Author, Pam Lobley, shares her tips on keeping the laughs going in her family and how you can laugh together with yours. Pam is the author of Why Can’t We Just Play a memoir about the summer she allowed her children to play freely, and what she learned along the way. Read along to learn how you can encourage humor, laughter, and play in your own home.
Everyone loves to laugh. When we picture happy family memories, most of them involve laughing with each other. Laughing around the dinner table, laughing at some mishap, or simply getting the giggles when something hits us the right way. But how can we keep laughter a daily part of family life when we’re all so rushed and stressed?
As someone who has worked in comedy and humor writing for thirty-five years, I have thought a lot about what makes us laugh. We all have different senses of humor, but I know one thing for sure—you have to be open to laughter.
Laughing is Appropriate
In our important daily tasks, we may feel laughter is inappropriate. Laughter gets a bad rap because it distracts us when we “should” be working. It derails a conversation or disrupts the order. But this is why laughter is so great because it punctures the stress! As parents, we may feel that laughing at ourselves or being silly will undermine our authority. The opposite is true. Laughing at yourself is a sign of strength, not weakness, and teaches kids that valuable lesson.
So much of being able to laugh together is being able to see what is funny at that moment. If we can slow down (my favorite phrase!), tune in, and open up, we will find all sorts of ways to laugh through an ordinary day. Here are a few ways to start chuckling:
- Take time to notice funny things as you go through your day with your family—a weird hat, a funny bumper sticker, even a commercial on the radio—and point them out to your kids.
- Appreciate their sense of humor. Okay, maybe arm-farting isn’t hilarious to you, but can you laugh at how hard it makes your kids laugh?
- Let the kids take the lead. When my son was four, I taught him a board game. He kept moving out of turn, or taking chits when he shouldn’t have, and then bursting into laughter. At first, I was frustrated; he wasn’t following the rules and playing the game the “right” way. Then I realized he didn’t want to play the game. He just wanted to get the giggles with his mom. The structure of the game held no interest for him, but belly laughing for no reason sure did!
- At dinner ask everyone, “What did you laugh at today?” Be ready with your own funny story in case no one else has one.
- Praise family members when they are funny; it is a valuable trait!
- If you are that type of person, get a little silly yourself. Make up alternate lyrics to songs in the car or have fun with rhymes. My neighbor used to do a silly walk on the way to school and invite his kids to imitate him.
- Share funny stories from your own childhood. This is not only a good way to laugh but also strengthen the connection of shared family history.
- Play games that get you all laughing: charades, Apples to Apples, Pictionary.
- Teens can be especially hard to laugh with. You may have to make a special effort with them. Watch funny shows together or let them show you funny memes they like. Learning what they think is funny is a great window into their world.
- When you have a laughing spell—take time to enjoy it!
- Laughing at something doesn’t mean you’re making fun of it. True mirth is not derisive; it is celebratory. Being able to appreciate the absurdities in life is crucial for lifelong happiness. People are flawed, days are long, bad things happen. Seeing the humor in all that life offers is one of the best ways to bond and grow with your family.
- If I find myself too busy or stressed out to laugh, I remind myself of the G.K. Chesterton quote, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” Showing that you value laughter—that joy and effervescence are an important part of life—will help your kids to be more open to laughter too.