31 Mar Helping Teens Deal with Gossip (How to Avoid It, Stop It, Overcome It)
Nobody likes to be the subject of gossip. It is mean, hurtful, and simply unproductive. So why does it happen so readily amongst teens? Gossip is a form of social grooming, it helps teens make sense of new information and allows them to feel in-the-know as they build a bond with those they’re communicating with. However, it comes at the cost of losing trust and often hurting others. In essence, it is often counterproductive to its purposes for building relationships! It can also present itself as a manifestation of jealousy or a means to get revenge. In both cases, it can be harmful and damaging for the subject of the gossip and even the person spreading the rumor. So, when gossip strikes, and your teen or their friends become a target, keep these tips in mind for how to help them deal with gossip by avoiding it, stopping it, and overcoming it.
Staying out of the spotlight during high school is easier said than done. Even when teens want to be a good friend, they can sometimes slip up and share private information, making someone the center of negative attention. Navigating secrets and building trust is part of a very important learning process for teens. To help them learn healthy ways to handle these difficult situations, be clear with them what can happen when they spread rumors. Explain that they can lose friends and their reputation as a gossip can make it difficult to make new ones. Remind them that sometimes a story is not theirs to tell. The golden rule still stands: treat others how you would want to be treated.
To help prevent gossip, your teen can be careful about who they share things with. Remind your teen that if they need someone to talk to they have confidential options. If they do not want their peers to know about certain things, teens can tell close confidants such as parents, siblings, school staff, counselors, or very close friends that they trust. If they need a way to relieve tension around secrets, they can try journaling, self-care, or other mental health activities for teens.
If your teen has been the victim of gossip, or has seen it happen to a friend, they have witnessed how harmful it can be. It is up to them to become a part of the solution. When someone comes to them with information and asks them not to share with others, teens have the opportunity to decide what they are comfortable with. They can make a point to keep the information to themselves or they can politely decline the information because they do not like secrets.
If something was spread about them, teens can make the active choice to try to move on instead of looking to get revenge. It is up to each teen to end the vicious cycle of teen gossip. To get involved in anti-bullying efforts, teens can start or join a club that condemns gossip to let their peers know where they stand. Explain to your teen that taking a stance on gossip can show their peers that they are trustworthy and kind. In fact, when they stop rumors in their tracks, other teens will take note and be more willing to trust them going forward. Stopping the spread of hurtful information can even be a friendship builder!
If gossip or rumors are spread about your teen, encourage them to not dwell on it, as difficult as it may seem. Moving forward is important. To get closure, teens can address the person that revealed the secret or created the rumor to have an open and honest conversation about what happened. If the person is unknown, teens can work with school staff to find a solution, assert the truth to their friends, and find alternative ways to cope with the situation.
Explain to your teen that as quickly as gossip spreads, it is just as easily forgotten when the next story, or viral tiktok, comes along. Instead of having them engage in retaliation, help them avoid it by planning activities to help them move on. Throughout the process, check in on your teen’s wellness and look for the warning signs that they are under stress or are experiencing anxiety or depression as a result of the rumors. Be sure to offer mental health resources for teens such as a counselor, psychologist, or social emotional learning curriculum that can help them cope.
At Tilly’s Life Center, our mission is to help teens become the most positive and productive versions of themselves. Part of these efforts include helping young people deal with gossip by avoiding, overcoming, and stopping it in its tracks. The TLC students at Community Roots Academy have created a video to illustrate what can happen when teen gossip spreads and how to prevent it. This source can be a great learning opportunity for your teen and an easy way to start a conversation about the forms of bullying. Check it out here! To learn more about our teen mental health resources and our powerful and effective curriculum, visit www.tillyslifecenter.org.