Modeling for children how to recognize, express, and regulate the full range of human emotions is key to their development. Effective coping skills provide them with a strong social-emotional foundation. It leads to increased self confidence, strong sense of self, and overall health, well-being, and life satisfaction. We want to equip children with a set of tools to help them through this regulation process. One of the best ways that we can do that is through modeling. Modeling plays an important part of how children learn. So I strive to model the ways in which I identify and respond to the stressors in my daily environment for my kids. One way that I found helps my family and I respond to stressors is to share jokes. When we are feeling grumpy, sad, trying to reconnect after a conflict or meltdown, or just need a pick me up, we try to cheer each other up. Often it’s a joke, or a hug, a kiss, sometimes a love note or a kind phrase.
In searching for some new jokes online, I came across these Free Take One Posters from We Are Teachers and I loved what I saw! I thought that these posters could serve our needs in so many ways.
I’d like to share with you how I used them. Hopefully these ideas can be useful for you and your family too!
I grabbed the Free Take One Jokes Poster one morning when I sensed we needed something to bring more positive energy into the house. Many of us were just plain grumpy. I often follow my child’s lead when it comes to reading new information, so when I decide to share a resource or new material with my kids I often present it as a choice or a question to assess their interest. For example I might say “I got this book from the library about bees, is anyone interested in reading?” Or, “Since we are planting seeds later today, would you like to draw or write about how to plant seeds in your notebook?” When I held up the jokes poster I assessed their interest by saying, “I printed out some new jokes, would anyone like to hear one?” Ears perked up.
Before jumping right in to read a joke I held up the poster and read the title “Free Jokes, Take One.” When I draw attention to something such as text I like to give attention to letters and words on a page by sometimes pointing, making comments, or asking questions. I might talk about how many words are in the title, if the word reminds me of something familiar, or I might talk about text size, style, or colors. In addition, I might draw attention to the pictures and other patterns, shapes, colors. In this case I said, “I see a big dinosaur and dog. Are they standing on water or grass? The blue wavy lines remind me of water, but dogs and dinosaurs don’t swim?!” That seems funny!” This might be a way that I can further engage my kids and assess their genuine interest. In other words, is this going to be meaningful to them? I hardly do anything with my kids unless it has meaning and feels authentic.
Modeling and Wait Time
Next, I explained how the activity works. I cut along the lines first. Next, I ripped off one of the pieces of paper and read the joke. I modeled for them how to take one and share. When I asked the joke, I gave the kids about 10-20 seconds to brainstorm an answer. This is called wait time. If you can give kids at least 7 or more seconds to respond after you have asked a question then they are more likely to give you a higher quality and substantive answer. They can also answer more confidently. They need time to think about the question or information you shared, think about their response, and then think about and select the world in which they would like to use. This wait time is necessary for the brain to be able to process what you have said. And it is also an important strategy for parents to use when they are feeling triggered. This parental pause or wait time can save you from reacting to a situation (in which you might later regret) versus responding in a more calm, respectful manner. A manner in which you would want your kids to respond to a situation.
Social Emotional Awareness
After we had a little giggle at the joke that I shared, my oldest daughter jumped right up to take a new joke followed by the rest of the family. (Except my 1 year old who was in his highchair, but he was laughing along with us!) I could already feel my immune system increasing its power! Positivity, smiles, and laughter have profound benefits. Some of which include not only a strengthened immune system, but also protection from the damaging effects of toxic stress. Its a way to release challenging feelings and build connection with others. I openly expressed my internal dialogue regarding the effect of reading these jokes. I restated that “I felt grumpy (a lot of us actually did) and a little sad so I identified what I was feeling, expressed it, and co-regulated. One technique I like to use after breathing and getting a drink is to find some humor. That is what I did!” These words were my internal dialogue that I shared with my kids.
Creativity, Critical Thinking, Writing
I left the coloring pages on the table as an option for an activity if they wish. The girls used colored pencils and markers. As we colored we shared a few more of our favorite jokes. During conversations like these I try to sit down with the kids and find some peaceful, slow, calm in between the busy moments of transition, clean up, cooking, and organizing. Later in the afternoon we wrote down a few jokes that we like and thought about creating some new ones of our own. The girls needed help writing down their jokes in the small spaces. We decided to take turns writing. This way each one of us could have practice in writing letters and listening to the sounds we hear in the words we speak. Since we were talking about jokes, we decided to bring out our joke book and share a few more.
I left the poster up for a few days. This invites the family to engage in the activity at any time. My oldest daughter asked today if I would fill in another joke of my own. It elicits opportunities for sharing, connection, reading, and writing whenever the mood strikes. I keep the messages that are torn off in a zip lock bag so that we can re-use them in the future.
I have a special love affair with books. I will use books in so many different situations and for so many different reasons. I will use books nearly 5 times each day as a resource to open discussion with my kids about a wide range of topics, ideas, situations, and problems. We have a book that the girls love called In My Heart: A Book of Feelings (Growing Hearts).
My kids will listen to stories again and again usually with the same excitement they had from the first time they heard it. So I brought out this book to read and talked more about how to identify emotions, accept, express, and then regulate them with things like breathing, water, hugs, visualizing, humor, etc.
Here are some other book recommendations related to Social Emotional Awareness.
There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi– In this comical, silly story a cute little dog named Sukie has to overcome his fear and anxiety to help another in need. I like talking to my kids about accepting our fears as real and then building ways to overcome fears when needed.
Jokes for Kids by Zondervan– This book includes not only jokes but also tongue twisters, knock-knock jokes, and Q&As. It has some cute illustrations too. Small, but not too small and lightweight so that it’s easy to carry around anywhere. Some of the jokes the kids don’t quite understand yet, but I like that part because they serve as great conversation starters and teachable moments.
Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis– I love the way that Jamie Lee Curtis describes moods as human, normal, acceptable, and always changing. One minute we might be happy, the next sad, and then happy again! I talk to my kids about how to name the feeling and accept the feeling, as is. I often tell them that no one can tell you how to feel. Your feeling are yours to express and we will work together to learn how to express them in healthy ways.
The Boy with Big Big Feeling by Britney Winn Lee– Britney Winn Lee writes so clearly and eloquently about how feelings need to be celebrated. I love this perspective so much because often times parents (including myself) sometimes want to stop or fix the challenging feelings. But feelings are not to be fixed, they are to be expressed, accepted and encouraged to run their course.
I hope these ideas and resources are useful! Embrace those emotions with care!