It’s totally cliché, I know, but I’m saying it anyway . . . laughter really is the best medicine, especially when you’re raising kids. That’s because, as just about every parent knows, parenthood is the most perfectly imperfect job out there. Where everything that can go wrong usually will go wrong. But when life goes sideways, there’s no better tool to have in our parenting toolbox than a great sense of humor to help calm us down, put the smile back on our face, and keep us sane. Because laughter is restorative, it feels good, and it just plain soothes the soul. Plus, the more often we can lean into it, the more effectively we’ll be able to harness its power when the going gets tough.
Laugh It Off
I mean, think about it, aren’t the stressful times just a little more bearable when we can step back and laugh about them? Aren’t our screw-ups easier to swallow when we can learn to laugh at ourselves instead of beating ourselves up for making mistakes? Of course! Like, when we’re rushing to get everyone out the door for school and the dog decides to pee on the kitchen floor. Or when we’re just about to take a family photo and our daughter spills juice down her dress. Right there, we’ve got two choices: we either let the stress of the moment derail us OR we take a deep breath, see the situation for how silly it really is, and move on. Because learning to pivot toward positivity really is that simple. And man is it a game-changer!
Let It Go
See, the funny thing about being a parent is that every single one of us starts out with the same intention of being the perfect mom or dad, with the ultimate goal of raising the most well-adjusted and accomplished kid. That is, of course, until life happens and we start making mistakes and our kids start acting like, well, kids. That’s when the art of learning to let go and finding the humor within the craziness really comes in handy and becomes our biggest asset. Because it’s by learning to let go that we discover how to maintain a sense of calm and perspective in the face of stress or drama. And those are some pretty invaluable parenting skills.
Look, parenting is stressful and exhausting and, at times, all-consuming. So, personally, I’ve learned to choose laughter every chance I get because it’s one of the best ways I know of cutting the tension when stress levels get high. Because the truth is, there’s so much of life—and of parenthood—that’s beyond our control and getting wrapped around the axle over the little things is just a ginormous waste of time and energy.
Instead, we should be challenging ourselves to look at whatever’s stressing us out through a different and more positive lens. Because when we learn to laugh at ourselves and the unexpected stuff that goes wrong every day, it becomes almost impossible to feel anxious at the same time. And that right there is the key—a key we need to share with our kids so they can learn early on that they always have a choice about how they react to the stress around them.
Laughing Just Works
Another super-important thing to remember here is that we typically get more bees with honey. In other words, using humor to de-escalate a conflict or disarm a raging toddler can have surprisingly positive results. That’s because we’re all conditioned to expect that discipline has a negative connotation; so, when we lighten things up by breaking the tension with laughter, we’re instantly changing a negative situation into a positive one. Now everyone’s oxytocin is flowing and extinguishing all the toxic cortisol that’s lighting up our nervous system, giving us all a chance to calm down and regain our cool.
Hey, I know we can’t laugh at everything because we’d never get anything done. But we can and should laugh often. Because science has proven that the more we can laugh and be joyful and embrace the silliness of life, the healthier we’re going to be, emotionally and physically. It’s been shown time and time again that laughter causes real bona fide changes in our bodies, like increasing our circulation, stimulating our organs, and releasing neuropeptides that fight stress and anxiety. So there’s for sure an undeniable power that exists in our ability to let go.
Oh yeah, and laughter is one thousand percent free! Always. And it’s available to us 24/7/365. That means it can always be our default when we start to feel stressed or anxious or overwhelmed. So when we’re looking for a way to connect with our kids, and our own inner child, just flex that diaphragm and let it rip. Because laughing offers too many benefits not to do it as often as we can. And for us parents, laughing it up with our kids is just the best. The. Best. Because letting our hair down in front of our children makes us human in their eyes. It strengthens our parent-child bond, boosts brainpower, and develops our sense of humor. And, maybe most importantly, learning to laugh at ourselves creates a very special kind of resilience that can help us all be better equipped to bounce back from disappointment.
So the message here is simple: The more we can learn to lighten up and let the laughter flow, the happier and more relaxed we’re all going to be. And that’s no joke.
Lisa Sugarman is a parenting author, columnist, and radio show host living just north of Boston with her husband and two grown daughters. She writes the nationally syndicated opinion column It Is What It Is and is the author of How to Raise Perfectly Imperfect Kids And Be Ok With It, Untying Parent Anxiety, and LIFE: It Is What It Is. Lisa is also the co-host of the weekend talk show LIFE UNfiltered on Northshore 104.9FM, a parenting expert on the SocialMama app (the friendship app for moms), and a contributor on GrownAndFlown, Thrive Global, Care.com, LittleThings, More Content Now, and Today.com. Visit her at lisasugarman.com.