Are you surprised that having a sense of humor is a quality of resilient people?
Humor is the ability to be light-hearted even in the face of difficulty. To be clear, humor does not serve to minimize traumatic experiences but rather it serves as a tool to combat and cope with difficult times, stresses, and challenges. We aren’t talking necessarily about your sense of humor: our personal humor that is unique to each of us. It’s more of the process of incorporating humor into our lives even in the darkest times. For children and teens, it can be particularly impactful.
I am reminded of a personal experience. During my time as a social worker in a New Orleans high school after Hurricane Katrina, I worked with an exceptional school leader. The average student was at a third grade reading level entering into the 9th grade. The majority of students had faced significant traumas, in addition to Hurricane Katrina, including gun violence and poverty among many others. School days were long in the beginning of the year and there were frequent outbursts from the students. This school leader faced these outbursts with laughter and humor in a way I had never seen possible. He made up nicknames for students and staff that he would shout down the hallway. He did funny skits for classes and assemblies to demonstrate solidarity. He laughed at himself all the time in staff meetings, in the hallways, and when he was supervising detention. He participated in light hearted pranks with students. He openly embraced humor everyday, and in doing so, encouraged his staff and students to do the same.
Looking back, I can see how the, students and staff were all initially resistant. But I watched as resistance turned to full-hearted participation. Staff created opportunities to use light-hearted humor to tease each other at school assemblies. We made videos that celebrated our students' achievements that were hilarious and silly. Funny antics were present in every corner. With the humor, came stronger relationships between students and staff, engaging lectures, less resistance, more hope, more excellence, better results, and more resilience. Humor was not the only success platform incorporated into this school, but it played a strong role. This school leader had not spent years studying how humor is a protective factor of resilience. But he knew from his experience working with students who had faced significant trauma, that humor paved the way for relationship building, perseverance, positivity, and the overall success of his students.
Most of us are not naturally stand-up comedians, even if we think we are. But that’s not what this is about. Allowing for space in your classrooms for laughter teaches your students that laughter is important. You will be surprised. The next time your students start to become frustrated by a difficult math problem, humor may just be the thing to get them to let it roll off their shoulders and persevere. More importantly, they can carry on the lessons gained from addressing their challenges with humor as they continue throughout life.
Find a way to laugh this week. What makes you laugh? Are there ways you can encourage yourself to laugh more? Observe how it makes you feel. Then go find something that makes you laugh. Feel free to watch the following two videos to help: