Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. II, Issue 4 April Newsletter April 1 , 2006

Welcome to
Annie Fox's Parent Forum Newsletter

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About this Newsletter

Annie Fox’s Parent Forum Newsletter helps you build healthier relationships with your teen and pre-teen sons and daughters. This free newsletter features parenting tips, recommended books, letters from parents about their teens, letters from teens about their parents, and a schedule of Annie’s live events. Adults who live and work with teens need as much encouragement and support as they can get. So please forward this newsletter to parents, educators, counselors, mentors or community activists who’d find value in it.

New Radio and TV Interviews

Last month Annie had several opportunities to talk with the media about her book, Too Stressed to Think?, and the challenges facing today’s teens and parents.

Video (QuickTime required)On March 3rd, Annie was on KQED FM’s “Forum” talking about Cyber Safety and the popular teenage website, MySpace.com. Click here to listen to the broadcast. (1 hour)

Video (QuickTime required)On March 19th, Joe Vazquez of UPN Bay Area interviewed Annie about how teens (and everyone else) can recognize and reduce stress. Click here to view the broadcast. (7 minutes) QuickTime required

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April Parenting Article
What are Teens Doing Online Anyway?

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

You’re not going to parent your kids effectively in the 21st century if you’re uneducated about the role digital technology plays in their lives.
63% of American households currently have Internet connections. Since 100% of Parent Forum readers are linked up, it’s a safe bet that your daughters and sons regularly chat online with friends and with people they’ve never met. Social time online can be very positive and very healthy. But parents also need to know the potential risks their kids face when they use the Internet. That’s the only way we can teach them to be more savvy.

The InSiteI’ve logged thousands of hours on the Net with kids starting in 1997 when David and I launched TheInSite.org an online teen community that was part of Talk City. We produced 14 hours a day of hosted, moderated, topical chat for teens — providing them with online access to exceptional educators, counselors, and mentors. Young people from around the world packed our chat rooms to participate in live conversations about body image, chemical dependency, relationships, social justice issues, etc. One of my favorite chats was “Making the Peace — Eliminating Racism” run by community activists from Todos Institute (read these chat transcripts here and here). This ongoing event provided kids with a safe place to talk openly about prejudice in a venue where everyone was anonymous and invisible. Read some of the other archived transcripts and you’ll marvel at the quality of the interaction between the kids and the guest speakers. These online forums had a very positive impact on the participants.

Very surprised boyI remember a 14-year-old girl who logged on to a chat about abusive relationships. She was in a sexual relationship with her town’s 35-year-old preacher and in desperate need of advice. While I had her online I called a crisis counselor at Marin Abused Women’s Services on the phone. Together the counselor and I gave the girl the courage and the plan she needed to end the abusive relationship. Two weeks later I received a lovely thank-you letter from that girl (she lived in Scotland!). She was free of the predator and feeling happy and safe again. I was so grateful that the Internet existed and that our chat room was there for her...

Continue reading the rest of the article...

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April’s Recommended Read

''Our Last Best Shot -- Guiding our Children through Early Adolescence'' by Laura Sessions SteppOur Last Best Shot — Guiding our Children through Early Adolescence
by Laura Sessions Stepp

When your teen or preteen son/daughter suddenly turns secretive, irritable, overly dramatic, fearful, unmotivated, etc., do you ever worry if this is normal? Ever wonder how the way you handle adolescent “moods” compares to what goes on in other families? Every parent has, which is why this insightful look at real middle schoolers living their real lives makes for fascinating reading.

For an entire year, Laura Sessions Stepp, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The Washington Post, traveled across the country to observe and learn from 12 representative young adolescents from urban America (Los Angeles), a mid-sized city (Durham, NC), and rural Kansas. No fictionalized account of a “year in the life” could have been more riveting and her insight into what she’s observing will have you reflecting and taking notes.

Adolescence is the quintessential transition. For each of the kids profiled in Our Last Best Shot, those changes are experienced with varying degrees of confusion, overwhelm, and confidence. Some of their parents, grandparents, and teachers are inspirational in their steadfast love and support of the kids. Others are less exemplary, but still offer great lessons on what not to do. Rounding out the cast are some big-hearted, “I’m here ’cause I care” mentors, any one of whom you’d love to have looking out for your son or daughter.

In some ways this book reminds me of the phenomenal HBO documentary Planet Twelve which I highly recommend as a film you and your middle schooler should watch together. In fact, you can watch a preview of it right here.

As unique as each child is, universal social/emotional challenges face all young adolescents. All of them are going to make mistakes. And some of them will become so lost that it will be really hard for them to get moving in the right direction. Stepp’s key message is this: parents who provide opportunities for their kids to feel competent, loved and loving, and normal, can mean the difference between a kid getting her act together or not.

See a video of Laura Sessions Stepp talk at the University of Virginia here.

Check out my Recommended Books here...

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Annie's Books

Annie's BooksThe main focus of my work is helping teens and pre-teens navigate their way through the maze of adolescence. I write my books for teens, but any adult who wants to understand them better 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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Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems

In the 21st century, the double standard is still very much alive, and for many parents of daughters, the most difficult issue to deal with is sex:

“What should I do about my daughter?”

