Tickle Their Funny Bones: How Humor Helps Kids in Medical Situations

Jan 24, 2022 | Children's Health

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A good joke is always welcome. Using humor can help children stay comfortable in a doctor’s office, hospital room or any other time they’re receiving medical care.

Meaghan Myrick, Child Life Specialist with Our Lady of Lourdes Women’s & Children’s Hospital, explains why it’s important for kids to feel at ease in medical settings and offers tips for parents, including her best joke.

Coping Skills to Last a Lifetime

Children who feel comfortable receiving medical care will have that same level of comfort with medical care later in life. Helping children develop coping skills through preparation is a big part of what Child Life Specialists provide, and they incorporate humor and play to do so.

Myrick usually even introduces herself to families by joking about how they should be happy she’s not the one providing their direct medical care. She also points out the wheels on the hospital bed, asking if their beds at home have wheels, which usually elicits a giggle. Using humor can help make hospital and doctor things fun and much less scary.

Preparation is key for kids. Myrick shares that recently a young patient was terrified of surgery despite having had surgeries before. Her anxiety was likely produced by a previous bad experience, but after some preparation with Myrick, who explained the surgery in ways the patient could understand, she was smiling, easy to engage and playful.

Tips for Parents to Support Kids with Laughter

Parents can help prepare their children for any medical experience. Playing with a pretend doctor’s kit in a familiar place like home can help children feel safer and decrease any discomfort when faced with the same type of equipment later. In the hospital children have access to real equipment for medical play. 

Age-appropriate books and TV shows that describe the experience of a doctor’s visit or hospital stay can ease fears as well, and often they will include elements of humor in the storylines.

During a procedure, parents can support their kids physically by hugging or holding them in comfort positions to help the child feel safe and decrease any anxiety. Read more about preparing your child for pokes and other procedures.

Accessing healthcare almost always includes waiting, and Myrick suggests that is a great time for parents to lighten up with their children. She keeps a list on her phone of funny things her son has said throughout childhood, and they’ll review those together when they’re waiting for an appointment. She says he always laughs no matter how many times they read them. 

Other ideas to incorporate humor while waiting include watching funny videos or looking up jokes to share.

Favorite Kid-Friendly Jokes 

To celebrate National Belly Laugh Day, which is January 24, we created a video featuring some of our Children’s Health network pediatricians sharing their favorite kid-friendly jokes

Myrick uses jokes when she’s supporting children and their families during a hospital stay. She says this one never fails to elicit a belly laugh:

Why do ducks have tail feathers? To cover their butt quacks.

Looking for more parenting tips? Check out Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health ParentingU Podcast.

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