By Alison Bell
Hillsides child and family specialist Lakisha Robinson is an avid reader. In her varied readings, she is always looking for books she can use as a tool to help families.
A few years ago, she happened upon the 1995 title, “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. The book describes five different ways people prefer to have love expressed to them, and how knowing your love language and that of your partner or family member can help you communicate better. The five different love languages are 1) having acts of service done for you, such as when someone cooks you dinner or folds your laundry: 2) spending quality time together; 3) receiving words of affirmation, such as “I love you,” or “I appreciate you;” 4) physical touch, and 5) receiving gifts.
Lakisha not only had fun identifying her love language at the time – acts of service – but she quickly saw how the book could help families improve communication skills and grow closer, especially in times of a crisis. So since 2013, she has incorporated the concepts into her practice.
Lakisha works with wraparound services, which provide a multi-disciplinary team to help a child and the family address a child’s mental health needs. Lakisha’s role is to focus on the child’s mental health while a parent partner supports the parent. Lakisha teams up with the parent partner of a family, and she has the child or teen take an on-line quiz that identifies their love language, while the parent partner does the same for the parent.
Once the child and parent identify their love styles, good things start to happen. “Knowing what love language your child or parent speaks, and using it, makes the other person feel heard and listened to,” she said. “And once you have spoken their language, they’re more willing to hear you out.”
Lakisha has seen this play out over and over again. For example, a parent may discover that a child’s love language is receiving gifts. The next time the parent asks the child to do a chore, they could express it this way: “I would like you to clean your room by Saturday and afterwards, we can get ice cream.” This is bound to be much more effective than a straight demand or let’s say, wooing the child with a compliment, such as “You’re the best room picker-upper” when the child doesn’t care about affirmations.
“When a parent understands a child’s love language, it really cuts down on arguments,” said Lakisha.
The same goes for a child understanding their parents’ languages. You may think that children, especially teens, are so self-absorbed they wouldn’t care what their parents’ love language is. This may often be true, said Lakisha, “however, they are interested in getting their needs met, so they will meet the needs of others in order to make it happen.”
Therefore it will be very handy for a teen to discover that their mom’s love language is spending quality time with a loved one. They could use this information to sidestep a fight while making Mom feel valued by saying something like, “I want to go out with my friends Saturday night, but let’s plan a time on Sunday to hang out together.”
In addition, it’s also helpful for clients to know their own love languages because they can then express how they would like to be treated. For example, a teen whose love language is affirmations could say to a friend or teacher, “I really like it when you acknowledge what I have done right.” Expressing your needs is not only empowering, “it helps you get what you want out of life,” said Lakisha.
Learning to use love languages as a strategic communication tool can take time and practice. However, eventually, it becomes second nature, said Lakisha. In her experience, families who regularly consider each other’s love languages can increase their communication skills by up to 50 percent and the child’s negative behavior and family’s frustration level decrease dramatically.
Do you know your love language? With it being Valentine’s Day, the timing is perfect for all the sweethearts in your life – romantic partners, children, even friends. Just visit https://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/.) The quiz only takes 10 – 15 minutes and will identify your two most prominent love languages.
In the meantime, Lakisha will be scouring the library, looking for more enlightening books and concepts. “I love new and interesting information, and if it can help my clients, even better,” she said.
Lakisha Robinson is a child and family specialist working with Hillsides’ Wraparound program. She is also a Hillsides brand ambassador, a group that spreads awareness of the Hillsides brand throughout the agency. Lakisha graduated from California State University, Fresno with a Master of Science in Child and Family Sciences. Growing up in a small town where one feeds the cows or watches the grass grown for fun prompted Lakisha to develop a love of reading.
Alison Bell is the director of communications and social media at Hillsides.