Dear Annie,

I think my 16-year-old daughter may be having sex with her 18-year-old boyfriend. What should I do?

Freaked Mom

Dear Freaked Mom,

You don’t say anything about your daughter’s level of maturity or the relationship with her boyfriend. Maybe none of that matters to you if your personal values don’t allow for any sexual relationship at 16. Those feelings are valid and you don’t need to justify them to anyone.

Of course, you should talk with your daughter about what you suspect. But before you do, take a slow deep breath and calm down. (Several breaths would be even better.) Now ask yourself: “What do I want to have happen? And how much direct control do I have over getting what I want?” For example, if you want your daughter to stop all sexual activity until she’s married, you’re going to have problems if she doesn’t wish to comply. No one has that kind of control over a 16 year old. On the other hand, if you want to improve the level of trust and communication you have with your daughter, well, you’ve got some control over that.

The values you’ve taught her are fundamental. Teens whose parents openly and consistently discuss what is acceptable sexual behavior are much less likely to engage in random, meaningless “hook-ups.” Those teens have learned that sexual intimacy is a very personal and special way of expressing closeness between two people who share a high level of caring and trust for each other. Parents’ values may not determine what teens do in every situation, but they definitely inform their choices.

When you talk to your daughter, be calm and be realistic. Sex is a primal survival urge (just like hunger, thirst, and defending your family). You don’t need me to tell you that sexual feelings in teens can frequently trump rational thought. Your ability to influence her decision (after the fact) depends a lot on who your daughter is, her attachment to her boyfriend, her relationship with you, etc. This may not be a genie that can be neatly put back into the bottle. If that’s the case here, your best move is to make sure that she’s unequivocally aware of your values, the physical and emotional risks of teen sex, and the imperative of protecting herself from pregnancy and STDs 100% of the time. Also you must do whatever it takes for you to remain a “safe” person for her to talk to. I hope this helps.

In friendship,

The thing that we want most in our relationship with our kids is exactly what they want most from us... Love and understanding. That means going beyond “Love ya” to putting our love into action by listening to our kids when they come to us:

“Me and my mom have our days.”

Hey Terra,

I have an alright relationship with my mom. We have our days, though, as anyone does. When we do have one of our days, she doesn’t listen to what I have to say. I’ve talked to her plenty of times about this, but I don’t know how to get her to agree. Do you have any suggestions?

Parentally Controlled

Dear Parentally Controlled,

Lots of teens say, “My parents don’t listen!” The funny thing is that lots of parents say, “My kids don’t listen!” Sounds like maybe there’s a lack of listening happening on both sides of the conversation.

No one is to “blame” here because it absolutely takes TWO people to have great communication and if one of them (or both) isn’t listening 100%, then there are going to be problems, frustrations, resentment, etc. Since it takes two, would you agree that maybe you could do a better job listening to what your mom has to say? Let me know what you think (I’m listening! LOL)

In friendship,

Hey Terra,

You are right. I could try a little harder to listen to my mother. You see, we went to Mother & Daughter counseling for a few months, every week. I told her that we both didn’t have good communication, as she goes out with her friends more often than spending time with her family. She didn’t agree because that’s not what she wanted to hear, or so she told me. I’ll try my best to do better.

Parentally Controlled

Dear Parentally Controlled,

It’s challenging to improve communication if both people aren’t willing to work at it. But you can only do you own part of it, and I have great respect for your willingness to “try a little harder” to listen to what your mom has to say.

Read this, it will help you understand better what “Active Listening” is all about. It was written for parents, but everything applies to teens as 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

While the school year is winding down, Annie has launched a new series of "Friendship Workshops" for Girls Scouts in the early grades. Click here to learn more about this new workshop. Click here for her full calendar of events.

Date Description Location
4/3/06 Walnut Creek Girl Scouts “Real Friends vs. The Other Kind” — a friendship and bully-proofing workshop for 4th grade girls Walnut Creek, CA
4/7/06 Girl Scouts of San Francisco Bay Area Mission Rafael Association “Real Friends vs. The Other Kind” — a friendship and bully-proofing workshop for 6th-8th grade girls San Rafael, CA
4/9/06 Girl Scouts of San Francisco Bay Area “Real Friends vs. The Other Kind” — a full day friendship and bully-proofing workshop for 7th and 8th graders (not a public event) Oakland, CA
4/11/06 Hercules Middle/High School — A full day series of interactive workshops for 6-12th graders Hercules, CA
4/18/06 Girl Scouts of San Francisco Bay Area “Be the Change” — a friendship and leadership workshop for senior scouts Oakland, CA
4/20/06 Marin Girl Scouts “Real Friends vs. The Other Kind” — a friendship and bully-proofing workshop for 4th grade girls Fairfax, CA
4/21/06 Pittsburg Creek Girl Scouts “Real Friends vs. The Other Kind” — a friendship and bully-proofing workshop for 4th-6th grade girls Pittsburg, CA

If you want Annie to speak at your school, event, or conference, click here.

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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 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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