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What Love Language Does Your Child Speak?

Mother And Daughter Together At Home


February is known to be the month where we celebrate love. But Valentine’s day doesn’t just have to center on romantic love. Instead, we can focus on all the ways we can make the people we care about feel loved.

Dr. Gary Chapman is known for his book The 5 Love Languages where people can learn how to show affection so that it is received. His article below, also found here, talks about each of the languages and helps parents figure out which language their teen speaks.

The 5 Love Languages

On a 0-to-10 scale, how much do your parents love you?” That was the question posed to 13-year-old Mark. Without batting an eye, he answered, “Ten.”

When asked how he knew they loved him that much, he said, “By the way they treat me. Dad is always bumping me when he walks by, and we wrestle on the floor, and Mom’s always hugging and kissing me.” Mark feels loved by his parents’ warm, caring touches, revealing that his primary love language is physical touch.

After more than 20 years of marriage and family counseling, I am convinced there are only five basic languages of love. Of these five, each teen has a primary love language, one that speaks more loudly and deeply to him or her. If a parent fails to speak this language adequately, the teen will not feel loved, regardless of other expressions of love. (View Dr. Chapman’s free quiz at Love Languages and Your Teen.)

Visualize that inside every teen is an emotional love tank. When the teen’s love tank is full — that is, she genuinely feels loved by her parents — the teen can make her way through adolescence with minimal trauma. But when the teen’s love tank is empty, she will grapple with many internal struggles and will typically look for love in all the wrong places. Therefore, discerning your teen’s love language is essential.

Here is a brief description of each of the five love languages.

Physical touch

Hugs, kisses and tender touches are given in abundance when a child is young. However, some parents feel more awkward about touching as their child enters adolescence. If a teen’s primary love language is physical touch, those appropriate touches are no less important during the teen years than they were in the earlier years.

Words of affirmation

Using words to encourage and affirm is at the heart of this language. When a toddler is learning to walk, we stand just two feet away and say, “That’s right! Come on; you can do it.” And when that toddler falls, we encourage her to get up and try again. Why do we forget the power of affirming words when kids become teens?

When 14-year-old Melissa broke her arm, words of affirmation gave her the assurance she needed. “I know that my parents love me because while I was having such a hard time keeping up with my school work, they encouraged me. They said they were proud that I was trying so hard.”

Quality time

This love language involves giving your teen undivided attention. For some teens, regardless of what you’re doing together, nothing is more important than when a parent gives focused attention.

Mindy’s primary love language is quality time, and at 17 she still feels secure in her parents’ love. “They are always there for me,” Mindy says. “I can discuss anything with them. I know they will be understanding and try to help me make wise decisions. I enjoy doing things with them, and I am going to miss them when I go to college.”

Giving and receiving gifts

Some parents speak this language almost exclusively and are often shocked to find that their teen does not feel loved. Although gift giving is not the love language of all teens, gifts speak loudly for many.

When asked how she knew her parents loved her, Michelle, 15, pointed to her blouse, skirt and shoes. She said, “Everything I have, they gave me. In my mind, that’s love. Because they have given me far more than I need, I share things with my friends.”

Michelle not only feels loved from receiving gifts, but she also expresses love to others by giving gifts.

Acts of Service

Parents are continually doing actions designed to assist their kids, but if these acts of service are to be expressions of love, they must be done with a positive, caring attitude.

Brady, 13, lives with his mother and brother. It’s apparent that Brady’s primary love language is acts of service when he says, “I know my mom loves me because she sews the buttons on my shirt when they fall off and she also helps me with my homework. She works hard so we can have food and clothes.”

Few things are more important for parents than discovering and speaking their teen’s primary love language. The teen needs to receive love in all five languages, but focusing on the primary love language will fill the love tank much faster and more effectively. Consider your teen’s love language. If his language is not obvious, my online assessment quiz may help you. To find this free quiz, search “Love Languages and Your Teen” on

We love God because He first loved us. The same principle is true in human relationships. Our children are far more likely to love us, and others, if we have effectively communicated love to them.

If you feel like your relationship with your teen or young adult needs help, or that they are seeking affection in unhealthy ways, contact Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.

Working with Millennials

Who is part of the millennial generation? What makes them successful – or unsuccessful? Watch this captivating video that helps us understand this highly talked about generation:

If you have a millennial in your life who is struggling, call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss treatment options for their situation.

Parenting Resolution: Let Your Kids Get Bored


Some New Year’s resolutions are often fairly standard – eat healthier, exercise more and spend more time with loved ones. But in 2017 we challenge you to resolve to let your kids be bored. Yes, bored! In an article written by Teresa Belton (published by the World Economic Forum in September of 2016), she helps parents understand that boredom is actually excellent for kids and necessary for their healthy development. So sit back, relax and read about how you aren’t going to feel guilty when you hear the words, “I’m bored!” from your kids.

