After a very long summer spent copyediting a textbook and assorted teacher manuals, and an even longer autumn with schoolkids of all ages, I am returning to book reviews at last. I have at least 20 books on my shelves that need to be read and discussed. This book for December is my Christmas present to every reader.
Anyone else have teens that are losing their minds over covid, lockdowns, school problems, health problems, and other mental health issues? You need to read The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers. Parents of teens know how hard it is to communicate with them during the onset of puberty, and the introduction to junior high school. What worked for them as children will not work for them in this new phase of life. Well-meaning parents suddenly find themselves in shouting matches, locked out of their teen’s room, and at odds with everything from clothes to homework to dating to family outings. It’s a hard-knock life, and parents can feel like we’re orphans living in the wasteland of our emotions. Our older teens seem to listen to anyone else but us.
If you recognize yourself here, take heart. Dr. Gary Chapman has written many books around his concept of the five love languages, for adults, teens, and children. It may sound corny, but when you read one of his books, the common sense of it all will hit you right in the feels. The five love languages are: Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Gifts. We all need each of these five languages to be spoken to us, but one or two will inevitably mean more. When you speak someone’s love language, it becomes much easier to communicate with each other.
I read Dr. Chapman’s book for adults a couple of years ago, and it completely changed how I relate to my husband. It made our relationship better, and we were already trying to communicate important things to each other. But sometimes you hit a brick wall and it is because you are entrenched in a certain style of thinking that the other person really cannot relate to, even if they try very hard. One example would be trying to buy a fancy, personal gift for someone who doesn’t speak that language…in other words, gifts are not that important to them. A nice gift may be a beautiful gesture, but this person would prefer that you help them make dinner and wash the dishes afterward. That person’s love language is Acts of Service. Conversely, you could mop the kitchen, make dinner, take out the trash, and feed the dog for your wife, but if her love language is quality time, you need to sit down with her and focus only on her, or do an activity with her that shows that time with her is important to you.
Dr. Chapman’s books have sold millions of copies for the simple reason that he describes with clear language some universal truths in communication. His book for parents of teenagers is essential reading. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Everyone needs to read useful tips on how to deal with anger, how to watch out for manipulation, how to find your child’s love language which will change a bit when they are a teen, and how to communicate love effectively in different ways within each love language. Teens can sense insincerity and hypocrisy, so part of being a better communicator is learning to empathize with them even when you have to discipline them. Letting them be part of the decision-making process, and letting them decide some of the punishments for wrongdoing can lessen the fighting. Dr. Chapman also addresses single-parent and blended families. It is so important for parents in those families to walk beside their teens when they are going through a hard time of adjustment.
The best parts of this book are the concrete suggestions at the end of each chapter. Here are a few of them:
Create “traditions” with your teenager, such as eating ice cream at the same store each time or walking together at a particular park.
Offer to give your teenager a shoulder massage when they experience an especially difficult day.
Give your teenager a “song,” either one you make up or a special song you select that reminds you of them.
Talk about a goal your teenager would like to reach and verbally encourage them to explore it.
Help your teenager create flash cards for their upcoming test or quiz. Work together with your teenager until they feel confident with the material.
There is no shame in admitting that we have no idea how to communicate with our teens, especially when they seem to change personalities overnight. However, it would be a terrible shame indeed if we could not find the tools to learn how to reach teens and love them better. Never settle for the status quo. “Never tell me the odds!” (Han Solo) My Christmas wish for you is to be able to purchase or find a copy of The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers, and get to work immediately on your family relationships. I will be working on mine wholeheartedly in the new year. Cheers!