Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. II, Issue 6 June Newsletter June 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.

School Library Journal reviews “Too Stressed to Think?”

The June 2006 issue of the School Library Journal includes a review of Annie's book, “Too Stressed to Think? A teen guide to staying sane when life makes you CRAZY.”

“This well-organized, upbeat book discusses what stress is and how it affects the body and brain, talks about tools to reduce and control it, and gives suggestions for recognizing the myriad situations that can trigger stress at home and at school and seeking help when necessary. Best of all, each one of these scenarios includes information on how the situation might be addressed. Nice also are the tips that encourage readers to use breathing exercises to calm and center themselves. Sprinkled throughout the book are quotes from teens on what works for them and what causes them anxiety. Related helplines are appended. This volume is one of a number of other similar-themed books, but it is probably safe to say that a school library, in particular, cannot have too many such titles. It may well be the one that strikes the right cord with a distressed teen.” —Carol Jones Collins, Columbia High School, Maplewood, NJ.

Next Issue of Parent Forum

Our next issue, July/August, will be published sometime during July. Regular monthly issues will resume in September.

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June Parenting Article
Is Anybody Home?

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

What parenting choices support the resourcefulness our kids need to blossom and feel at home with themselves...?
Welcome HomeThe customs official in Houston handed back our passports and said, “Welcome, home.” My eyes instantly welled up. Admittedly I’m an emotional marshmallow. I worry about one-legged pigeons in the park. I rush to the aid of droopy plants in restaurants. But to cry at such an innocuous greeting, well that’s just ridiculous, isn’t it? I wasn’t so sure. Maybe my reaction had something to do with the trip we’d just completed.

Now if you’re picturing some foreign vacation from hell, you’ll need to switch channels. Instead imagine white sand beaches on the Caribbean, jungles, monkeys, sloths, rainforests, an active volcano and the people we love most in the world sharing it with us. David and I had been to Costa Rica visiting our college-age son and his girlfriend who are studying there this semester. Our daughter joined us from her home in London.

White-faced capucin monkey.
White-faced capucin monkey spotted in Cahuita, along the Carribbean side of Costa Rica.
(photo © David Fox)
After a sweet reunion packed with lots of laughs and some amazing adventures, it was sad to say goodbye to the kids. I know they’re not kids anymore, but still… The only thing that eased the pain was realizing how fully capable they are of being on their own. They demonstrated that exceptionally well by taking over most of the details of the trip. Working as a team, the “kids” planned our itinerary, made our reservations and served as guides and translators. We loved the role reversal and greatly appreciated all their efforts on our behalf. They acted like the thoughtful, caring, capable adults they are.

Ultimately, that’s what all parents want their kids to become — fully functioning, thoughtful, compassionate adults. But we’re genetically predisposed to protecting them and sometimes our protectiveness holds them back. So how do we quell our own fears and help them do what they’re genetically predisposed to do, i.e., leave home and make their own way? How do we nurture without smothering? Encourage without over-reaching? What parenting choices support the resourcefulness our kids need to blossom and feel at home with themselves, no matter where they are?

Continue reading the rest of the article...

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Garage Clearing Update

Speaking of home and areas of unconscious clutter, in our January 2006 Parenting Article, I talked about setting goals and keeping them. We are please to report that our garage is in much better shape than it was on January first. Have a look!

Garage, before
Before: Our garage, December, 2005.
Garage, after
After: Our garage, May, 2006, after an extensive clean-up.

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June’s Recommended Read

''How to Talk With Teens About Love, Relationships, & S-E-X: A Guide for Parents'' by Amy G. Miron, Charles D. Miron, Ph.D.How to Talk With Teens About Love, Relationships, & S-E-X: A Guide for Parents
by Amy G. Miron, Charles D. Miron, Ph.D.

I spend a lot of my time talking to teens about love, relationships and sex. That’s why I was very eager to read this book. And I’m very glad I did. The next time I get an email from a parent who feels it’s about time to have “the talk” with their son or daughter and would like a book to guide them, this book will be recommended. The Mirons, a husband and wife team of sex educators and certified sex therapists, have co-written a thoughtful, well-organized volume that covers most of the common topics for discussion and several you might not have thought of on your own. It also contains eye-opening facts from a teen sexuality survey and “Try this” assignments for parents and teens. As the authors wisely point out, “the talk” is actually a series of talks. And those conversations aren’t just about sex and how to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STIs — sexually transmitted infections.

As the authors wisely point out, “the talk” [with your kids about sex] is actually a series of talks.

They’ve provided the framework for parent-child discussions about sexuality... that’s right, everything that falls into the category of sexual behavior. There’s the obvious information about male and female reproductive systems, but also the equally vital information about masturbation, sexual orientation, and even sexual pleasure. Feeling a bit uncomfortable picturing yourself talking to your tweens about orgasms? Understandable, but this guide will help tremendously to put you at ease.

There are two main themes running through all of this material: a) the more comfortable you are talking with your teens about sexuality the more likely they will come to you as their #1 source of information. And b) the authors’ conversation prompts encourage you to focus on your values rather than their take on what’s right or wrong when it comes to sexual behavior. When your teen or tween views you as a safe person to come to and he/she is crystal clear about your values, he/she will be better able to make informed decisions. And since you’re not going to be with them when they’re at those choice points, that’s your best bet for helping them do the right thing.

