Dear Grandparenting: Something is bothering my granddaughter Lauren and I don’t have a clue. It goes like this. One minute Lauren is laughing and carrying on with friends. Then Lauren gets upset and splits. End of story.
The friends aren’t mean girls or anything like that. Nobody is picking on her. Lauren just gets super quiet and runs off. The kids say she can’t take a joke.
Here’s my best guess. That’s what can happen growing up with two older brothers like Lauren did. You’re going to take some verbal hits. Maybe she took one too many and became super sensitive. What can I do to help her get over it? Jolene Banks, El Cajon, California
Dear Jolene: Laughter may have little or nothing to do with what’s funny, according to academics and mental health professionals who study humor. People around the world with a fear of being laughed at can misinterpret staccato “ha-ha-ha” of group laughter as a personal attack and flee.
Gelotophobia is the fancy name for this condition, said to affect up to 15% of the population in 30 nations surveyed by researchers at the University of Zurich, site of pioneering gelotophobia studies. The rate spikes in nations that attach importance to the concept of “saving face.” Shame is often found to be the underlying emotion for those afflicted.
Granddaughter Lauren comes across as a likely candidate for a professional evaluation. As research into the field progresses, so do treatment options. One treatment method is modeled after techniques used by sports psychologists that prepares athletes to mentally master difficult situations.
Grand remark of the week
Michael Bradley from Everett, Washington was having a hard time with five-year-old grandson Freddy. “I want to go home,” he said loudly.
“And I want a million bucks,” relied Michael, as if to demonstrate that we can’t always get what we want.
“Take me home,” said Freddy, “and I’ll see if Mom can help, very first thing.”