Annie Fox's Parent Forum Newsletter
Since February 2005 Annie Fox’s Parent Forum Newsletter has been helping parents and educators build healthier relationships with tweens and teens. This free newsletter features
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In this Newsletter
Youth Today magazine reviews “Too Stressed to Think?”
Stressed to Think? aims to help teenagers confront a common and powerful menace: Stress. The authors, both educators,
have developed a curriculum to help teens understand how stress affects them physically and mentally and how to create
more balance and control in their lives. In addition to gaining useful tools and techniques to combat stress, teens can
read insights and suggestions by other teens and stories about real-life challenges.”
—Youth Today magazine
November Parenting Article
Kids Aren’t Crops
by Annie Fox, M.Ed.
our job to give to our children all we’ve got in terms of love, emotional support and lots of guidance...”
gardeners are incurable optimists. I’m the same. Whenever I plant I dream of results that will match or surpass the
dazzling photos on the seed packets. Sometimes reality isn’t that far from my fantasy. More often than not, it doesn’t
come close. But even my worst farming failures can’t deter me from burying peach pits, grapefruit seeds or old potatoes.
Those who’ve outgrown playing in the dirt may laugh, but this season my optimism, care and hard work paid off big time.
Yep, the tomato gods have smiled upon us. Actually they’ve been laughing their leaves off non-stop since
mid-July. Why even a week before Halloween my garden rewarded me with yet another basketful of gorgeous red
it comes to gardening, I definitely “give to get,” that is, I shower all kinds of attention on
my plants (including regular doses of compost
tea and worm castings) because
I want something in return. I believe that I’m entitled to a major payback for all my efforts otherwise
I wouldn’t bother.
It’s not supposed to be that way with parents and kids.
A child’s development is a direct result of a parent’s optimism, care, and hard work. Unlike other “crops,” though,
we shouldn’t be giving to our kids with the expectation that they will eventually pay us back.
We love our children and want more than anything to know that they’re thriving and growing into kind-hearted
people who care about others and contribute to the well-being of their communities. That’s enough. No
other payback needed.
Continue reading the rest of the
November’s Recommended Read
Ophelia's Mom: Loving and Letting Go of Your Adolescent Daughter
by Nina Shandler, Ed.D.
Ophelia may have drowned herself when Hamlet turned snarly, but she’s still very much alive in several recent books
about adolescent girls. The current wave started in 1994 with Mary Pipher’s brilliant bestseller Reviving
Ophelia which offered a therapist’s perspective of the pressure girls feel to be perfect and their
subsequent loss of self-esteem. The book unleashed a storm of commentary and thoughtful prescriptions for the problem.
Then in 1999, Sara Shandler, a very young woman herself, felt enough non-teens were speaking for girls and that they deserved
a chance to speak for themselves. Her compelling collection of writing by and about teen girls is found in Ophelia
Speaks: Adolescent Girls Write About Their Search for Self. Two years later, Shandler’s mother,
Nina Shandler, Ed.D. put together her own collection of personal accounts in Ophelia’s
Mom. In so doing, she gave mothers a chance to vent, cry, doubt, question and offer
support and encouragement to one another.
This is a very compelling read that offers front row views of what it’s like for mothers when daughters turn the
corner from childhood into adolescence. The range of experiences is broad and yet an undeniable thread runs through. Daughters
as well as sons need to break away from their parents. It’s part of what they should be doing during the
teen years. Of course knowing that doesn’t always make it any easier for the parent who feels rejected. I tell parents
in my workshops “Don’t take your teen’s
verbal assaults personally. This isn’t about you even though it sure feels like it.” Good advice and absolutely
true. But you’re human and you love this child. How can it not hurt when she, who once cried when you dropped her
at preschool and ran into your arms when you picked her up, screams that she hates you? Reflexively you want to withdraw
to protect yourself from future assaults. But you’re a parent and withdrawal is not an option. As one of the moms
in Shandler’s book puts it: “I was not wanted but I still needed to be responsible.”
|“Trapped between guilt and blame, we lose track of ourselves. While hoping to guide
our daughters through adolescent insecurities we can lose our way.”
This book isn’t always easy to read. For parents who’ve been there, it’s likely to awaken intense memories.
For parents whose daughters haven’t yet turned the corner it might be unnerving. I’d still recommend it. It
will provide an uncompromising look at the journey into adulthood – a sometimes painful transition but one as natural
as the toddler’s determination to walk. As you read, keep this in mind: Like other women’s tales of labor and
delivery, your journey through Ophelia Land with your daughter will be unique to the two of you. Remember also… you
and she are just passing through this rough spot… the road’s a lot less bumpy on the other side.
