The mouse or the bird?
Many parents find that a hearty laugh can defuse a tense situation with their children. The emotions are still there and now there is an added perspective. Often times, humor can help us see our frustration is coming from the point of view of a mouse. Humor can lift us up, so that we see the very same situation from the point of view of a bird. The bird sees the problem from far away, hovering above it, and is able to see how small the problem appears from that point of view.
For example, a parent said once, “My child didn’t get into preschool, now he won’t get into a good college and his whole life is ruined.” We might all laugh at the absurdity of the statement, even though it was an expression of a very real fear. The bird’s perspective sees preschool as a very small portion of a child’s life, with many variables between it and college. To the mouse, preschool was the only gate between the two. Staring up at the problem was very different than looking down upon it.
Humor has a healing quality, whether it is applied to health issues or to disagreements among playmates. Norman Cousins wrote about laughter therapy in helping those with serious illnesses. Laughter is just as useful in curing rifts between two young pals. Your “amuse” system can make a world of difference.
Harsh words on the playground or at your own dinner table can strain relationships between friends or within families. In the same way, though, being able to share a humorous moment or to laugh together can cement a bond between friends or between you and your children that will help to bridge the more challenging moments that arise.
Gelotology, expanding the mind, and the freedom to be silly
Using humor with your kids is even a great way to expand their ability to think, by integrating both hemispheres of the brain. One side of the brain deciphers the words used in a joke, while the other side determines whether or not it is funny.
Gelotology (the study of laughter) may not have been a parent’s major subject in school; however, being able to initiate and share laughter with your children may be more worthwhile than earning all of the top grades there 🙂 Laughter is infectious. How many times have you heard someone laughing and it made you smile? Often, one child begins to laugh and it spreads to other children, too. One of the things that allows that to happen is the feeling that there is the freedom to be silly.
The opposite is also true. Adults tend to find themselves in situations all too often where laughter is not “appropriate.” Have you ever found something funny and tried hard not to laugh? Kids, too, are often in situations in which laughing is restricted. When Monica was growing up, she remembers classrooms in which laughter and having fun were rarely allowed, and the occasional laugh resulted in a stern warning to get back to work. Fun and laughter were for the playground, not class!
Sometimes, the strict no-laughing rules backfired and when the teacher turned her back to the class, laughter would erupt. Monica remembers sitting through class trying not to laugh and the more she tried to hold back the laughter, the more it bubbled up. There were other classrooms in which the teachers were more comfortable with kids laughing and appeared to enjoy hearing what they found to be funny, frequently laughing with them. When the teacher was at ease with using humor as a way to enjoy the days, then the kids felt more at ease, too.
Creating space and freedom to be silly is quite a gift. Think of times when you act silly as a parent and encourage laughter in your home. How do you feel in this role? Is this a space you enjoy as a parent? Use the comment feature below to share your experience.