Life as a dad can feel tough and overwhelming. Much of the time, the last thing on your mind is cracking a smile or laughing, especially when your day-to-day schedule is jam-packed with work, household chores, and paying bills. But did you know being lighthearted and laughing with your family builds perseverance for both you and the kiddos?
Fun fact: Children tend to laugh somewhere around 400 times a day! Adults, on the other hand, usually laugh only about 15 times a day.
Want to know why you should laugh more and encourage a sense of humor in your children? Let's take a look at the benefits of laughing with your kids and how it can make them not only smarter and healthier but also help sharpen their coping skills.
Some people seem to be born with a great sense of humor. But the truth is, humor is something we acquire throughout life. And when you take time to laugh with your kids, you encourage the creation of a sense of humor that can last a lifetime.
It's your kids’ humor that allows them to see the funny-side of things. As they face life with a lighthearted perspective, they develop the ability to:
Research shows that the benefits of laughing with your family and encouraging a sense of humor leads to a more optimistic view point in your children. This helps them develop high self-esteem as well as a better ability to adjust through some of life's toughest moments, such as switching schools or counteracting tortuous comments from bullies.
Furthermore, the benefits of laughing and helping your kids develop a good sense of humor can lead to an array of health advantages. People who laugh more tend to be healthier than those who don't. They experience fewer bouts of depression and develop a higher resistance to illnesses. This is largely in part because people who laugh usually have lower heart rates and blood pressure than those who don’t laugh a lot. Some studies even show that laughter improves digestion and immune function.
The Mayo Clinic says when it comes to reducing stress and anxiety, laughter is like medicine. It transforms the body and mind by boosting positive emotions. How does this happen? Well, it starts in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in the brain. This part of the brain is activated when we laugh. Once activated, it releases those feel-good hormones known as endorphins, which enhances our ability to experience pleasure. Plus, when we laugh, our stress-inducing hormones, like cortisol and epinephrine, are reduced. This means we don’t feel so stressed even when going through a very stressful situation.
Did you know that laughing can make you feel more energized, too? When we laugh, we take in a lot of oxygen-rich air. The more of this air we take in, the more awake and energized we feel. And to top it off, laughing relaxes our muscles for up to 45 minutes after we quit laughing. This reduced muscle tension means your body is consuming less energy, which helps you feel more energized.
Now that you understand the benefits of laughing, it’s time to help your kids develop a good sense of humor. Encouraging a sense of humor in your newborn will, of course, be much different than encouraging humor in a teenager. And as your children get older, their sense of humor is going to change. What was once really funny to them won’t seem so funny anymore, and that’s a good thing. It means their sense of humor is developing and becoming more mature.
Here’s a look at some tips for encouraging a sense of humor in children based on their ages.
Have you ever smiled at your newborn only to have her crack a smile back at you? Newborns don't really understand humor, but they do know when you smile, it means you're happy. A lot of babies will crack up laughing when you make funny faces at them, and they feel good from the joy it brings them to see you happy and being funny. So, what does this mean? It means you should be doing silly stuff all the time with your baby. Act silly! Stick your tongue out and quack like a duck!
Peek-a-boo is a really great game to play that encourages a sense of humor in toddlers. Stick your head behind your toddler’s backpack diaper bag and then pop out from behind it to give the ultimate element of surprise that has them bursting at the seams with laughter.
It’s at this age that your toddler will probably start trying to make you smile. Take for example that you're asking your toddler where his nose is, and he points to his ear on purpose because he knows it will make you laugh. This is a great trait to have. Your child is being lighthearted and is learning that with the right actions or words, he can bring joy to other people by making them laugh.
This is when a sense or humor moves into wordplay and exaggerations. It’s also when things start to get really funny around the house. You’ll likely hear your kids come off with remarks that have you rolling on the floor with laughter. There's going to be a lot of humor that your kids understand and portray that you probably had no idea they knew about. It's important to be extremely careful with the sense of humor you have with your children at this point because they may understand more than you what you think they understand. However, encouraging a sense of humor at this age will bring about many benefits, such as the ability to use wit and sarcasm to ward off bullies and cope with stressful situations.
The benefits of laughing and encouraging a sense of humor extend far beyond developing a healthy relationship between the parent and child. As you encourage laughter throughout all aspects of your child's life, remember that kids can often be mean-spirited, so it's important to be a good role model and avoid any kind of off-color or mean jokes. The key here is to explain how humor can be both healthy and unhealthy and teach them how to tell the difference between lighthearted and cruel humor.
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