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by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families

There is nothing that makes me feel better than a really good laugh. I believe that hearty laughter relieves stress like nothing else can. Proverbs 17 v 22 tells us that a 'Merry heart is good medicine', and it is absolutely true.

I can recall going through extreme stress some years ago. I was so distraught I could hardly think straight. It so happened that in the middle of all this, our bi-monthly 'girls night out' came around. I couldn't think of anything less inviting, but since I initiated these gatherings in the first place, I thought it would be rude not to go. Well, it was the best thing I ever did. We laughed and laughed. I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chair. I came home feeling like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders. It was fantastic!

Isn't it great hearing children laugh? We can't wait to hear our babies gurgle. We do all sorts of things just to hear their merry chortles. When they laugh, it makes us laugh. Laughter is infectious and it makes the whole world seem a better place. Do you remember the movie 'Mary Poppins'? The Banks children had been brought up in a stressful home environment, so Mary Poppins took them to see the old man who had a laughing problem. Whenever he laughed he floated up to the ceiling. His laughter made them laugh, too, and it wasn't long before they were all bobbing about in the air.

Laughter is a vital part of family life, yet research shows that if you were to put a camcorder in a home and view the results, you would find that in most cases about 70% of the conversation would be considered negative. This is a sad indicator for today's families. Where has the sheer joy of living gone?

When I think of the term, 'the good old days', it reminds me of the fun we had playing outside, making huts, playing games with the neighboring kids, saving our money and buying 10c of candy at the local store. My kids' favorite memories were when the family went camping at the beach, or took our band to entertain the crowds in vacation resorts. The key to fun then was that nothing was complicated. We just packed the tent, some food, clothes, bathing suits, buckets and spades, and took off. We didn't take boxes of toys and computer games for our kids to play with. The kids didn't need entertaining. We all played together.

It seems that 'fun family times' have become crowded out by the commitments now placed on most family members. Many parents can't rest and relax, even on vacation, because they can be contacted by phone or email, making them vulnerable to the demands of work. We need to lighten up and give ourselves permission to just be silly at times. We need spontaneity. Life is short and being made shorter by the stress we put on ourselves.

So, how can we create laugher in our families? Perhaps the most important first step is to ensure there is a positive atmosphere in the home. Encourage one another with plenty of praise. Positive families are more likely to laugh. Plan regular family times where you all have a turn at deciding on fun activities and play. Go camping or vacationing together and leave the high tech stuff at home. These fun times together create family bonds, memories, and great opportunities to laugh about things. We all need to enjoy each other's company. Laughter is so easy and it is free.

If you have some funny experiences you would like to share, or examples of fun family times, please contact us on sally@forefrontfamilies.org or visit our website www.forefrontfamilies.org and our blog site at www.forefrontfamilies.blogspot.com

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