Annie Fox's Parent Forum Newsletter
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
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...?”
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 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
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!
Before: Our garage, December, 2005.
After: Our garage, May, 2006, after an extensive clean-up.
June’s Recommended Read
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
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!
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.”
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.
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?
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?
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.
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...”
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.
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.
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 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
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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