Are you an aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, or parent of a missionary kid? This Valentine’s Day (or any day!) show your missionary kids some love in their love language.
4 Minute Read
By Harmony Niphakis
Words of Affirmation
Do you know a missionary kid (MK) who stands a little taller when you speak an encouraging word? Try using one or more of these prompts below to show your MK some love through verbal affirmation.
“You have great stories! Tell me more!”
“I can see how God has gifted you in __________.”
“It is so cool that you know so much about __________.”
If your MK is going through difficult changes, you can say,
“Adjusting to these changes is hard. I am proud of you for how well you have adjusted by ________.”
Use this time to share specific examples of how your MK has shown strength, courage, and wisdom, despite the challenges.
While it is better to receive hugs or pats on the back in person, get creative in helping your snuggly MKs feel loved from far away. These tips are primarily for close family members.
Send your MK a coupon for a substitute hug. They can give this coupon to their mom or dad who will give them a big hug on your behalf. It’s not the same as the real thing, but the thought counts and your MK will receive the physical affection they need.
Provide some fun by making a series of coupons for MKs to use with their parents. Each day, the MK can pick one of their coupons, and their parents MUST offer the item on that coupon, no matter what! Think fist bumps, arm wrestle, head pat, high five, double high five, foot massage, 1-minute bear hug, tiny hug, Eskimo kiss, piggy back ride, etc.
Give your MK a soft stuffed animal or blanket that they can cuddle with.
Resist excessive physical affection. Physical affection may not be the love language of the MK you know. Showing your MK physical affection may actually mean showing LESS physical affection. Maybe Grandpa gives a high five instead of a bear hug, or Auntie holds back on the kisses.
Note: Different countries have different norms for physical affection that your MK may be more familiar with. They may be more adapted to a culture that prizes personal space, or one that doesn’t recognize it at all!
It’s important to respect children’s and their parents’ boundaries on physical affection. Parents, start a conversation with your MK about their comfort levels in regards to touch. Help communicate these boundaries with your extended family and friends.
MKs frequently see their parents give their time sacrificially in ministry. These MKs may feel shy or selfish to ask for some one-on-one time. Consider some of these ideas to help your MK feel loved through quality time. Always remember to ask permission from parents before meeting with a minor.
Give your MK the gift of quality time with their own family. Send the family a gift card to a favorite restaurant, an amusement park, or an experience to enjoy together.
If you are far away, schedule a “date” with your MK on a video call. You can plan activities for the call based on their interest. If they love to talk, have questions prepared so they can easily share about themselves. If they love games, think of some games you can play over the video call, like bingo, charades, or mad libs.
Make a point to go on a “date” in real life whenever your MK comes to your area. Chick-Fil-A seems to be a very popular destination among American MKs.
Receiving a package in the mail will brighten any MK’s day. But what should you put in the package? Or what do you get that distant MK when they come home for Christmas?
Here is a list to get you started:
A photo album of places and people that your MK loves
A cool map to track where your MK has been and where they would like to go
Local food and candies that the MK may not be able to get elsewhere. Wonka candy, peanut butter, and Pop Tarts have proven to be quite popular.
A fun passport cover
A personalized wallet with meaningful words or scripture engraved
Acts of Service
When you help make parents more emotionally available for their children, you bless the kids BIG time.
Take stress off the family by helping them move. For families returning from the field, try to get most of the kids’ rooms set up before they arrive. This will make the arrival much easier for the kids.
Offer to do something fun with the kids when parents need to meet with partners or attend prayer meetings. Kids will be relieved to avoid one of many uncomfortable evenings twiddling their thumbs as Mom and Dad share their ministry presentation for the millionth time.
If a missionary family has been traveling a lot, offer to cook them a meal to ease their busy schedule.
Parents, show your MKs some love by making one of their favorite meals or surprising them by doing one of their chores for them.
What is your MK’s Love Language?
What are ways that you have been able to love your MKs well? What other ideas do you have for caring for missionary kids?
If you are the parent of a missionary kid, find out your child’s love language. Take the free quiz for kids at The Five Love Languages.
Harmony Niphakis spent her early years as an OMF Missionary Kid in Thailand. She committed her life to God at a young age and now serves as a TCK Advocate with OMF (U.S.) where she finds great joy in equipping and caring for missionary kids of all ages. In her spare time, Harmony enjoys being out in nature, gardening, going out for coffee, and spending time with her family.