The Importance of Laughter

My latest Chinese fortune cookie had the following message; “A good laugh and a good cry both cleanse the mind.” “A very wise thought,” I said to myself and an especially important one for families to remember.

All too often the hardships of parenting consume the majority of our time with our children. We are usually overworked and trying to figure out how to make our budgets stretch to meet our children’s want and needs. We wonder if we will ever get enough of a break to enjoy our partners and friends as much as we used to. The pressures of coordinating all the demands of our family’s complicated schedule can reduce parent child relationships to discussions about homework, bedtime, and getting to and from a variety of appointments on time. In the midst of all these pressures it is helpful to remember that there is a simple tool available to help everything become less difficult – laughter.

Most of us have experienced times when we get to laugh hard with our friends and families. We feel refreshed and happy after laughing. It is easier to relax and see the world as a good place to be. We also feel chose to the people we get to laugh with. Laughter is an invaluable weapon against the tensions that fill our lives every day. Family dynamics will become much easier if parents can try to incorporate periods of laughter with their children into every week. Here are suggestions that you might try with your family.

1. A simple thing to do for families who like movies and recordings is to select funny movies or CD’s to enjoy together. Comedy recordings that have everyone laughing hard can decrease stress more than adventure or romantic stories that can actually increase tension. Some old movies are very funny. My pre-teens really enjoyed watching Marx Brothers movies. Try to watch them along with your child if you can, it will mean a lot to them.

2. Children think that games where they get to beat their parents are very funny this is because much of our children’s lives are run according to adult schedules and ideas. It is often hard for children to feel competent or in charge when they are trying to keep up with all the things that adults are asking them to do. Children love games where they get to win and feel smart and capable.

Toddlers love to play hide and seek. Yong children get very excited when their Mom and Dad are having trouble figuring out where they are. Usually Mom and Dad seem to know everything about what they are doing. When a child gets to jump out and scare an all-powerful adult the thrill can be almost unbearable.Older children enjoy tag and racing games. If an adult can pull off an honest looking effort to win and then lose in the last few moments of the game, children are thrilled with their victory and usually get to laugh really hard. Children over 10 can enjoy sports activities. Basketball is a great game to play. You can make teams of children against adults and let the children do really well against you. The physical activity will do everyone good and the laughter that you will all get to enjoy will make the rest of the day go much better.

3. If your child is easily embarrassed or ashamed, they probably would enjoy hearing embarrassing stories from your childhood. It is very reassuring to know that your parent was not always the invulnerable, capable person they often appear to be.

4. Physical play can produce lots of laughter. A five-minute pillow fight or rough and tumble can be fun and release lots of tension that has built up during the day. As with other games it is important for the child to win physical play as well. Many children ask for tickling play time from their Mom or Dad because they want attention and enjoy laughing. Tickling actually produces laughter that comes from physical manipulation that does not leave the child in charge of the activity. Laugher that comes from games where a child is free to move and have fun usually is much more productive in the long run.
All families have things they do to laugh together. Those moments are an invaluable part of your family’s life, one of the building blocks to loving and enjoyable relationships that can last a lifetime. Even a little giggle fun from you or your child can make a hard day more manageable.