We understand our world and each other in so many ways. At Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, that means finding the set of constructs that resonate for each particular child. Each of these precious children is unique, with their own experiences, traumas, and defense mechanisms. In short, they are like all the rest of us as far as how we take in information. There is no "one size fits all" way to communicate.
Communicating effectively is even more critical now that we are spending so much time with each other because of COVID-19.
That is why we wrap each of our children in an array of healing methods. Sometimes the horses bring the first connection, sometimes school, sometimes occupational therapy, talk therapy, or the care of a particular staff person. For many, the first connection is Spiritual Life.
That was the case for one young girl a few weeks ago, and it makes my heart swell to see how the parts worked together to move her along her path to healing.
"The Five Love Languages," written by Gary Chapman, was first published in 1992. Although originally directed at our primary romantic relationships, over the years it has become a useful way to understand how any two people can express and experience love in a relationship.
For several years, our Spiritual Life Team has been teaching children at the Ranch about these "languages." Whether a child's love language is Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, or Physical Touch, when they and their families learn each other's "language," they are better able to develop trust, communication, and love. For example, a child who has been sexually abused may not respond to a loving mother's hugs. Although it is certainly Mom's intent to express love, they are unable to feel the love because Physical Tough is not their love language. If the child's love language is Quality Time, baking cookies together may mean much more than a hug.
In Spiritual Life Group, Lisa* learned about the Love Languages. Later in the week, she and her mom met for a family therapy session with Lisa's mental health counselor. After their time together, the counselor shared this with the Spiritual Life folks.
"In family treatment yesterday, I educated Lisa's mom on the five love languages, Lisa already knew her love language from Spiritual Life Group, so they were able to process through Lisa feeling unloved BECAUSE she wasn't receiving her primary love language. THANK YOU for doing that with the kiddos! It was really helpful."
For this child, "The Five Love Languages" opened the door to a healing conversation with her mom. For the next child, it will be another tool or technique. At the Ranch, we are present for each child, each time. With God's help, we help them find their best selves.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
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