There are a lot of words I could use to describe this past year. And many of those words are not “helpful for building others up” (Eph 4:29), so I won’t share them here. But one word that I think can describe the last 12 months for most of us is “exhausting.” I’d also like to submit “stressful.” It seems that every month or two, we’ve had to adjust the way we function in our daily lives.
As I write this, we’re in the middle of yet another change in the way our kids’ schooling will look, and my husband’s job is now requiring him to work from the office two days per week. This means that yet again I’m having to figure out a new schedule for working from home and making sure my kids learn at least a little bit. And our school district has decided that in order to facilitate the changes, my kids are getting extra days off, but not the same days as each other.
Do you know how much more difficult it is to work from home when you have one kid who is bored out of their minds and their sibling has to do school work? It’s a bit ridiculous.
I feel like I’ve done so much pivoting in the last year I might as well be an NBA player. Just kidding, no one wants to watch me try to play basketball.
In the midst of all this stress and exhaustion, I’m reminded of how important it is to laugh. Not only is laughter a huge stress-buster, it also serves as a connection point between you and your children! I feel like so much parenting advice out there focuses on solving problems (which we need!) but I don’t want the focus of my parenting to just be solving one problem after another.
Right now, my family of four has spent more time together in one house than we ever have. Ever! And while my house isn’t tiny, it’s not big enough for us not to be on top of each other at least some of the day.
In this environment, it’s easy to get annoyed with each other over every little thing. No matter how many times I say something, my children cannot seem to remember to put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher, preferring instead to leave them on the counter right above the dishwasher (internal screaming!)
But laughing with your children does an amazing job of smoothing over these little annoyances and keeping things in perspective. And guess what! It can actually make it easier to enjoy your children. At this point in #pandemiclife I need that!
So what are some good ways to foster more laughter in your life? This is going to depend a bit on the age of your kids. Mine are 6 and 10, so our family times of laughter are different than they were when we had toddlers.
I recently spent some time with my one-year-old nephew and remembered how easy it is to make babies smile and laugh, and how much I want to! But since my kids have gotten older, it’s become less of a priority and I have to try a little more. So here are some things we’ve been doing to add laughter into our lives.
The internet can be a terrible place sometimes, but one thing that it’s done for us is to make a plethora of hilarious videos. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure the videos are kid appropriate, but you can find tons of hysterical animal videos out there that will be sure to make your kids giggle.
Our ten-year-old loves games, but sometimes card or board games get to be too much for the six-year-old to stay focused on. But do you want to know a game she will always be ready to play? Pie In The Face. We got this for them this past Christmas and my daughter thinks it’s the funniest thing ever. And how can you not laugh watching someone get whipped cream on their face?
We also find silly games to play at the dinner table sometimes. No, not playing with food. But my kids like to play the “what animal am I thinking of?” game. Sometimes we try to think of the most obscure animal we can, and sometimes my daughter thinks of animals that aren’t real at all. Everyone goes around the table and asks a question to try to determine the animal. My personal favorite animal to pick is a Water Bear.
This one plays better with older kids, but it’s a great way to build connection and family ties. One of our family’s running jokes has to do with a silly dream my husband had. The kids found it hilarious and have run with it, even incorporating it into their Minecraft world.
Sometimes as a parent, I think you just need to get silly. Put aside your ideas of how adults act, and do something simply to get a laugh out of your kids. The actual details will depend on your kids, their ages, and what they find funny. But look for opportunities to act a little bit childish. I promise, your kids will respond. They need to know that you’re not serious all the time, and that there’s something great about being able to laugh at yourself.
I hope this inspires you to shake off some of the stress that’s been weighing you down and give yourself permission to laugh! It’s good for you, it’s good for your kids, and it’s good for your relationships!
Amber Krueger is a wife to her husband, Steve, and mom to her two children, Ethan and Stella. She grew up as a missionary kid in the Philippines and has a degree in literature from Bethel University. She writes about food and creative endeavors at By Amber’s Hands and Keto Cake Walk.