New can be a four letter word when your child has autism or sensory processing issues, or maybe is just shy or an introvert. New classes, new school, new therapist, new friends, new foods. New. New. New. Everyday there is something new thrown at our kids, and unless it’s a new object of desire (like a gadget or a pet), then NEW is not welcomed in our world. Have you ever tried using humor to cope? We do!
What To Do When Your Child Rejects “New”
Transitioning into jr. high school was a huge challenge for us, so like all things, I tackled it with humor.
On the first day of school, I parked as he hyperventilated, then puked, then panicked that he wasn’t going to make it into his first class. I knew that if I could get him into the school, he’d be okay. It was the fear of the new. Of the unknown. Of change.
We were here at the school every day last week, practicing switching from class to class. He had his schedule memorized. He had taken the introductory camp, welcoming new 6th graders, and he knew where to go if he needed assistance or the bathroom. He could do this, as long as his anxiety didn’t take over completely.
I walked him up the ramp and onto the campus. He had to sit down by the bike racks. It occurred to me that he may bolt, dashing into the horrific traffic that is morning drop off. On high alert, scolding myself for not wearing tennis shoes in case I need to dash after my pre-teen, I turned to our vice. Humor.
We use humor to cope.
“I hope these 8th graders don’t think I’m a student and ask me out,” I said with a straight face. “Do you think that boy is looking at me? Is he checking me out?”
My son laughed at the absurdity of it. So I continued, taking his mind off his fear. Or at least transferring it to his ridiculous mother delusional enough to think an 8th grader would be interested in her.
“Do you think he’s going to friend me?”
“Huh?” he was confused. Right, he’s not on Facebook. Instagram was their social media of choice.
“I mean follow me? He’s going to want to follow me, isn’t he?”
He laughed some more. “Probably not. I think you’re okay. You’re old.”
And so I acted hurt. Not Academy Award worthy, but just enough to be annoying. “Do you think I’m fat? Am I hotter than that mom? Oh, I like her shoes, let’s go talk to her. Her daughter is cute!”
“You’re kind of fat,” he replied, “but it’s okay.” He let go of my hand, realizing he was squeezing it and that is so not cool at Jr. High.
He scooted a few feet away from me, his anxiety attack was passing. Although he looks very much like me, he began acting like he didn’t know me. He was becoming more comfortable. Breathing. Still excited, and nervous, but manageable.
“You can go,” he shooed me away, spotting his friend in the crowd. He got up and raced towards her, happily chatting over each other as they waltz into the campus and into their teenage years.
And I watched, tears in my eyes. He was growing up. And he moved past his fear. It only took a few minutes of humor to get him over the obstacle and onto his next adventure.
So Mamas, break out your funny bone.
You don’t have to be a comedian, but a little silliness can go a long way. Remember to never make fun, ridicule or shame your child when they’re afraid. This is the gentle humor that distracts them enough to switch gears. And know when you’re no longer needed to bow out of the frame and watch them fly.
Humor Tips for Moms
1. If your child doesn’t enjoy humor, this is not the best option for you. Some kids just don’t find things funny and that’s okay. So maybe something relaxing would work better for your child. Breathing exercises, a waterfall noise app, pictures of animals playing. Something soothing. Some kids think they’re being made fun of with humor, so don’t joke around if your child needs to feel safe and secure.
2. Cater to their humor style. Do they like slapstick, slipping on a banana peel humor? Or maybe their humor is more dry and serious. You know your kiddo best, so adjust your humor to their style. Does Spongebob send them into hysterics? Maybe have some Spongebob storybooks on hand. Do they respond to Knock-Knock jokes? Have an app on your phone with jokes on it. My son responds well to me acting like a buffoon, or I Love Lucy-ish antics, so that’s what we do. I’d shove an obscene amount of chocolates in my mouth if it makes him laugh and I can get him into a new camp. Basically, I’m not afraid to look like a total dork for his benefit.
3. Know where they are developmentally. Humor for your child or young adult may be a cute picture of a dog and cat hugging on their iPad. Some kids respond to very simple drawings, while other kids may need more stimulation and a punchline or gag. Where are they verbally? What makes them smile? It’s about easing those nervous feelings in their tummies, so it can be a family photo book that makes them smile or a Youtube video of a monkey taking care of a cat. Whatever works for your family. And this grows and changes as they grow too so try to keep it fresh.
4. Do Not Tease. Ever. Or use sarcasm. If you’re not sure what teasing is, it’s a person who makes fun of someone playfully or unkindly. This does not help a child having anxiety, in fact, it makes the situation a million times worse and is a real self-esteem killer. Sorry guys, but I’ve seen a lot of dad’s doing this, and they’re not trying to be awful, they just don’t know. “Hey Scardycat!” as he ruffles his kids hair lovingly. “You’re being ridiculous, like a cat afraid of water,” they joke, but it’s not funny. And the worst is when they add blame to the teasing, such as, “Well, we can’t go to theme parks, our boy is chicken of roller coasters. Saves me a ton of money though. Ha ha.” See, not funny, even with a laugh on the end. It’s hurtful. And Ladies, you’re not off the hook, I’ve seen moms do this too. Don’t use sarcasm, it’s not helpful. Sarcasm is just an excuse to be mean by adding some humor to what you really think. It’s completely unacceptable in my opinion when dealing with a child or anyone that is highly sensitive.
*Side Note: One of my best friends is highly sarcastic, with extremely smart, witty humor. So, yes, save your sarcasm for the proper forum as I agree it can be hilarious.
What have you used to help your child with anxiety over hurdles? Please let our readers know so that we can try it out!
You may also be interested in our article by comedian Amber Tozer, who has worked as an aide to autistic children. Read “The Best Autism Aide is A Comedian (For Real!) here. Her humor is what inspired me to try it on my own kiddo.
Thanks for stopping by, Jackie Linder Olson