Being bored is good for children – and adults. This is why:

From books, arts and sports classes to iPads and television, many parents do everything in their power to entertain and educate their children. But what would happen if children were just left to be bored from time to time? How would it affect their development?

I began to think about boredom and children when I was researching the influence of television on children’s storytelling in the 1990s. Surprised at the lack of imagination in many of the hundreds of stories I read by ten to 12 year-old children in five different Norfolk schools, I wondered if this might partly be an effect of TV viewing. Findings of earlier research had revealed that television does indeed reduce children’s imaginative capacities.

For instance, a large scale study carried out in Canada in the 1980s as television was gradually being extended across the country, compared children in three communities – one which had four TV channels, one with one channel and one with none. The researchers studied these communities on two occasions, just before one of the towns obtained television for the first time, and again two years later. The children in the no-TV town scored significantly higher than the others on divergent thinking skills, a measure of imaginativeness. This was until they, too, got TV – when their skills dropped to the same level as that of the other children.

The apparent stifling effect of watching TV on imagination is a concern, as imagination is important. Not only does it enrich personal experience, it is also necessary for empathy – imagining ourselves in someone else’s shoes – and is indispensable in creating change. The significance of boredom here is that children (indeed adults too) often fall back on television or – these days – a digital device, to keep boredom at bay.

Some years after my study, I began to notice certain creative professionals mentioning how important boredom was to their creativity, both in childhood and now. I interviewed some of them. One was writer and actress Meera Syal. She related how she had occupied school holidays staring out of the window at the rural landscape, and doing various things outside her “usual sphere”, like learning to bake cakes with the old lady next door. Boredom also made her write a diary, and it is to this that she attributes her writing career. “It’s very freeing, being creative for no other reason than that you freewheel and fill time,” she said.

Similarly, well-known neuroscientist Susan Greenfield said she had little to do as a child and spent much time drawing and writing stories. These became the precursors of her later work, the scientific study of human behavior. She still chooses paper and pen over a laptop on a plane, and looks forward with relish to these constrained times.

Sporting, musical and other organized activities can certainly benefit a child’s physical, cognitive, cultural and social development. But children also need time to themselves – to switch off from the bombardment of the outside world, to daydream, pursue their own thoughts and occupations, and discover personal interests and gifts.

We don’t have to have a particular creative talent or intellectual bent to benefit from boredom. Just letting the mind wander from time to time is important, it seems, for everybody’s mental wellbeing and functioning. A study has even shown that, if we engage in some low-key, undemanding activity at the same time, the wandering mind is more likely to come up with imaginative ideas and solutions to problems. So it’s good for children to be helped to learn to enjoy just pottering – and not to grow up with the expectation that they should be constantly on the go or entertained.

How to handle a bored child

Parents often feel guilty if children complain of boredom. But it’s actually more constructive to see boredom as an opportunity rather than a deficit. Parents do have a role, but rushing in with ready-made solutions is not helpful. Rather, children need the adults around them to understand that creating their own pastimes requires space, time and the possibility of making a mess (within limits – and to be cleaned up afterwards by the children themselves).

They will need some materials too, but these need not be sophisticated – simple things are often more versatile. We’ve all heard of the toddler ignoring the expensive present and playing with the box it came in instead. For older children, a magnifying glass, some planks of wood, a basket of wool, and so on, might be the start of many happily occupied hours.

But to get the most benefit from times of potential boredom, indeed from life in general, children also need inner resources as well as material ones. Qualities such as curiosity, perseverance, playfulness, interest and confidence allow them to explore, create and develop powers of inventiveness, observation and concentration. These also help them to learn not to be deterred if something doesn’t work the first time, and try again. By encouraging the development of such capacities, parents offer children something of lifelong value.

If a child has run out of ideas, giving them some kind of challenge can prompt them to continue to amuse themselves imaginatively. This could range from asking them to find out what kind of food their toy dinosaurs enjoy in the garden to going off and creating a picture story with some friends and a digital camera.

Most parents would agree that they want to raise self-reliant individuals who can take initiatives and think for themselves. But filling a child’s time for them teaches nothing but dependence on external stimulus, whether material possessions or entertainment. Providing nurturing conditions and trusting children’s natural inclination to engage their minds is far more likely to produce independent, competent children, full of ideas.

In fact, there’s a lesson here for all of us. Switching off, doing nothing and letting the mind wander can be great for adults too – we should all try to do more of it.

As you engage in this new year we encourage you to allow your children (and yourself!) to be bored. If your child – either teen or young adult – has a challenging time using down time in a destructive way call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss treatment options for their situation.

