Gossip can be perceived as just harmless talk-- something girls might do to pass time, bond, or “catch up. However, gossip can be extremely emotionally damaging to not only the person whom they are gossiping about but also damaging to the participants. Rumors move further and faster with the platform of social media so in this day and age it is extremely important to take gossip with your teens seriously.
Here are three ways to prevent or change a culture of gossip in your home:
Don't just vent. As parents and caregivers we might be quick to mouth off whatever frustrations we have throughout the day. We might feel comfortable because we are “among family” or “close friends,” but venting out our frustrations when there are younger children or teens present could create a culture where talking about anything and everything is okay-- even if it's hurtful. Think about what you are going to say BEFORE you say it. Can your frustration wait to be heard? Is it something your kids can benefit from hearing or is it damaging? You can create an environment where you can discuss things in a respectful manner to everyone involved, but it will take thinking before you speak.
THINK. THINK. THINK. Your mother has probably said this to you a MILLION times. “Think before you speak.” This is crucial to help prevent or solve an issue of Gossip in your family. It starts with YOU. You have to model the behavior and THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. Be intentional with your words. Don't say things like: “What was she thinking?” “Who would do something like that?” There is a way to discuss matters, even if you disagree, and continue to honor all parties involved.
Talk about talking about things. You have to own up to any gossip you have done. If you are trying to fix a problem of gossip in your home and you have been guilty of gossiping then you have to discuss it. It is okay to say, “As a family we might have participated in talking about people in a negative way, but we are changing how we discuss things. You can come to us with anything, but we don't have to spread rumors, lies, or negativity to vent about situations.” You can apologize to your children and talk about how you will discuss issues moving forward. Gossip affects so many more people than just the one talking. It's important to talk about the realities of the negativity with your children.
This can be difficult to change in your family, but NOT impossible. It will require you to be intentional and thoughtful about what you say moving forward. This is will show your children you have a level of maturity and integrity in your conversations. It will allow your family to incorporate this into your family values and will be a priceless lesson to pass on to your loved ones.
A Positive Approach to Teen Health (P.A.T.H) is a 501(c)3 organization that reaches seven counties throughout Northwest Indiana. Since 1993, A Positive Approach to Teen Health has been working to empower teens to make healthy choices regarding drugs, sex, alcohol, and violence.