Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. II, Issue 8 September Newsletter September 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 teens and tweens. This free newsletter features parenting tips, recommended books, letters from parents and kids about family issues, and a schedule of Annie’s live events. Adults who live and work with teens deserve lots of acknowledgement and support. So please forward this newsletter to parents, educators, counselors, mentors or community activists who’d find value in it.

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Book News

VOYA reviews “Too Stressed to Think?”

The June 2006 issue of the VOYA includes this review:

Too Stressed to Think?This self-help guide is certainly needed by today's teens. It begins by going through physical and emotional reasons for stress and responses to stress of all kinds. Then adolescent physiology is covered, as is why sleep and food are so important at this stage. Techniques to respond to stress in a healthy way are explored, for dealing with simple to complicated situations. A great resource section contains links and books for teens to get help. Examples of stressful situations based on the authors' research with teens include interesting stories and quotes from teens themselves- the strength of the book. For example, one section addresses what to do when friendships end or change and how to respond from conversations to finding new friends. This book best handles daily stressful situations for teens, and spends less time on serious issues such as family situations and abuse, which are touched on, from possible warning signs of abusive boyfriends to eating disorders, but are covered in depth in other resources, including the associations listed in the back.

“The book is meant to be an engaging read for teens with an average amount of stress, and it succeeds. There are plenty of easy tips for those situations. Because it addresses sexual pressure in relationships, it may be placed in collections for older teens.”

Amy Alessio

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New Book Series for Teens

Free Spirit Publishing As we happily announced in our last issue, Annie’s begun writing a new 6 book life-skills series for Free Spirit Publishing. The series’ working title is “Going Your Own Way in Middle School and Beyond” and will cover hot topics like: The Real You and The Price of Popularity; It’s Only a Problem if you Make it One; Choices, Chances, and Change. The first volume will be published in early 2008 with successive titles appearing in print at a rate of 1-2 per year.

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September Parenting Article
Some Kind of Help

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

When parents take over, kids miss opportunities to figure things out for themselves.
Some Kind of Help“Mom, I don’t get this homework!” Seventh grader wails. Devoted parent rushes to her side and… does what? What’s needed here? What kind of help will boost your student’s emerging sense of autonomy? What kind of help might have the opposite effect – keeping your young adolescent overly dependent on you?

Before I answer that, think back to your own childhood for a moment. Did your parents know your day-to-day assignments from each and every one of your middle school teachers? Mine sure didn’t because they didn’t need to. I understood that school was my responsibility. Like millions of other kids throughout our nation’s history, I did my homework to the best of my ability without parental prodding, checking, or handholding. Did I feel unloved because of their non-involvement? Not even close! My homework was one of the few corners of my life in which I was my own boss and I liked it that way.

Study timeYet many of today’s parents manage everything having to do with their tween’s school experience. Our intention is loving and well-meaning, but when parents take over, kids don’t readily develop organizational skills and the self-esteem that comes from being independent and responsible. They also miss opportunities to figure things out for themselves.

Continue reading the rest of the article...

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Family Reunion Update

Family HistoriesIn our last issue, I reported how David and I have been heavily into researching our respective family histories. Well, a few weeks ago we made our way to New Jersey, met about 20 new cousins, reconnected with another 15 or so, and had an outstanding time. We returned with lots of new information (and photos) for our family tree. A recent newspaper article indicates that there’s a growing fascination with family history amongst Baby Boomers. If any of you are inspired to organize and preserve family memories for future generations, there’s plenty of technology and even an Association of Personal Historians to help you.

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Annie's Books

Annie's Books A new school term often requires a new batch of tools for dealing with friends, the Boyfriend/Girlfriend Zone, and the stress of being a student. My books help teens and pre-teens navigate their way through these years, but any adult who wants to understand adolscents 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

Single parents who are dating have a special responsibility when it comes to balancing family and social life. If the relationship is still new, what’s a helpful role for the new partner and teens?

“How can I be a father figure to my girlfriend’s daughter?