New Years Resolutions for Better Mental Health

New Life

The New Year is almost here! It’s a time for new beginnings, leaving bad habits behind and setting goals. At times people hesitate to set resolutions because they have a hard time keeping them, or feel like they are setting themselves up for failure. This year, we challenge you to set some resolutions that improve your wellbeing and mental health – simple things that will bring you joy and peace of mind.

Here are a few of our favorite suggestions from Metro News.

  1. Meditate: Try the Headspace app to get started. You might feel a bit silly at first, but meditation really can work wonders – even if it’s just to give you a few minutes of true calm.
  2. Schedule in some quality alone time: Spend some time alone doing something that makes you genuinely happy and relaxed – whatever that may be. Do it at least once a week, and make sure to actually schedule it in your planner with a set time and day. Why? So you’ll actually commit to some me time.
  3. Write down something good that happened: It can be something tiny, like ‘excellent doughnut at lunchtime’ or big, like ‘got offered my dream job’. Putting a positive slant on your day will help you feel more positive overall. Plus, at the end of the year you get to look back at 365 days of great things that have happened.
  4. Open up to the people you care about: They need to know what’s going on so they can step in and help when necessary. Plus, talking about whatever you’re going through helps you deal with it. And on that note, make sure you spend time with those people. Loneliness helps no one. Try to stay social and get out of your own head for a bit. Surround yourself with kind, supportive people.
  5. Learn self-help techniques for times of stress: There is no substitute for professional help, but it’s incredibly helpful to have some techniques that work for you when you’re having a challenging time.
  6. Get more sleep: There is not a person in the world who’s their best self on too little sleep. Try getting into bed 10 minutes earlier each night for a few weeks. Eventually you’ll be getting an extra hour of sleep and feeling the benefits.
  7. Stop the comparisons: As Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’ And it’s true. Make a conscious effort to stop comparing yourself to others. You’re doing your thing, they’re doing theirs. Every time you find yourself spotting the difference, pause, stop, and tell yourself one cool thing about what they’re doing that inspires you, and one cool thing that you’re doing.  It’ll help you get into the mindset of ‘hey, we can both be amazing!’
  8. Do something physical at least once a week: Yes, it can feel impossible to get out of bed when you’re in a serious down period (and if you’ve reached that point, we recommend talking to a professional). But for usual day-to-day happiness, a little bit of exercise is magical. All those fit people weren’t lying about the power of endorphins – they’ll flood your system and make you feel more optimistic.
  9. Try something new: Don’t get too stuck in routines. Make 2017 the year you try at least one thing that scares (and excites) you a little bit, whether it’s finally doing that pottery class or just speaking up in meetings. You’ll feel really accomplished, and might find you actually like that thing that terrified you last year.
  10. Get help if you need it: Maybe it’s medication, maybe it’s therapy, maybe it’s just talking to your family and telling them you need some support. Whatever it is you need, you don’t need to feel embarrassed or ashamed about asking for it. It’s okay. You deserve to feel good, and happy, and fulfilled. If you need a little help doing that, commit to getting it. It might be scary at first, but the benefits are endless.

We wish you a happy and healthy New Year! If you feel like your teen or young adult child needs help starting the New Year off in a healthy place, call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss treatment options that will work for them.

Beating the Holiday Blues


With the holidays in full swing many people find themselves battling depression and anxiety – sometimes referred to as the Holiday Blues. While everyone is trying to “be merry” for the holidays, it can become overwhelming to participate in the festivities while getting long to-do lists finished. On top of that, the days are shorter and holiday spending can increase financial burdens.

Before letting the holidays get you in a slump try these five tips, from Sierra Tucson:

  1. Take a Stroll – It’s no secret that walking is good for your health, but taking a 10-minute stroll three times a day is therapeutic too. Just a few brief doses of sunlight throughout the day can lift your mood dramatically, especially during the winter months.
  2. Play with a Furry Friend – Whether you own a pet, borrow a friend’s pet, or volunteer at a local animal shelter, enjoying a few minutes of pet-friendly playtime each day can help. These lovable companions serve as great reminders to stay in the moment.
  3. Book a Therapeutic Massage  There can be great power in using integrative treatment for recovery from mental health conditions. Studies have shown that human touch not only eases aches and pains, but helps to relieve depression and anxiety as well. So treat yourself to a massage!
  4. Schedule a Coffee Date – Surround yourself with positive people, places, and things. Regular social contact with loved ones is a surefire way to boost one’s mood and share a few laughs.
  5. Strive for Balance – Often the holidays are jam-packed with parties and obligations. Staying balanced with one’s time is essential when dealing with mental health challenges. Resting the body is an excellent way to practice self-love.

TAG Counseling wishes you Happy Holidays! We encourage you to do everything you can to stay positive and balanced this holiday season. If your teen or young adult child is having a hard time with the holiday season, call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss the best treatment options available.