Teach children ways to diffuse rumors

Published 11:11 am Saturday, September 20, 2014

QUESTION: How do I help my teen handle an ugly, false rumor about her?

RESPONSE: Any person who is the target of rumors and gossip will feel hurt and embarrassed.

In her book, “The Science of Making Friends,” psychiatrist Elizabeth Laugeson shares the wisdom that one of the most important tactics you can use to kill a rumor is to discredit it by acting amazed that people believe it or even care about it. If the rumor is true, act amazed that anyone would even care enough to talk about it; if the rumor is false, act amazed that anyone would ever believe it.

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When you are the target of a rumor, others often approach you to find out if the rumor is true. That is the opportunity to act amazed that anyone would care or believe the rumor.

Things you can say include: 1. “I can’t believe anyone would believe that.”  2. “Who would believe that?  People are so gullible.”  3. “Can you believe anyone cares about that?”  4. “Why would anyone care about that?”  5. “People seriously need to find something better to talk about.”

When you act amazed, people will be less likely to believe the rumor or think that they should even care about the rumor, which means they will be less likely to spread the rumor, which is what you want.

Good parenting includes teaching our children how to be good friends. A good friend can help out another friend who is the target of a rumor by using the same tactic, being “amazed” when the rumor comes up in a peer conversation. Adults, too, have plenty of opportunities in life to say “People seriously need to find something better to talk about.”

To talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child-raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528.  For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599.  Check out the PRC Specialty Library (105 First Street S.E., Austin) and www.familiesandcommunities.org.