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See the Light -- 'errrr side of Fetal Alcohol
Fostering Families Today - A Foster Care and Adoption Resource for America

The Lighter Side of Living in a Complex Family
“How can you see humor in that?” asked the kind gentleman interested in developing an independent living community for young adults with complex brain differences. “They really did that?” His eyes had widened to golf ball size.“You have to realize when families finally ask for help, they have used up the resources they have at hand – friends, family, professionals. They are looking for another out of the box idea that – just might work.” I laughed. Ann laughed. Vicky laughed. Toni Hager laughed, as had the other moms we love and share our lives. Each laugh represented a memory of a  coming to the end of ourselves moment.“I don’t understand the humor,” the gentleman pondered.We tried to explain what we had learned over the last thirty years from hundreds of hurting, confused and frustrated children:

  • Smile through the chaos – that lifting the corners of our rainbow frown in to a clown uplifted our spirits.
  • Breathe love through our hearts – that a deep breath of fresh air through our nostrils, past our brains and into our heart while smiling with our eyes closed allowed us to refocus to help a child in physical, psychological or emotional pain.
  • Laugh when others would cry – allowed us to be energized to step out of the box, shake all its contents on the floor and reorganize our stinking thinking.
  • Embrace another human being – especially someone who walks in shoes worn holey from the behavior issues resulting from abuse, and trauma, and neglect to children.
  • Reach out and touch another mom or dad struggling with another day, limited resources and misjudgment. Knowing that if a person comes into your thoughts, there is probably a reason and a note needs to be sent, a call needs to be made or a prayer needs to be said.
  • Turn the energy level down in a heated situation –Soften the hurt, calm the moment, redirect the action.
  • Create a fun – freeze, fight, fidget, flee or faint strategy – Pack a picnic, grab the kids and dogs and get out. Use a 12” eraser to remove the moment or behavior. Go to the bathroom alone. Once I dug up and replanted seven trees to use up the energy I had available to fight – the kids knew mom had had enough!
  • Sanely (no maybe insanely) step up and out of the safety of a trench and walk into the line of fire to help another human being – head high, eyes twinkling.

Humor assists us to connect with others and view a situation with a clearer perspective. Our children teach us distressing emotions such as depression, anxiety, anger and stress hurt our abilities to be our best at providing care. Our children with brain and body differences teach us to laugh at ourselves. Healthy humor stimulates laughter through mirth and wit and brings joy. How many of us when we are angry have said with a pout, “Don’t make me laugh!” Instinctively we know that we cannot maintain distress and humor at the same time.Research has presented the following conclusions:

  • Humor feels good and it is good for mental health.
  • Laughter increases heart rate, pulse rate and jiggles our internal organs – remember the last time your stomach hurt from laughing?
  • Laughter increases tolerance to pain
  • Laughter increases imunoglobin A that helps fight respirator disease
  • Laughter reduces serum cortical (a hormone released during a stress response)

When we listen and watch carefully we become aware that humor develops like every other part of our lives. A child who appears to be playing with puns and double meanings may “really” experience the world as it is stated and take sarcasm, anti or ethnic jokes or put downs to heart. Our special loved ones require us to learn the developmental levels of humor to avoid causing additional pain – we laugh with each other, not at each other – poke fun at a situation not a person. We learn that if we use too high of developmental humor we confuse, frustrate and can hurt another human being.Developmental Levels of Humor

  1. Physical comedy – peek-a-boo, smiles
  2. Nonsense – physical incongruity, (shoe on head, sock on nose) nonsense words.
  3. Verbal statements – calling mommy daddy
  4. Knock-knock jokes and riddles
  5. Ready made jokes and riddles
  6. Puns and double meanings

As caregivers of traumatized children a big a ha ha ha may not be available and tiny steps of healing must occur through care and the lightness of compassion before laughter is forthcoming. After the World Trade Towers were hit, it took American’s over five days before humor was added to the Internet. Think about it.SidebarTen Ideas to Lighten Your Load

  1. Keep a notebook of pleasant and joyful experiences.
  2. Post cartoons on your refrigerator.
  3. Watch a comedy.
  4. Fidget with a toy – animated toys, bubbles, slinky, stress balls.)
  5. Take “one minute vacations” Step back, smile, breath heart-fully, shake out your box and ask for a clear mind.
  6. Surround yourself with positive people
  7. Create a sense of joy – wear something you love, pick your happy color or scent. Cool your favorite comfort food.
  8.  Celebrate the completion of a step or project
  9. Let go of what you can’t handle.
  10. Don’t sweat the small stuff