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Q. My 14-year-old son overheard some guys he thought were his friends making jokes about him behind his back. How should he handle this?
A. When you're a boy this age the unspoken rule is that you should laugh about everything even if you're the target. So your son may feel that his only choices are to say nothing and keep the friends, tell them how he feels and get more ridicule, or stop hanging out but never tell them why.
But there's a fourth way. He should approach the boy in the group with the most social control. Your son: "Dude, the guys are saying X about me. It's gotta stop." The other guy: "Shut up, we're just joking!" Your son: "Whatever. They listen to you. I want them to lay off." The problem may not go away, but your son will learn that he has the courage to face awkward situations head-on.
Originally published in the July 2009 issue of Family Circle magazine.