A May message from the OCDSB’s Mental Health Team: Finding Joy and Laughter in Parenting

As we started on our journey of parenthood, we were likely filled with beautiful images of the joy, laughter and fun we would have with our children.  We may have imagined soaking up every fabulous, stress-free moment.  The reality is, however, that as wonderful as parenthood is, it is also filled with busyness, chaos, and sometimes the plain exhaustion that can take us away from enjoying the moments as they come.  When you add the challenges of the last three years, these stressors have become bigger for many of us and we have found ourselves having even fewer opportunities to simply enjoy being in the moment with our children.  

The Benefits of Laughter

You may have heard the old saying “laughter is the best medicine” - well, there is truth to that statement. Laughter truly does bring many health benefits for ourselves as for our families. Research shows that laughing increases feel-good hormones, lowers stress levels, boosts the immune system and increases feelings of wellbeing and hope.  Finding joy and laughter in the day-to-day is something that children often do naturally. As we age, however, and get caught in the hustle and bustle of life, we tend to move away from these important practices.  In fact, some studies show that children laugh on average up to 400 times a day while adults laugh only 15 times a day.  This is a great example of where we can learn and embrace children’s natural ability to find joy in the day-to-day.  Further, laughing together with your child is one of the best ways to connect with each other and to increase feelings of emotional closeness. 

Laughter as a Coping Strategy

Our children pay more attention to our actions than to our advice.  In fact, children are often skilled at reading our facial expressions and noticing our tone of voice. Through their observations of us, they learn how to handle stress and how to respond in difficult situations. Being able to find moments of laughter in times of stress is an extremely powerful coping strategy that our children and teens can learn from and use for themselves. Of course, this will not always be possible and is not meant to minimize any of life's hardships, however, every once in a while, when it might feel that there is no choice but to laugh or cry, give laughing a try - it may just give your child or teen permission to laugh along with you and lighten even the heaviest of moments. 

Finding Joy in the Moment

Remember the first giggles of your child as a baby? The belly laughs of a toddler? The shared look and muffled laughter with your preeteen? Each of these times brought joy to you and your child, because in that moment you were both fully focussed on the present together. It takes being intentional about slowing down and noticing the world around you in order to be truly in the moment with your child.  In order to do this, you may need to start by giving yourself permission to stop what you are doing and enjoy the moment together while it lasts. While we live in a society filled with “doers”, sometimes we need to simply take moments to “be”.  In order to do this,  we need to embrace self compassion and let go of some of the demands and expectations that we place on ourselves as parents.

Family Activities to Increase Joy and Laughter

There are many ways to incorporate laughter into our everyday lives. While sometimes it happens naturally and we can embrace these moments, we can also be purposeful by planning simple activities to increase joy and inspire laughter as family.  Some ideas might include taking turns reading a joke book, playing charades or other family games, watching a funny movie, watching funny videos or bloopers together, retelling funny stories, or asking your child what the funniest thing they experienced this week was. Taking the time to incorporate some of these activities will increase the amount of laughter in your home, along with all of the wonderful benefits that come along with it. Plus, it’s free and easy to access at any time!

We know that laughter is good for your body and soul.  Importantly, it is also infectious! In a time when many of us are feeling depleted, let’s all embrace the silliness and make more time for laughter in our lives.  

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