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Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

As many of you may have heard, WPTZ NewsChannel 5 Chief Meteorologist Tom Messner has been so interested in what I have had to share on my “First with Kids” television segments that he has decided to give up reporting the weather and apply to med school. I, in turn, have begun to take courses in meteorology so we can switch places but keep our jobs on myNBC5. 

Okay, April Fool’s! And speaking of April Fool’s Day, what a great opportunity to remind everyone about the importance of humor in your children’s lives.

Humor is one of the best ways for a family to connect. It makes life fun for children and for parents. It teaches a child to be spontaneous and not to take themselves too seriously. Studies even suggest that children with a good sense of humor are happier, have higher self-esteem, are more liked by peers, are less stressed and are better able to handle the adversities of life in childhood and beyond. 

In addition, people who laugh are healthier, less likely to be depressed, better endure pain, and may even have an increased resistance to illness. Yet children are not born with a sense of humor; they need to develop one. And parents can help.

How can you do this? A baby can’t understand humor but knows when you are smiling and happy. When you make a funny face, your baby will sense your joy and even try to imitate you.

Toddlers love the surprise humor of games like peek-a-boo. A preschooler loves a funny picture like a cow in sunglasses and may begin to enjoy noises from bodily functions, especially if they bother you. 

Children of school age love wordplay and being able to tell simple jokes and riddles. As they get older, like me, they may start to use puns and other forms of wordplay. Wit and sarcasm may also appear at this age and move into adolescence.

The bottom line is that if you can be playful and humorous with your child, they will be with you too. Be aware of what your child finds funny and then go there; and when your child tries to be funny, even if their joke doesn’t work, praise them for trying to be funny. It’s also important to set boundaries on humor since too much bathroom humor is not a good thing. So parents, be good role models in how you use humor in front of your children. 

Hopefully tips like this will be more than a laughing matter when it comes to helping your children find their sense of humor. 

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.  You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

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