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Rumors Deserve No Reaction

by Lori Sciame | June 11th, 2012 | Tweens
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Maybe you haven’t experienced it yet, but if you have a tween-aged child, you probably will. I’m talking about rumors. As defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, rumors are “a statement or report current without known authority for its truth.” In simplified terms, this means that basically tweens will spread lies about each other. Sad, but true. As a parent, how can you help your child if he or she becomes the focal point of a rumor at school?

The first step requires patience, as you need to listen to your child until he or she has told you all of the details. Believe me, this can be hard once you realize your child has been deeply hurt. It will pay off, however, if you don’t cut your child off before he finishes his story. At first he needs you to be there to just listen.

Next, after you have heard about the entire situation, discuss exactly what a rumor is — a lie with no truth to it. For example, maybe another child is spreading a rumor that your daughter kissed a boy in the men’s bathroom. You can assure your child that after giving it some thought, the kids will realize that that situation isn’t possible. In the first place, girls aren’t allowed in the men’s bathroom, and there are adults who monitor that rule. Tell her that because the rumor can’t be true, she should not be so worried about others believing it.

You also want to encourage your child to not help fuel the rumor by addressing it at all. I have found that if a rumor is ignored, and that a child does not appear upset by it, the whole situation blows over rather quickly. You see, the person who started the rumor hopes your child will be hurt; he or she hopes that they will elicit a reaction of some sort. Instruct your child to not give him or her the satisfaction of that response.

In addition, use this situation as a teaching opportunity. Ask your child if she has ever started a rumor about someone else. Tell her to be honest, so that you can explore the reasons why someone may feel the need to do such a thing. Answers can include: a need for attention, a feeling of being slighted in some way, or even a wish to get to know the target of the lie better. If all parents took the time to address the behaviors that fuel rumor-starting, the tween years would be so much happier for many children.

Finally, if the rumor worsens, even after ignoring it, you may wish to speak to school officials. Your child’s teacher has insight into what’s going on in the classroom, and the guidance counselor can offer more specific courses of action.

Be prepared to discuss how to handle negative rumors with your tween. Even if he or she hasn’t been the subject of a wild rumor yet, the time will come. Listen intently, then tell them to go to school and — not react!

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