Help Young People Avoid The Trap of Gossip

By Jessica Fehrenbacher

As children progress into the pre-teen and teen years, the presence of gossip becomes more prevalent. Sadly, many adults also struggle with falling prey to gossip. Why do we gossip, and why do we start so early? Sometimes it’s merely jealousy or boredom. Perhaps we want to make ourselves appear better or more popular around a group of people.

At some point, most young people will probably find themselves the target of gossip. It can be difficult, especially for teens, who often struggle with the pressure to fit in and be liked, to handle being the target of gossip. As an adult helping a young person maneuver the world, it is important that you are both equipped to deal if the issue arises. Here are four helpful strategies that, an online resource for therapists and treatment centers, suggested:

While each situation is different, it may help to talk one-on-one with the person who is responsible for spreading the gossip. This can help to get to the source directly.
Another way would be to express one’s feelings without pointing fingers or being accusatory. The hope with this approach is the person that is spreading the gossip realizes the impact of their behavior.
It might also be beneficial to just ignore the gossip let it go. As time moves on, people move on to other events and often times forget.
Finally, it can be helpful that those that are the victims of gossip might seek out help through a mental health worker, mentor, teacher, or friend.

While it is important that a young person knows how to deal with being the target of gossip, it is also just as critical that they don’t let themselves gossip about others. Here are some ways to correct some of the most popular behavior that leads to gossiping. Practice implementing these methods in your own life, and discuss the benefits with your children or students.

First, create some empathy for the situation. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would you feel if people (or even more upsetting, friends) were saying those things about you? Next, look at your friends that you are more likely to gossip with. Try to encourage conversations toward different topics and focus more on the positive. Steer the conversation in another direction or simply say “Can we talk about something else?”

Don’t be afraid to take some time away from situations where people tend to gossip. For example, spend a lunch hour alone or miss a coffee break where people tend to talk about others. Do your best to be a better person, and the young people in your life will take note of you living out what you preach.

Jessica Fehrenbacher is the Make a Difference Grant Program Manager at Youth Resources of Southwestern Indiana.