February 08, 2024 4 min read
Parents joining their kids' TikTok antics. Fully grown adults dancing to tunes like "Baby Shark" or "CoComelon." Moms and dads gamely engaging in knock-knock jokes. Are these activities childish? Maybe. But many psychologists say silly moments like this are vital in family life.
While parenting is a serious job, family experts highly recommend a regular dose of humor and whimsy with your children as they grow. Here are key benefits of having silliness at home, and how to share this humor in your family's daily life.
Have you ever noticed how you feel better around a person when you've laughed together? It works the same way between parents and their kids. According to psychology professors at Weil Cornell Medicine, shared humor promotes positive emotions between family members, and in particular, it allows children to develop more confidence in and affinity towards their parents.
Those teachers who make funny jokes in class are on to something. Plenty of studies affirm that humor expands children's cognitive ability, helping them retain what's being taught. It even encourages their creative thinking, as jokes often use creative ways to arrive at a punchline.
At home, adding some levity to house rules can make children more receptive to them and more likely to remember them. Family therapist Marilee Hartling adds that once you've promoted mutual acceptance with your kids through humor, they'll be more likely to follow your examples -- even when it comes to rules and discipline.
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A happy home provides refuge for children as they encounter unpleasant emotions like fear, worry, and sadness. Though no home can be fun 24/7, families can enjoy shared moments of joyfulness that can help kids feel relaxed and can boost the feel-good chemicals in their brains (such as dopamine).
This allows the little ones to cope with adversity and self-regulate their emotions, says Hartling. Emotional self-regulation is the ability to respond well to disruptive emotions and impulses -- a nuanced life skill that any parent would want their child to develop.
As a parent, it can be easy to overlook how stressed and surly we're getting, especially on those days when everything seems so frantic. Our stressfulness can then emanate to our household, affecting the mood of our family members, too. But if we allow ourselves to laugh at silly jokes with our kids, or even to laugh at little harmless mishaps that occur along the way, it can release those pent-up energies and provide us some stress relief.
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Some say parents shouldn't have to be told how to maintain a happy home. While lots of parents are indeed naturally playful and fun, for many of us, family humor takes a little more thoughtfulness. Here are useful tips for parents to promote silliness with kids and other family members.
Toddlers love peek-a-boo, school-age children laugh at playground jokes, and teens often prefer memes (viral internet gags). You may already know what kind of playfulness is suitable for your child's age, but it's equally important to calibrate your openness to this brand of humor. When your little one pops up with a "Knock, knock," you've got to reply and appreciate their absurd punchline. You should also be prepared to 'counter' them with your own silly jokes.
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You don't have to be a comedian all day with your kids. It's all about sprinkling humor here and there. Some days, there will be opportunities to engage in playful banter or horsing around. Other days, the mood may not be as light, and you'll just have to do with silly little quips or even a bedtime boop on the nose.
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Save some mood-lifting tricks in your arsenal. For instance, there's no shame in copying a joke that you found on the internet or heard from a friend (as long as it's age-appropriate). Or, when your kids are hanging out in the living room, play a catchy song to start a sing-along or a dance party. Another simple one: make up silly (but harmless) nicknames for them, like Miss GoFast or Professor Poopsquats.
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As the adult, it's up to you to recognize when a certain type of humor can have negative physical or emotional consequences. Never encourage jokes that insult, poke fun of someone's characteristics, or maliciously aim under the belt. Also teach your kids that forceful physical contact such as hitting, shoving, slapping, or kicking is never funny. Children may not yet realize when they are being hurtful, so it's crucial that you clearly teach them in a kind but firm way.
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Maybe it's a water-tag opportunity with the garden hose. Maybe it's a lighthearted conversation at the kitchen table. Or maybe someone's telling an anecdote that just begs for a "dad joke" pun. There are times like this when the atmosphere is just ideal for playfulness. Be open to riding that wave! Don't be afraid that your kids might make a mess or that your family might become too easygoing. These are the kinds of moments your children could look back with fondness when they're older.
We hope these joyful family tips are helpful to you! What silly little tricks do you use at home? Share with us in the comments!
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