How to Teach Teenagers to Deal With Gossip and Criticism

The teenage rumor mill is constantly spinning and -- thanks to the accessibility of social media -- can spread like wildfire 1. If your teen has been the victim of criticism and gossip, she might take it hard. After all, it's never fun to be the odd one out. As a parent, it's your responsibility to talk with your teen and teach her skills for resolving conflict with her peers, whether it means talking it out, completely ignoring the behavior or another solution that preserves your teen's confidence.

Take your teen's complaint seriously. While it's tempting to downplay your teen's feelings or counsel her to ignore the gossip, remember that a teen's reputation and social life are both vital to her. By belittling her feelings, you prohibit her from coming to you with other problems in the future.

Ask your teen to tell you about the gossip and her part in the drama. There are two sides to every story, so getting your teen to 'fess up and let you know what's really going on can help you assess the situation better. If your teen is reluctant to open up, wait for a time and place with little distraction and ask questions that require more than a simple "yes" or "no."

Help your teen disengage from the drama altogether. Explain to her that talking back, sending mean text messages or gossiping in retaliation only makes things worse. Her best bet is to stop communicating with the gossiping teens until you can work together to come up with a viable solution. If necessary, you may need to ban your teen from social media or her phone until the drama has blown over.

Teach your teen to use the acronym SEAL, as outlined by Dr. Phil McGraw's website, to deal with drama, gossip and criticism. First, she should stop and assess what's really happening, while identifying her aggressors and how she provoked them. Then, she should explain her point of view to the other teen. She can then affirm the gossiper's point of view before locking down the friendship or locking the aggressor out 1. Stop, explain, affirm and lock helps your teen go through the proper steps to diffuse the situation.

Explore alternative solutions if using SEAL doesn't seem to help, suggests 1. In some cases, making new friends, talking with school counselor, involving educators or disengaging until the situation blows over are better options than your teen continually trying to stop the gossip. Teens are fickle and easily move from one topic to another. Over time -- and with the right intervention -- your teen can settle into new friendships and a healthier self-image.