Check out my Recommended
books are written for 12-18 year olds to provide the encouragement, relationship smarts, and clear thinking needed to navigate
through these years. Any adult who cares about young people should read them too. “The
Teen Survival Guide to Dating and Relating” and “Too
Stressed to Think? A teen guide to staying sane when life makes you CRAZY” (co-written
with Ruth Kirschner) are available here, or from Amazon or at your local bookstore. Order an autographed copy of
it directly from me and pay by credit card at our own online store. Order
your copy here!
The Breathing Challenge
In my student assemblies I explain how
stress impairs clear thinking. I teach the kids a
step by step process to help them: 1) Notice when they’re feeling stressed, 2) Stop, 3) Breathe, 4) Think about their options. Then I challenge
them to use the tools in the real world and let me know how it goes. Each month I’ll highlight a young person’s
account of the amazing things that can happen when you’re not Too
Stressed to Think.
Today after school, my sister was rather frustrated. She wouldn’t calm down, so I told her
to stop, breathe, and think. All she did was get even more frustrated and told me that this method wasn’t going to
work, bla, bla, bla. I wasn’t using my all the parts of my brain so I rolled my eyes, got mad– and suddenly,
it hit me, that I was getting stressed too! So I realized it, stopped, breathed, thought, and made a goal in my mind that
knowing my sister, I should just leave it alone. And it worked!!!!!!! I was in absolute awe! Two minutes later, she apologized
for her inappropriate behavior! Thanks so much for doing the assembly and giving us the advice we needed!!!!!
Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems
“Mean girls are preying on my daughter.”
My 9 year-old daughter is the odd-one-out in her class. This “mean girl” has been saying hurtful mean things
to my daughter and has shunned her on many occasions. The other girls in the class are beginning to do the same thing.
I’m concerned about my daughter. Should I contact the school and can you suggest any reading materials to help both
myself and the school in this matter? Thank you in advance for any help you can give.
I would love to come to one of your Friendship Workshops,
unfortunately we are on the opposite side of the country.
Dear Mama Lion,
I’m really glad you wrote. I’m concerned about your daughter too. There’s absolutely no excuse for “mean
girls” to act the way they do. There’s also no justification for the adults who live and work with kids to
allow it to happen. Treating other people with respect needs to be taught and reinforced, especially when it comes to girls
and their friendships.
So my answer is “yes”, I think you should contact the school ASAP and talk to the principal. And since you
know the name of the girl, I would suggest to the principal to arrange a meeting between you, your daughter, the other
girl, and her parents. Like I tell kids in my Friendship Workshop, you
don’t have to be friends with everybody but it’s never ok to be intentionally rude or cruel or insensitive.
The classroom behavior you describe has to stop, and it’s your responsibility to be an unrelenting advocate for your
daughter and her well-being. If the school does not take this shunning and harassment seriously, go to the district office.
I also feel that it’s important for you to help your daughter understand that she deserves real friends. That means
friends who will treat her with respect, be trustworthy, and loyal. Tell your daughter that you're confident she knows
how to be a real friend, and help her start looking in other places (outside of class) to find
For other resources, check out my recent article, “Real
Friends vs. the Other Kind.”
I’d also highly recommend your reading Odd
Girl Out by Rachel Simmons. I’m sure the principal and the faculty could benefit from reading it as well.
I hope this gives you the support you need to do the right thing for your daughter.
“I don’t trust my mom’s boyfriend.”
My mom started dating this new guy about a month ago. I’ve grown up without a dad...so it’s really weird.
I snooped and saw some emails back and forth between them. One of them said: “Hey there HOT babe!” And then
he was talking about marriage. That just shocked me. I have talked to this guy 2 times in person. I know it was wrong of
me to read her emails, but I’m not sure this guy’s for her. He just seems mysterious and it kind of scares
I don’t want to see my mom hurt and I don’t want anything to be rushed. I’m really uncomfortable around
him but I try not to show it.
Finally I talked to her and she got angry at me. I feel like I’m being ignored and it’s not the greatest feeling.
I told her it made me sad when all she talked about was him... she got even more angry and then made me feel guilty so
I forgot about how I really felt. I’m just really tired of hearing about him... And I know if they get married he
will be in my life, but it’s a little too fast for me. I just need time to take it all in.
I’ve tried so many ways to deal with emotions... but they’re not working. I’ve got a sister, but I’m
in 7th grade and she’s in 12th and will be gone to college soon. I feel really alone and depressed. I’ve been
skipping breakfast and sometimes lunch and I don’t know if that’s affecting me. I try to eat and I want to
but I just can’t stop thinking about my problems and I end up throwing my lunch away. I’m really confused on
what I should do.
I’m sorry to hear that your mom is having trouble listening to you without getting angry and defensive. Maybe you
hit a nerve (do you understand that expression?).
