Laughter Yoga with Teenagers - Everybody Wins
by Jeffrey Briar
A recurring question, whenever we share this good laughter work, seems to be: ”How do we work with different groups?’”
The recurring answer, for all groups, is: “Give them what they need.” Speak to what they can relate to. Meet them where they are.
Study, and listen for, what this particular group wants. (The explanations, and exercises, for one group may not work with a different group.)
What do teenagers need?
They need fun, activity, expression; and also acceptance, to look good, to be cool.
They also need guidance, structure and “form” (although they may not admit this, as to admit they need guidance does not seem “cool”).
- Consideration: Teens create one structure through social “strata”. It is probably impossibly difficult to try to force them to break out of this – to ask this is asking too much, too fast. So: break them up into Grades, or age groups. Let the Freshman/Women laugh with their peers, the Seniors with the Seniors, etc. It is too much, for example, to ask a Senior to “degrade themselves” (in the eyes of their peers) by playing/laughing – on an “equal” level - with a Freshman.
- Suggestions: choose explanations, words, practices and exercises which are relevant to THEIR experiences, their values, their needs.
Most teens probably don’t care to know about endorphins, Norman Cousins, Doctors named “Berk” or “Fry”, nor do they want to learn sociological statistics.
But they might care a lot about: recovering from painful injuries or depression, getting over colds, feeling fearless, handling others’ rudeness, or being able to concentrate better (and get better grades).
What are some Laughter Exercises that a teen can get into?
They may not be comfortable with Handshake or Hugging; Crying may be asking them to display too much vulnerability…
...they’re more likely to embrace Cellphone (a surefire teen-connector), Hearty, Taking a Test, No Money (Empty Pockets), Jackpot, Gibberish Punchlines, Milkshake, Credit Card Bill (but call it “Report Card”), Naughty-Naughty and Forgiveness Laughters.
It may be too much (they might consider it degrading) to ask them to do "Little Kids’ Playground Games" (like swinging on swings, jump rope, merry-go-round, etc.) – they will probably feel more comfortable doing laughter versions of more “grown-up” Sports (pretending to do Volleyball, Baseball, Football, Basketball, etc. while laughing).
- One other suggestion: let them know it is okay to feel however they feel, and to NOT participate… but they need to stand in the back of the room (with this, you are giving them “Just Enough Structure”) to be considerate of the other people - those in the center of the room - who ARE participating and having a good time. (You must enforce this by actually insisting that the non-participating teens DO move out from the center). What is most likely to occur is that the ones in the center will be obviously having such a good time that, after an exercise or two, all the ones on the outside will join in.
Do realize there may be a few who simply won’t feel comfortable enough to join in – for any of a number of reasons (the fear of their parents’ reactions, they are mulling over another problem, etc. etc. etc.). It is wisest to acknowledge and accept this, and allow such people to step out and not participate (until/unless they feel willing).
Then, our task is to make the participating ones have SUCH a great and fun time that the ones on the outside feel: the irresistible urge to join on in.