Your child may be begging for a Purple Sky mermaid tail or a scarab robot, but once the tissue paper is crumpled, you know these aren’t the things that will change their lives or really make them feel your love.
So how do you find that special gift for your child that actually means something?
If you know your child’s love language, you can use it to uncover the perfect gift. Love languages are how people express or experience love, according to family therapist Gary Chapman, bestselling author The Five Love Languages: the Secret to Love that Lasts. Here’s how he defines them:
Words of affection: Kind words, particularly praise, mean love to those who “speak” this language. Saying “I love you” (and why) matters.
Acts of service: Making life easier and being helpful represents love.
Physical touch: These people need human contact: kisses, hugs and handholding communicate love.
Receiving gifts: It seems obvious, but this is really about the thought and effort behind the gift. The gift says I’m thinking of you, I know you, and I appreciate you.
Quality time: Time and undivided attention let this person know they’re loved.
Adults can make the effort to speak the language of others, but children tend to give from their own love language. (The classic example is a toddler who lovingly offers a beloved parent a delicious mud pie as a special gift.) Not sure what love language your child speaks? You can take a short test together to determine your primary and secondary love language.
Gifts by language
Here’s how your child’s love language can inspire your holiday giving:
Words of affection — A note from mom or dad (or both) telling them all the things that make them wonderful could be something your kids choose to keep forever. Hint: Go deep. Talk about your daughter’s adventurous spirit that makes her explore caves, not just her cute smile. You might also consider a personalized gift. In addition to his name on a soccer ball for your sun, add those special words of love as well. Finally consider recording a special message — maybe sent to their new phone!
Acts of service — Create a coupon book for your child who sees love in acts of service. The coupon book could include doing those special things that make them feel loved whenever they need it: that special mac and cheese meal, the break from a dreaded chore, a special cup of tea in bed.
Physical touch — How do you wrap up a hug and kiss? Along with the hug or kiss, a massage, manicure or pedicure might thrill a teen, or a special dance night might be just the thing for your rambunctious little one. Give a young child a super huggable stuffed animal and tell them it is filled with unlimited hugs from you for them. For the older kid, you could give them a special throw blanket for watching TV together.
Receiving gifts — This should be easy. But if you really want to speak their language, remember that the gift is about knowing them and showing how much you care for who they are. Don’t get them something to change them, like an organizer, unless that’s their goal. This isn’t the time for the useful gift of socks, unless you knit them yourself. More than anything, this is a symbolic gift of your love. It might remind them of a special time you shared together. It might cost nothing — like an old necklace from your mother — but mean the world.
Another little thing about giving this person a gift: They usually appreciate the wrapping, so make it pretty.
Quality time: Where does your child like to go? Take her there. Special time with just you and you alone, and your child is going to feel the love. It’s okay also to take him somewhere new that’s special to you. This is the child who will appreciate that you want to share that with him.
A little warning: They’re still kids. They may not react with the same amount of joy as they will to a fancy toy. But the toy will be forgotten. Your gift has a chance of strengthening their spiritual and psychological core and live on in their memories.