You’re not alone. Talk to your sister. The age difference means nothing. You are sisters of the heart and there’s
no one who can better understand how you are feeling about this pending change in your family. Yes, she’ll be gone
to college soon, but she’s here now, isn’t she? Talk to her. Take a walk together. Connect. You’ll feel
As for skipping meals... Not a smart idea. I understand that stress can make you lose your appetite. But did you know
that hunger is an intense physical stressor? In other words, if you don’t take care of your body and eat good foods,
rest, keep yourself hydrated, etc., you are increasing your stress levels?! Also, when you’re stressed (and you don’t
de-stress by getting support and taking the time to calm down, relax, and think about your options) your body’s immune
system can start having trouble fighting off infections. Stressed out people tend to get frequent colds. The cold weather’s
coming and you don’t want to get sick.
All of these are reasons why you should take care of your body, your spirit, and your emotional health.
Have you got a school counselor that you could talk with?
P.S. Take a look at this. It’s a guide I wrote for parents
to help their kids through emotional times, but you can use it to help yourself.
My mom came in to my room last night and explained why she had gotten so angry. I was still upset because I felt as if
her boyfriend was trying to replace my dad. (I know that’s not the case, but it still feels that way.) I cried and
when I made a statement (not a mean one) she would get a louder voice but then she settled down.
As for the meals, now that I know that hunger stresses you out I will take care of myself and get the right rest and eat
Thank you so much... and I think me and my mom have worked things out!!
Much Happier Girl
Dear Much Happier Girl,
I’m so glad to hear that you and your mom are communicating better. I’m proud of you for making the effort
to be so honest with her. I’m proud of her for really listening to
what you had to say.
Just to let you know, stress is something that often trips up people. So even though you and your mom have had a wonderful
breakthrough in your communication don’t be surprised if some time in the not too distant future you two have another
conversation that doesn’t go as well as the last one. We’re all human beings and we make mistakes. It comes
with the territory. But the good news is that you’ve told her the truth of your feelings about her boyfriend and
how it makes you feel when she gets angry and defensive in that way. From now on, if you can recognize when you’re
not communicating, it’s going to be MUCH EASIER to get a conversation back on track.
The key is staying CALM. And when you find yourself about to lose it, take some slow deep breaths and get yourself back
in balance. Only when you’re calm and speaking respectfully to your mom, will you be able to remind her (and yourself)
that the two of you love each other and have what it takes to communicate clearly and effectively.
Getting the rest you need and the good food is also going to do wonders for your mood.
Take care and be well.
Got a parent-teen problem you need help with? Click
here to Ask Annie
Read other parents’ questions here.
Read teens’ letters about parents here.
If you’re a teen and you need some help, click
Over the next month, Annie will be speaking at the following places. Click
here for Annie's full calendar of events. Click here for
a list of Annie's past events. Read what they're saying about
Annie's presentations. If you want Annie to speak at your school, event, or conference, click
||Black Pine Circle School – “Lunch
Chat”, an advisory focus group for 6th-8th graders.
||Women's Radio — Live interview
on Dr. Beth's Compassionate Parenting Program with host Dr. Beth Halbert, 4PM PST
||The Wesley School — “Going your
own way in Middle School and Beyond”, a series of student assemblies for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.
||North Hollywood, CA
||The Wesley School — Parent Education
Night: “What Everyone Else Thinks: Helping middle schoolers break their peer approval addiction.”
||North Hollywood, CA
||Barnes & Noble
Eastridge Mall — Public Event: “The Boyfriend/Girlfriend Zone” — author talk and
book signing. 7:30 pm. For info call 408-270-9470
||San Jose, CA
Teens Marin Committee presents Peer Summit XI — Annie's Workshop for 7th and 8th graders: “Real Friends
or the Other Kind?” — For more information contact Mary Buttler, Education Services at the Marin
County Office of Education (415) 499-5877
||College of Marin, Kentfield, CA
||Mill Valley Middle School’s Parent
Ed Workshop/Mini-conference — “Too Stressed to Think? How to stay clear-headed and compassionate even when
your middle schooler drives you crazy.” This is a free event. Everyone is welcome.
||Mill Valley, CA
Past Newsletters – read our archive of
past Parent Forum Newsletters.
Recommended Books – Annie
highly recommends these parenting books.
AnnieFox.com – includes parenting
tips, letters from teens
and parents, Parent Forum articles past and present, information about Annie’s
books, and workshops/seminars.
The InSite (www.TheInSite.org)
– created especially for teens who have ever thought about making a difference. The InSite provides
teens with the information, the inspiration, and many possible game plans so they can take charge of their choices
and their lives.
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