We are not born with senses of humor -- but we are born with the capacity to learn humor. Our individual humor is a result of our family environment and experiences, which is why there's no single definition of "funny." Given that, what kind of humor environment will you give to your kids? What can you do to help teach your child humor?
Most importantly, lead by example. Laugh often with your child and show your child how not to take everything so seriously. Sure, some stuff in life is quite serious, but there is much to laugh at, whether blatantly funny or patently absurd. Show your child how not to take everything in life so seriously by laughing with your child on regular basis.
When teaching humor, start early. Thankfully, this is easy. As soon as your infant is capable of smiling, you're getting goofy in an effort to try to make her smile. And that first belly laugh? Awesome, right? Keep at it! Keep up the laughter!
As your child gets older, you'll need to explain why things are funny. Why are clowns funny, or why do you laugh at a sign or a joke? If your sense of humor is a little drier, you'll need to explain that, too. It's not obvious! You'll likely find yourself explaining puns and cultural references and language and such -- and that's terrific. Humor has such a broad foundation that you'll be teaching your child other things along the way. And remember, some humor is not obvious -- some is very subtle. It may take several attempts to explain and a developmental step for true understanding, but keep at it. Your child will get there.
Along the way, in addition to laughing by example and explaining jokes, you're going to laugh at a fair number of your child's jokes. Some are decidedly unfunny to an adult's ears and mind, but your child is learning about humor and what's funny and needs encouragement in that. Laugh at the same, tired knock-knock joke each and every time your child tells it.
Get silly with your child on a regular basis. Teach her silly walks and make funny faces with your son. Make voices and goof off. Not only will you be teaching your child about what it means to have a sense of humor, you'll also be making some terrific memories with your child. And what better memories for a child to have than laughing with mom and dad?
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