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

Tweens and teens benefit from working out their own problems at home and at
school, but sometimes, your advocacy on their behalf is needed and

“My son’s school really blew it on this one.”

Dear Annie,

My son (10 years old) just returned from an outdoor education trip with his class. Apparently the boys were exceedingly noisy in their tents (12+ boys in each cabin/tent with no adult chaperone — the teachers slept elsewhere). As a result, the teachers took away the boys’ privilege of visiting the gift shops. (The girls in the class got to go.) Another tent of boys who also wouldn’t settle down were told to vote out the noisiest person... they did and that boy was moved to another tent! I’m questioning the punishment for all because of the behavior of a few... what do you think? My sensitive boy was quite sad about the way this was handled and couldn’t quite make sense of it.

Perplexed Mom

Dear Perplexed Mom,

I’m not at all surprised that 10 year old boys let their excitement of being all together in a new place without an adult in their midst get out of hand. How else would they behave? I’m wondering if they were informed of the expectation for quiet before they went to bed? Were they given any warnings when the noise levels first got too high? If this was really such a grievous and unacceptable infraction of the rules, then why wasn’t there an adult in charge to prevent it from happening? I also don’t see the connection between the “crime” and the “punishment”. Makes no sense. I’m wondering if there’s another side of the story. Maybe the adult who doled out the punishment was sleep-deprived and grumpy and was just being arbitrary. Not great role-modeling in my opinion.

As for the second case... Why would any adult encourage kids to single out someone for exclusion? Wow, that’s just hurtful. And also, bad role-modeling. So, are you planning to talk to the school about what happened? And, how have you handled this with your son?

In friendship,

Hi Annie,

I told my son I was really sorry this happened to him and I hoped he could separate it from the rest of the trip which he said was great. He said he understood there were some bad boys who did bad stuff, but my son could absolutely not understand why he was punished for what other kids did. Our school has a big “character counts” program and this does not seem to fit with what they teach, especially in the area of respect. Respecting individuals... not treating all like they were misbehaving. I am disappointed with the teaching staff. It feels like the kids are being punished for the teachers’ incorrect decision to have kids ALONE in a cabin. Is there some psychology principle about punishing all the boys for the crime of one or two?

Perplexed Mom

Dear Perplexed Mom,

I’m not aware of any “psychological principle” that indicates the benefits of “punishing a group for the wrong-doing of a few”.

From what you’ve described, the disciplinary actions for the alleged offenses make no sense in terms of good child development practices. Though I’m sure the teachers who were at the retreat will offer their own version of what went on and can justify why they did what they did.

As a parent, you are all entitled to a clear explanation from the school. In addition, you deserve an opportunity to question the adults who were there and voice your feelings.

I hope you’re given that chance.

In friendship,

Transitioning from the parent of a child into the parent of a teen requires a shift in perspective. Parents who aren’t clear about where they stand when it comes to their adolescent’s increasing need for independence often send mixed messages that leave teens wondering which end is up. Like this girl:

“My mom said I could have a boyfriend but now...”

Hey Terra,

Me and my bf have been going out 3 weeks already. He came over to watch a movie and meet my mom. He had his arm around me. When my mom got home she came in to meet him and everything was fine. But then she told me later that she thought it was very “disrespectful” that he had his arm around me and felt so comfortable even before he met her. I don’t get it, it’s not like he’s a complete stranger to me, I’ve known him for like a year. I tell her all the time how good he treats me and how nice he is and she’s still saying it like I’m too young to handle a boyfriend (I’m 15); but she gave me permission to date him and it’s kind of like she wants to take back her decision. Now I’m kind of scared she’s going to all of a sudden tell me I have to break up with him. I don’t want to. It’s very confusing.



Dear Lulu,

I understand exactly what you’re saying and it sounds like your mom’s confused too. On the one hand she gave you permission to have a boyfriend but on the other hand when she sees you together (with his arm around you) there’s a part of her that feels weird about how “appropriate” that kind of relationship is.

I’m glad to hear that your boyfriend is a very nice guy and that you’ve known him for as long as you have and that he treats you with respect.

I really don’t think your mom’s reaction has to do with this particular boy as much as it has to do with the reality of the fact that you are 15 years old and that means you’re growing up. She may be feeling conflicted about the very fact that you’re not a little girl any more. That realization can be bittersweet to a mom (you understand the term “bittersweet”?). Of course that’s what all kids are supposed to do and parents rejoice in their progress, but... It can be a little sad knowing that the relationship between parents and kids is changing as the kids grow up. You need your parents in different ways and for parents (and kids) that can be confusing until it gets sorted out. (Which it will!)

In her head I’ll bet your mom knows that you’re a good girl and totally trustworthy and mature... But in her heart she may be worrying that this boyfriend/girlfriend thing will get out of control. Bottom line is that she loves you and she wants to make sure that you’re safe. That’s her job as your mom.

My suggestion is that you calmly and maturely talk about some of these issues with her.

Reassure her that you are happy in this relationship and that because of her good parenting, you’ve developed high self-esteem and good judgment. Tell her that you know how to make good choices. You may need to reassure her about the fact that you’re not going to have sex with your boyfriend at this time in your life. (That’s usually what parents really mean when they say, “You’re too young to handle a boyfriend.”)

I hope this helps.

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

Click here for Annie's full calendar of events. Click here for a list of Annie's past events.

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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