It’s important to remember that humor isn’t a science. As you probably know, the best way to kill a joke is to explain it. That’s because humor is intuitive and spontaneous. You can’t really teach people to be funny in an appropriate way. Nor can you train them to laugh on cue. But you can prepare the ground, plant the seeds, and provide opportunities. It is possible to create the kind of context in which healthy humor has a chance to spring up of its own accord.
The first step is to realize that humor is really just another form of communication. It’s part of our communication skills set. Communication, of course, is fundamental to the health and well-being of any genuinely thriving family. Furthermore, every individual has his or her own style of humor. Experts have identified as many as fifty of them. These distinctive humor styles have to be developed within the context of family interaction. People need to be allowed and encouraged to be funny each in his or her own way.
In this connection, it would be fair to say that humor and communication are just two sides of the same coin. Just as laughter facilitates talk, so conversation can open windows into the hearts and minds of the people we live with. It can help us understand what really tickles their funny bone. This is part of learning to love one another.
As we’ve already suggested, genuine humor can’t be contrived. It thrives on contrast and surprise. For this reason it’s at its best when it arises indirectly out of unexpected and unsettling situations. This suggests that you can promote healthy humor by encouraging your family to try new things.
How can you do this? You might invent some family activities that are designed to shake things up and throw people off balance. Just make sure that this happens in safe, healthy, and creative ways. Playing games is probably the most obvious option. Charades, guess-tures, games that involve imitating different kinds of animals, musical chairs, movement-oriented games – all of these are rife with opportunities for both kids and adults to have a good time laughing at themselves. Depending on the age of the kids, it might also be fun to do something completely unplanned and totally out of character. You could stage an impromptu opera in the living room or take everyone to the movies in their pajamas. If you have the courage to try it, we predict that all kinds of funny things will happen along the way.
Another plan would involve organizing a family humor night. Assign each of the kids to bring something funny to the table. It could be anything: a joke, a picture, a story from a book, or an anecdote about something that happened at school. After sharing some laughs together, give each member of the group a chance to talk about his or her contribution. Ask them how they chose their material. Find out why they think it’s so hilarious. This will give everyone, mom and dad included, a chance to get inside each other’s heads. This is a good way to become better acquainted with different styles of humor.
If you need more ideas or think it might be beneficial to talk person-to-person with a member of the Focus team, please feel free to give us a call. Our staff counselors would consider it a privilege to speak with you over the phone for a free consultation.
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What’s So Funny