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families: The 5 Love Languages® for Parents Raising Children with Disabilities (referral link). Some of his answers surprised me:
“Do you like to go on trips with us, or do you like it when we take you and your friends to the movie?”
”Um, I like to go on trips with you.” (It was surprising because we spend a lot of time on trips asking him to take his earbuds out! Ha!)
“Do you like it when we give you cool things for your birthday or when we reassure you when you mess up?”
”Oh, for sure reassure me when I mess up.” (Also surprising because he has a pretty long list of things he’d love to get for his birthday!)
After tallying up all the answers, one love language rose to the top—words of affirmation.
Why is it so important for us to speak our typical children’s love languages? Because learning how our typical children best receive love helps us make the most of our time with them.
Let’s be honest: the typical children in our families don’t get the same attention and time as our children with disabilities do. And even if the time is more equal, it may not feel that way to our children. My older sister has Down syndrome, and even as a forty year old there are times we’re together as a family and my needs take a back seat to her needs. That’s expected! But when we’re young, it doesn’t always feel fair.
That’s why I want to make the most of the time I have with my typical son as he grows and matures. Are there times when his needs get put on the back burner? For sure. My younger son has level 3 autism and requires a lot of attention and care. But I don’t want David to think he’s less important to me just because his needs aren’t as urgent.
Thanks to the conversations sparked by Jolene and Dr. Chapman’s book, I’m able to spend the time David and I do have together focusing on the ways he most feels loved. I remember to tell him how much I love him and not just rely on the fact that he has clean clothes to wear every day and his favorite snack is in the fridge when he gets home from school as good enough.
Do you know the love language of the typical children at your house?
Sandra Peoples is a special-needs mom and sibling. She and her family live outside of Houston, TX where she serves her church as director of the special-needs ministry. She’s the author of Unexpected Blessings: The Joys and Possibilities of Life in a Special-Needs Family. You can connect with her at sandrapeoples.com