Q: Our family enjoys laughing together. Sometimes this includes poking fun at each other. Do you think there’s a problem with this kind of humour?
A: Everything depends on your distinctive family “culture.” Because you are interconnected in ways unlike any other group of people, you take certain things for granted and know things about one another that no one else can know. You have a common language. If it’s understood that teasing is part of that, then you probably can’t eliminate it without damaging your ability to connect.
Tone and motives are also important factors to consider. Are the jokes and stories designed to hurt or embarrass someone? Or are they meant to express affection and appreciation? The real litmus test should be the reaction of the one who’s getting “roasted” and whether or not they think it’s funny.
It really boils down to two basic principles. First: never sacrifice respect for humour. There are jokes that demean and jokes that can preserve the self-esteem of family members. Make sure everyone understands the difference.
Second: whatever happens, make sure that every person in your family feels that home is a safe place to be. If humour comes across as threatening, communication will cease. This can cause all kinds of negative fallout. In this case, mum and dad need to dig deeper and find out what else is going on. There’s an old saying that “many a truth is spoken in jest.” But when teasing becomes a way of rubbing salt into open wounds, it’s time for people to put all joking aside and to air genuine grievances in open and honest dialogue.
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