[Week 6 of 52 Weeks to a Better Relationship With Your Child]
Why does everyone like to laugh?
People love to laugh. The proverb “a merry heart is good like a medicine” has been understood for thousands of years. Laughter makes people feel better. Yet, human nature too often has a way of twisting what is good and using it in destructive ways. This is also true of humor.
The job of parents is to make their family both a place of merriment and a safe place. Parents need to be ready to laugh at things like goofy games, funny faces, unexpected miscommunications, plays on words, creative perspectives on the normal, mishaps, ridiculous mistakes, and the antics of puppies.
Figuring out what kind of humor is good for relationships
The best laughter is that which springs from good-natured enjoyment. That is the only sort of laughter that will bring real joy and relieve stress. Cruel laughter or laughter at the obvious expense of someone else’s feelings may seem fun at the moment, but it is like drinking dirty water.
That doesn’t mean children need to be treated with kid gloves all the time, with parents always being concerned about hurting their feelings. Children need to learn to laugh at themselves, just not feel the butt of others jokes in belittling ways.
Laughter can build up relationships
At the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I observed how a variety of other married people treated each other. We noticed that some couples engaged in “put-down” humor. They put on an appearance of everyone thinking it was clever and funny, but the strain on the relationship soon became obvious. One or the other never knew when they were going to be exposed or made fun of. There was never the pure fun of shared laughter. We made a pact with each other to not have that be part of our family dynamics.
The best laughter is shared laughter. A person may laugh some by themselves, but there is something about how laughter spreads in a group that makes it magical. Have you ever started laughing just because someone else is? Seeing others be truly belly-laugh-happy often just makes us happy!
We laugh best with people we know best. There is something about shared experience and understanding that helps humor connect almost like undiscovered radio waves. This means that there is a high potential for enjoying laughter in the home.
This aspect of relationship with laughter has other benefits. It can help us gauge when the laughter needs to be tempered, possibly for a child’s particular vulnerability at the moment. Also, healthy laughter tends to strengthen bonds and communication. It helps people relax and try to understand each other.
Using humor to deal with life
Humor can be used to teach important life lessons to children, both by making concepts clear and by making the lesson memorable. This might be put to use when a child makes a mistake, not to make fun of them, but to make the situation less serious.
Sometimes what is referred to as dark humor can be funny and good for the spirit. For instance, when our daughter was ill with leukemia, she laughed at dreaming about dust bunnies in her bed when her hair started falling out.
When I broke my cheek bone in several places crashing on a bike in Taipei, the family joked about our ‘special trip’ to have plastic surgery in Asia. When my husband also crashed a few weeks later and punctured his lung, my sister sent an emphatic and short message: “Step away from the bicycles.” We still laugh about it.
Finding humor when you need it
If you are having trouble finding the humor in life, it can help to just look for some things to make you laugh. Maybe you can spend more time with someone who makes you laugh. My husband does that for me. I could sit next to him during an apocalyptic movie and his commentary about its absurd mistakes will make me laugh. I’m not very good at creating humor myself, but I did just make him laugh when he found me wearing my headphones without them being plugged into something…
You might also find a resource, such as a book or website, that has good jokes to share with your kids. Start a pinterest board of things that make you laugh (I did) or keep a journal of giggle-inducing family happenings.
Enjoying your child’s development of humor
As children get older, they will get more sophisticated with humor. There will be the fun of nuances that they would have missed when they were younger, but the stage of toddlers laughing as they pile on daddy will be gone. When they are older they will be able to make you laugh on purpose, which they will take great pride in.
Young parents sometimes get tired of older parents encouraging them to enjoy each stage with their children, but it is still wise advice. Soon, their childish humor will be a sweet memory. Make sure they also have sweet memories of family humor by choosing healthy, relationship building humor.