Ignore Them or Hit Them Head on: How Will You Deal With Rumors?
It’s not easy to be the subject of idle gossip at any age, but it can be truly devastating when you’re just a kid. If you’re trying to help your child navigate the sometime turbulent waters of pubescent storms, you’ll need a steady rudder. Throw your kid a safety line that reassures her of her worth, value and all-round awesomeness. Then offer some sound advice.
Know the Truth
Whatever the rumor, it’s important that your child understands in his heart what’s real and true. That can be difficult when a lot of people are trying to convince him he’s someone he’s not. Whatever the misstep he allegedly took, he knows that he didn’t do it. But if he did make a mistake, he also needs to know that everyone makes mistakes at some point in their lives and that you love him no matter what.
Tell him how to own up to what he did wrong, apologize if necessary and move on. Remind him of all the reasons he's a great person. It may also be a good time to tell him how to get away from pretend friends. The person who started the rumor is clearly not a true friend. But what about all those people listening, believing and possibly spreading the rumor? Help him choose the kind of friends he deserves.
Some rumors cannot—and should not—be shrugged off. On the other hand, kids will grab onto something minor and turn it something major if your child lets them. If an offhand remark snowballed to something big, but is still relatively harmless, give it a chance to die out of its own accord. In a day or two, someone else might be the new target, and she’ll have weathered a storm with calm composure.
Confront the Bully
Sometimes she can’t just ignore it. If she knows the source of the rumor or has a pretty good idea, she should confront the other kid head-on. After all, someone spreading rumors is nothing more than a bully. Make it as easy and safe as possible for her to do so on her own, but if you need to step in and contact a parent, that’s OK. Do so with her permission, though. She’s at an age where mom fighting her battles could make matters worse, so tread lightly. Then, model the kind of behavior you want her to emulate.
Soften the Blow
Even if the rumors are totally false, he may want to clear the air before they go too far. Have him own up to the kernel of truth and disprove the garbage that is totally false. It’s good to seek out an ally or two who will have his back and vouch for what he says. If he feels all alone among his peers, a teacher, coach or counselor can help.
Get Some Help
Speaking of counselors―school guidance counselors are particularly well-versed at dealing with preteen and teenager angst. Rumors can make your child’s life miserable. If they all start in school, then have her get some help from experts who not only have a clear understanding of what’s happening, but also may know the cast of characters. Rules of conduct are established to which every student needs to adhere, and spreading false rumors crosses the line.
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Linda Emma is a journalist and freelance writer, specializing in family, parenting, and relationship topics. She has been writing for more than 20 years. She currently works at a marketing agency and Endicott College, where she provides tutoring services and sage wisdom to undergraduates.