Claire Hailwood has found that humour can be the route to good connection and a deepening relationship with her children
Last Saturday night I laughed so hard I thought I might pass out. We spent the evening with friends and laughed at brilliant nonsense. It was good for my soul and also deepened our friendship.
There are lots of studies that explain what happens when we laugh and why it’s a powerful ingredient to strengthen relationships. Laughter decreases stress hormones and triggers the release of endorphins (the body’s natural feel-good chemicals) that promote an overall sense of well-being and even temporarily relieve pain! Evidence shows that laughing together grows and deepens bonds between people.
How many times have you been in a situation which might otherwise feel tense or awkward but shared laughter has been what has broken that tension?
Laughter could be a powerful tool for those raising teenagers, as a relationship builder and mood shifter.
What made your child laugh when they were five? A simple tickle, funny face or saying “poo” was often enough. But I can only imagine the size of eye roll I’d get or frustration I might cause now if I tried something similar in a moment of frustration for my teenagers to make them laugh.
Perhaps because we aren’t sure how to laugh together, we stop trying?
Lots of what makes younger children laugh is adults goofing around. What that looks like might be different as they reach adolescence, but I wonder if that’s a good starting place for the teenager(s) in our lives?
For one of mine, watching me attempt the latest TikTok dance or guess the lyrics to songs (which I am notoriously bad at) is usually a winner.
Another of my teenagers loves a ‘night drive’ so it’s something I will suggest, particularly on one of ‘those’ days where everything seems quite difficult (for them and me). At a point in the journey, I tell her she’s in charge of directions and will obey when she says “left” or “right”. This usually ends in laughter which breaks the tension and opens the way for conversation, sometimes deep and connected to the malaise of earlier, and sometimes just much needed connection.
One teen we cared for loved a particular video game and I was terrible at it, despite trying really hard to understand it and improve. My consistent inability never failed to make her laugh and sometimes, after incredibly challenging days for her, that connection was restorative, releasing and brought joy where there’d been a significant absence!
Maybe for you it’s finding a game that’s ridiculous to play together?
Perhaps it’s sitting down to a film that makes them laugh (even if you don’t really like it)?
Maybe there are some things to try together to discover what makes you laugh?
Some of my favourite memories from growing up are shared jokes that make no sense to anyone else and are not funny if we explain them to others, but which remind us of the deep connection we have as siblings. Every time we revisit them it deepens our connection a little more.
What might those things be for you and your teenager(s) in these coming years?
An average four-year-old laughs 300 times a day. By the time someone reaches 40, it’s only four.
Raising teenagers is challenging. It can be draining. We need to pursue laughter because it’s good for us and so we can encourage its continued growth in our teenager’s lives too.
So what makes you laugh? As a couple or an individual with friends or family?
Why not have some fun this week and pursue laughter more intentionally?