Welcome back to the series about how children feel loved. Today we move away from gift giving and into acts of service. Have you ever felt loved when someone went out of their way to pick you up, go on an errand for you, or clean up something they didn’t need to? Well you might be like many people who learned to love from acts of service when they were a child. Children express this differently depending on their age. You might be able to spot it more easily when they’re young and they are excited you built something for them, helped with a school project, or went out of your way for them. Teenagers probably will feel loved by acts of service that give them trust and a bit more autonomy, or if they ask for your help.
The goal of acts of service is to teach your children how they can be loving in serving others. If you serve them or other begrudgingly, children or loved ones will feel like their needs are burdensome and withdraw or become too independent or pleasing. Teaching your children the importance of service can also been seen in volunteer work. Whether that’s an hour cleaning, serving soup, giving time to the sick or needy, or advocating on other’s behalf. If you can include your family in service you can teach them for a lifetime lessons of empathy, humility, and loving sacrifice. They will need those lessons when they are adults and have sick spouses, infant children, or their own community needs.
When children ask for help getting something done, they’re not really caring about the task but asking to feel loved. If you want to know if your child’s love language is acts of service, ask them “how do you feel most loved by me?” It’s a powerful question, but worth the vulnerability to get an essential answer. I hope this helps, and as always reach out if you need support.
Alan Godfrey is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #102925.