SEVERAL SECONDS OF SILLINESS can transform a difficult moment with a child, and taking time for humor helps us all remember to try to approach life lightly, to worry less.
Laughing releases dopamine in the brain and has been shown to improve our immune systems. It helps us put upsetting situations into manageable perspective. Witness the countless jokes online about trying to balance working at home while caring for children during a pandemic. Non-sarcastic humor also strengthens our relationships. When we laugh with someone, tension is released and our energies unite. Laughing is also a way to make children feel instantly safe and secure.
One day I walked a new child into a large, busy preschool class. Instead of the boy introducing himself to a little girl, the teacher placed a paper plate on his head and said, “This isn’t a plate, it’s a hat.” The child was still holding my hand but immediately giggled and relaxed. An adult who can act silly sends the message “I am safe and available to you.”
When we are tired of reminding a child to do something, we can transform the way we communicate. Try singing the message instead of saying it – “Time to get dressed” – rather than saying it, or explore using a weird voice. Wear a funny hat or glasses when delivering a serious message like “No TV until your room is cleaned up.” Create funny signs, like a note next to a hamster that says, “Please feed me, I’m hungry.”
When tension is mounting because child wants something they can’t have, rather than repeating all the reasons it won’t work, join with their desire by granting the wish in a funny fantasy. “I wish you could have ice cream right now. I wish you could eat a whole mountain of ice cream with chocolate sauce on top.”
Jokes awaken convivial feeling, and they teach intellectual acuity. Even young children can learn knock-knock jokes: “Knock, Knock.” “Who’s there?” “Dwayne.” “Dwayne who?” “Dwayne the bathtub.”
Collect jokes you can tell to connect with children while driving in the car or at dinner time. “What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back?” “A stick.”
When we focus on finding something to laugh about during our busy everyday events, we actually create a new kind of space in our lives. Humorous moments are little oases of refuge, and when visited regularly, they nurture joy.