Who would think something as simple as a few minutes of shared giggling every day might help to alleviate the stress and anxiety that can build up in a child as he goes through his day, perhaps even causing meltdowns, tantrums and whining?
Dr. Laura Markham from Aha Parenting suggests that parents interact with their child daily through simple physical games that touch your child’s funny bone and make her giggle and shriek. All of us as adults can probably relate to hearty shared laughter with a good friend and how very therapeutic that feels.
Young children respond especially to chase and get away games – not including tickling, however, which creates a very different response that can make children feel fear and helplessness.
But you can always count on a good chase to rev things up. Children love to chase their parent ( and of course, they then catch you and tumble on you – all the while shrieking and giggling). They love to think they got away from you, too, as you wonder how in the world did you run off – and where are you? Yes, hide and seek works great. Children crave the experience of finding you and you finding them – hilarious and reassuring all in the same breath.
Outsmart, overpower, get away – that’s a favorite choice. Children love to “escape” from your hug – your command, “you sit there and don’t you dare get up” but when you turn for a second, zoom – well, you know the routine.
Silly antics of any type – putting your coat on backwards “by mistake” over and over – dropping something and trying to pick it up in an exaggerated way and dropping it again – children adore seeing an adult bungle something, be outrageously silly and laugh with them.
I remember one Friday last year at Play Shoppe in the Park when the children found the “mysterious” hole. It was decided that a monster lived in it – so the “fun” was to creep as close as you dared and then turn and scream and giggle down the hill. Having an adult in the mix highlighted the excitement.
This practice is certainly not meant to be used for every interaction with your child or when expectations are necessary. But used two to five minutes, here and there, it can be a helpful means of alleviating tension that can build up in a child during the day. Laughing is what can help a child process his emotions.
Why would my child be stressed some parents ask. “I’m the one that’s stressed.” Well, then, playfulness will definitely help both of you.
Children really are full of complicated emotions as they go through their day such as fear (Is Mommy really coming back?), jealousy (I think Daddy loves the baby more than me}, embarrassment (everyone laughed at me), disappointment (I want to go play with the big kids too.), sadness (no one wants to play with me). These may seem small on the whole scale of things, but to young children, these feelings can build up and can result in emotional distress.
So why not try a few minutes a day of intentionally being silly and doing some giggling with your child? Recharge your silly meter and share some giggles that will leave both of you more relaxed, refreshed, peaceful and connected.
I know you can’t catch me!
A good book with many playful ideas is Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen.