Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. II, Issue 10 November Newsletter November 1, 2006

Welcome to
Annie Fox's Parent Forum Newsletter

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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 parenting articles, parenting tips, book reviews, Q & A about family issues, and a schedule of Annie’s live speaking engagements. Adults who live and work with kids deserve acknowledgement and support so please forward this newsletter to anyone who’d find value in it. Miss any back issues? Read them in our archives. Not a subscriber yet? Step right this way!

In this Newsletter

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Book News

Youth Today magazine reviews “Too Stressed to Think?”

Too Stressed to Think?Too 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

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November Parenting Article
Kids Aren’t Crops

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

It’s our job to give to our children all we’ve got in terms of love, emotional support and lots of guidance...
Kids Aren't CropsAll 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 orbs. Tomato harvestWhen 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 article...

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November’s Recommended Read

''Ophelia's Mom: Loving and Letting Go of Your Adolescent Daughter'' by Nina Shandler, Ed.D.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.
—Nina Shandler

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 here...

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Annie's Books

Annie's Books My 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!

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The Breathing Challenge

The Breathing ChallengeIn 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!!!!!

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Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems

Mean girls are preying on my daughter.

Dear Annie,

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.

Mama Lion

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 real friends.

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.

In friendship,


“I don’t trust my mom’s boyfriend.”

Hey Terra,

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 me.

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.


Dear EMO

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 better.

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?

In friendship,

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.

Hey Terra,

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 properly.

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.

In friendship,

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 here.

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Upcoming Events

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 here.

Date Description Location
11/1/06 Black Pine Circle School – “Lunch Chat”, an advisory focus group for 6th-8th graders. Berkeley, CA
11/7/06 Women's Radio — Live interview on Dr. Beth's Compassionate Parenting Program with host Dr. Beth Halbert, 4PM PST Internet
11/15/06 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
11/15/06 The Wesley School — Parent Education Night: “What Everyone Else Thinks: Helping middle schoolers break their peer approval addiction.” North Hollywood, CA
11/16/06 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
11/17/06 Healthy 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
11/18/06 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

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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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