Gossip and rumors can be extremely painful to deal with and can have a significant and long-lasting impact upon the children who experience it. Children who are the victims of gossip and rumors can experience feelings of isolation, as well as low confidence and self-esteem. For parents, it can be extremely painful to watch your child be the victim of rumors or gossip. However, it’s also important to take steps to help support and guide them through it. By following these six steps, you can help your child to navigate rumors and gossip more successfully and help them avoid long-term consequences.
1. Validate their feelings and encourage them to talk about it
Give your child the opportunity to talk about the situation and to express their feelings. It’s important to take them seriously and not to dismiss their feelings, however untrue or trivial the rumors or gossip may seem to you. Let your child know that you are there for them and create a supportive home environment in which they feel they can communicate openly and honestly with you about their experiences.
2. Identify the source of the gossip
Try to find the source of the gossip, including who is spreading it and what it is that’s being said. Knowing the source of the gossip will help you to understand why it’s happening in the first place, as well as whether it’s based on misinformation or is more consciously malicious in intent. In turn, this will help you to support your child to respond to the gossip and handle the situation in a more positive manner.
3. Find distractions and avoid social media
Help your child to avoid dwelling on the rumors and gossip by focusing on other things instead. You could enroll them in a club or help them to start doing a hobby or activity they enjoy. Alternatively, you could plan a little day-trip with them or even a weekend away to help distract them from the situation. Additionally, encourage your child to avoid social media during this period, however difficult this may seem.
4. Teach them assertiveness skills and let them fight their own battles
As a parent, it can be tempting to fight your child’s battles for them in an effort to protect them. However, it’s important to instead help equip your child with the skills and tools they need to be able to fight for themselves. Unless your child is being threatened, focus instead on listening and empathizing with them. Teach them to take the high road instead of seeking revenge and help them to find ways to respond to gossip or rumors assertively. You could even help them to develop a script, so that they can be more confident when faced with unkindness or people who are determined to spread gossip.
5. Monitor online gossip
The internet, cell phones and social media mean that gossip can spread like wildfire and children can be exposed to it 24/7. It also means that you need to monitor online interactions and if appropriate, make copies of these interactions. If your child is experiencing online abuse or bullying, then report the information and share the interactions with your child’s school.
6. Be aware of signs of emotional distress and get help
Children deal with gossip and rumors differently. Whilst some may be able to simply wait for it to pass, others may be quietly struggling. It’s important to remain vigilant for signs of emotional distress, including signs of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, self-harm or even thoughts of suicide. Don’t be afraid to contact a counsellor to help your child learn how to deal with negative thoughts and emotions and find a good outlet in which to share their emotions.
It’s important to remind your child that all private information they share with others can sadly be used to potentially create hurtful gossip and rumors. Encourage them to be careful with what information they share and with whom. Provide a supportive home environment and allow your child to have the opportunity to talk openly about difficult situations. When faced with challenging situations, reassure them and be there for them, but if in doubt, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.