We’ve had some major upheavals in our family recently, of the moving-to-the-developing-world variety. It’s refreshed my experience of God’s faithfulness, to say the least—and of the resilience of children! But helping my kids to best cope with so many stresses, both significant and minute, I’ve had to spend some time just praying for God-given wisdom on how to shepherd them and love them well right now. So many of us have been there: those times that just drive us to our knees.
One of the more tangible solutions I believe God handed me via the counselor of another ex-pat was a remarkably simple solution. At night, we’ve started “lotion time.” When it’s time to settle down for bed—ideally, mind you—I take a few minutes in a quiet place with each of our kids. At the store, I picked up a bottle of lotion with a soothing scent—our newest is chamomile!—and I take a few minutes to slather their little backs and limbs with the soft cream. Meanwhile, they get to talk about their day or whatever is on their mind. It’s not a teaching time as much as a set aside cuddle-and-chat moment.
This has birthed some beautiful results. To name a few—
- Meaningful touch is one of almost all of my kids’ “Love Languages.” I’m speaking their language at the end of nearly every day. It hits that “words of affirmation” love language, too! (If you don’t know your kids’ or husband’s love languages, I would encourage you to check out www.5lovelanguages.com. This concept has deeply enriched my parenting and my marriage—even my relationships with friends and coworkers.)
- Because of these few minutes at bedtime, I feel like this “deposit” in their “love language bank” generates profits the next day. My daughter may not be quite as clingy, for example, or may not demand to be the center of attention as much. My son volunteers more often to talk about what’s going on even outside of Lotion Time.
- It helps my kids to articulate emotionally, and more importantly, to have a preset time to connect and “download.” These moments communicate value about what each one is going through, and help my husband and I to foresee problem areas sooner.
- In a family with four kids, Lotion Time sets apart a few minutes for each child to feel loved individually. It establishes connecting with my kids as part of our routine.
- The scent of the lotion alone now starts recalling good memories. (I have visions that someday, a cup of chamomile tea will deliver instant calm!)
- Friends of mine who have adopted also enjoy times like this to encourage attachment.
Moment of truth: More often than I’d like to admit, time constraints mean kids take turns to snuggle in my lap for lotion while we have storytime. But even those nights serve as a bridge and a reminder of other rich connections.
In our new country, I witness so often the power of speaking someone’s mother tongue. And this makes me all the more determined to communicate with my kids in ways that come into their world in ways meaningful to them.
The morning following our very first lotion time, my daughter bounced into the kitchen toting our new pink lotion bottle. “Mom, can I tell you about my weekend again?”
Another answer to prayer.
How do you speak YOUR child’s love language?
Janel Breitenstein graduated summa cum laude from John Brown University and began her career with NavPress, where she worked on The Message Bible. After having four children she resumed her professional career (around her momlife) by serving as a writer for FamilyLife. In January of 2012 Janel and her husband, John, packed up their family of six and moved to Uganda to serve with Engineering Ministries International (eMi), an organization that focuses on poverty relief and development, providing structural design and construction management for Christian organizations in the third world. Join us as we all learn first hand, through Janel’s posts, what it’s like to go from suburban America, to answer God’s call in Africa!