Staying connected to your child after a divorce can be difficult. The atmosphere in your home may be heavy, and laughter sparse. But just as tears can serve as an effective way to express emotions, laughter has its own role to play in the post-divorce period.
Most importantly, it can serve as an integral way for you to reconnect with your child — and cheer you up, too.
Why Dad Jokes Are Important
We all know what they say about dad jokes: they’re too cheesy, they’re not funny, they have too many puns. Stereotypes aside, being able to make your child laugh should be an essential part of your relationship.
First, joking around with your child will instill a valuable sense of humor that will serve them well as they become teenagers and adults. Not only will it make them quick to laugh, but a sense of humor will also help your child become a more creative and less conventional thinker. Since humor is the lens through which many people express their troubles, a sense of humor will also enable your child to view life from different perspectives and sympathize with others. It’s also never a bad thing to be able to occasionally slump off the day’s troubles and take yourself less seriously. Laughing and joking will predispose your child to all these positive developments.
The correlation may not be obvious, but laughter is also an effective way to commit something to memory. Laughing reduces levels of cortisol, which can improve memory and learning. MOre anecdotally, just think about it: as an adult, it’s likely your child won’t remember every time you went ice skating together. They will, however, remember that time you were goofing around by skating backwards and wound up falling into a snowbank. Laughter is synonymous with happiness. It makes any event more memorable.
Laughter Is the Best Medicine
We all know this old adage, and turns out it’s actually true. Just as divorce can bring stress, laughter responds with relief.
Laughing brings many positive short-term and long-term health effects. In the short-term, laughing stimulates your lungs and heart as you gasp in more air and it releases endorphins, the group of hormones that make you feel happy. In turn, the increase in heart rate and blood pressure lighten your response to stressors, making it easier for both you and your child to go about your day. It’s also a workout — how many times have you laughed so hard your diaphragm hurts? Laughter is one of the best emotional and physical exercises you can get!
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter is a proven reducer of stress. It can improve your immune system by signaling the release of more positive chemical reactions. It can also cause your body to create more of its own painkillers, increase personal satisfaction and self esteem, and reduce the risk of becoming depressed.
So while it may feel great to make your kid laugh in the moment, those giggles will actually continue benefiting your child long after the joke has run its course.
Ways to Make Your Child Laugh
Laugh at Their Jokes
Depending on the age of your child, they may be just beginning to develop their own sense of humor. Child therapists say that humor development happens between 12 and 36 months. During this time, children may tell stories that only a parent would find hilarious. Entertaining their jokes is an important way to affirm their sense of humor and silliness from a young age. This goes for older children, too. Showing you appreciate their humor (or attempts at it) is an excellent way for fathers to create a healthy, happy relationship with their children. Plus, if you laugh easily at their jokes, they’re sure to reciprocate.
Laugh at Yourself
Children imitate the behavior of the adults in their life. Fathers who are easygoing and quick to laugh at themselves will demonstrate to their children that it’s okay to do the same. So embrace your inner klutz and laugh off a trip or a spill. As long as no one gets hurt, it’s beneficial to show your child that the best way to deal with many a situation is to simply laugh it off.
Make Up Bedtime Stories
The before-bedtime period is a nice opportunity to spend a bit of one-on-one time with your child. If you’ve run out of storybooks, try creating a plot of your own. Incorporating funny personal details about your life together or improvising a funny voice or two is a way to get the giggles flowing. Stories can also be an effective way to escape reality — something that may be needed if your divorce is still fresh.
Share Stories of Your Childhood
If coming up with stories isn’t your forte, share true tales. Most younger children will enjoy hearing funny stories from the “when I was your age” files. These shouldn’t be patronizing tales of how you were a better child or how things were more difficult when you were growing up. Instead, they should be silly stories of events that went on in your life. Sharing stories of your childhood will make your child laugh and also help shift your relationship towards one of mutual friendship rather than just parent-child.
Another way to make your child laugh is to engage in some good old fashioned pranks. We’re talking the classics from the past: whoopee cushions and tapping them on one shoulder and darting in the other direction. Or try putting a raisin in a napkin, pretend you’re swatting a fly, and then eat the raisin. The internet is a treasure trove of harmless pranks you can pull on your child to have them first bamboozled and then laughing. A prank can also be to pop out in the morning dressed like someone different or wearing something silly.
As you spend more time with your children, keep track of the things that make them crack up. This will help you tailor your silliness and joking in the future to make sure their laughing dial is always at 10. Laughter will serve as the perfect primer for a positive father-child relationship and help you both move past a divorce.
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