Picture the most fun moment you've experienced with your child or children in the last few weeks. Did that moment include laughter?
Did it include rolling on the floor in a fit of giggles until one of you couldn’t breathe anymore? Maybe it included a funny moment when the communication barriers between you and your teenager were suddenly broken down?
I cannot think of a single thing that brings more joy and connection to my family than laughing together.
And there's good reason for this.A wealth of research has demonstrated the positive benefits of humor, and more specifically of laughing, on children and adults.Physically speaking, laughter can activate the immune system, decrease stress hormones, relax muscles, and reduce pain; laughter also seems to have positive benefits on brain function.
The fact that laughter is often shared with others leads to greater social connections.For kids, a sense of emotional attachment with their parents, one that often comes when you are having fun together, can be the key to healthy future development.
Whatever the scientific explanation, the basic truth is that laughter feels good.And I truly believe that laughter shared with our spouses and children can be an antidote to the challenges of everyday life, and maybe even some of the bigger challenges we’ll face (as long as we are laughing with each other, and not at each other).
There are a million ways to bring laughter into the life of your family.Here are 20 of our favorites, in no particular order:
1 | 80’s dance parties with toy instruments (preferably inflatable) and air guitar contests.
2 | Play-by-play narration in sports commentator style during games of Crazy Eights.
3 | Lying on the floor.Seriously, just lie on the floor and wait for your children to be drawn to your position.See what follows.
4 | Making boring commutes more interesting by speaking gibberish to each other in the car.
5 | Finding complicated dance, aerobics, or Zumba routines online and doing them together as a family (best if no one in your family is a talented dancer).
6 | Bathtub hair styles.
7 | Playing (and falling) in the mud.
8 | Knock-knock jokes. “Orange you glad” and “Interrupting Cow” never fail.
9| Teenage photos of mom and dad in regrettable outfits or hairstyles; bonus points when the kids try to replicate the scene.
10 | Any game or activity with food in the face (eating donuts off a string, bobbing for apples, etc.)
11 | Dramatic lip syncing or operatic singing to ballads.When the song ends, I go about my business like it never happened.Adele’s “Hello” is perfect.
12 | Making up totally ridiculous bedtime stories (maybe I’ll write one down some day and make a million bucks).
13 | Playing in the rain. Better yet, going for a bike ride in the rain.
14 | Throwing our children up into air (note, for older children this works best when swimming).
15 | Letting the kids take selfies with our cell phones.
16 | Photo bombing their selfies.
17 | Reenacting a favorite scene from "Star Wars."
18 | Engaging in a super-secret mission impossible adventure to steal a chocolate chip from the baking cupboard.
19 | Playing Hide-and-Seek, and alternating between really hard places and ridiculously easy places (what do you mean you can see me hiding behind this potted plant?).
20 | Laughing at our silly mistakes – because what better to teach our children than how to roll with the punches in life?
Go ahead, get silly.And revel in the moment when your toddler does her signature uncontrolled giggle or your teenager rolls his eyes but the side of his lips curl a bit and you know you’ve gotten to him.You and your children will be better for it.
I now know there are steps I can take to change how I think, to find the true me again. That is why I am going to take better care of myself this year. In fact, that’s the only resolution I care to make. For both my own health, and as an important example to my kids, this year, I'm resolving to practice a kindness that starts from within.