Dear Annie,

My girlfriend and I have a promising relationship. She is the mother of a 15-year-old daughter who has no “father figure” in her life. The mom has expressed a need for me to develop that kind of relationship with her daughter. This girl is a great kid. She is active, healthy, smart, outgoing and funny. She is no trouble to her mom and they have a great relationship. I am very willing to be a good male role model for her but I am completely inexperienced at parenting. Her mother and I like the idea of this “family.” Do you know of any resources for childless men who find themselves in my position?


Dear Cory,

I appreciate your eagerness to play an active role in this girl’s life. I’m sure her mom is very happy about the potential positive influence you could have. It’s especially important for a teen girl to feel respected and appreciated for who she is. Too often the message young girls get from the media and from males is that their worth is tied up in their physical appearance. So I think it’s terrific that you want to provide her with reinforcement for her inner qualities. Bravo!

I have to say, though, that I’m a bit concerned about something. You say this is a “promising” relationship. That doesn’t sound like you and the girl’s mom have been together very long. If this relationship is relatively new then what you’re discussing is premature. It makes little sense to become actively involved as a “father figure” to her daughter. Not if this isn’t for real. As well intentioned as you are, you can do real emotional damage to the girl by throwing yourself whole-heartedly into the “family” thing and then disappearing after 6 months. Until you and the girl’s mom have been together long enough to be getting married, I’d suggest that you let mom do the parenting and keep your relationship with the girl, warm, friendly, and limited to “close friend.”

In friendship,

A new school year may bring new pressures to be part of the popular group. Parents can help their tweens understand the value of friendship and the value of being true to yourself. How would you have answered this email?

“I want to leave the mean girls but part of me doesn’t.”

Hey Terra,

I want to make the change from being in the popular mean girl group to the nice people. The nice people have accepted me but I’ve seen a few friends from the popular group and I realize it’s going to be hard to tell them I want to leave! I have best friends in the non-populars, but I’m starting to freak out because what if when I get back to school I’ll see them and be like “I should be with them!” Today at orientation two of the girls were in the corners gossiping and half of me wanted to join them but I pulled away! What should I do??

Nice B*&@# (rhymes with Witch)

Dear NB,

Whenever you’re having trouble deciding what to do, it’s a good idea to look at your options and weigh the PROS and CONS. This exercise can help you compare the benefits of being with the “nice” people vs. the “popular mean girl group.”

After you’re finished, take a look at the two lists. Decide what makes more sense to you.

A word of caution: If you decide to move away from the “mean” girls towards the nice ones there might be some fall-out. Worst case, the mean girls may try to turn others against you. I’m not suggesting that you ought to freak out and worry about this now. That would be foolish and a waste of your energy. Just be aware of that as a possibility. If it happens, know that you have the ability to deal with it in a mature and peaceful way. On a positive note, it’s possible that some or all of the “mean” girls will be inspired by your choice and realize that they don’t want to be thought of as “mean” any more because it’s not really who they are! It would be a pretty cool thing if by being true to yourself you motivated others to do the same.

In friendship,

PS: There’s no such thing as a “Nice B*&@#.” Either the “real” you is a nice girl... Or you’re not. Can’t have it both ways. Ask: How do I see myself? How do I want others to see me?

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 few months, 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.

Date Description Location
9/10/06 National Charity League “Mission Belles” Chapter – “We’re all in this together” Team-building Workshop San Rafael, CA
9/11/06 Archway School – Upper Campus “Be the Change” Berkeley, CA
9/15/06 Archway School – Lower Campus “Real Friends” Oakland, CA
9/27/06 Girl Scouts of San Francisco Bay Area “Friendship Workshop” for Brownie Scouts Oakland, CA
9/28/06 Black Pine Circle School – Parent Education Night: “Staying Clear, Calm and Compassionate even when your Middle Schooler Drives you CRAZY” Berkeley, CA
10/17/06 Archway School – Lower Campus Parent Education Night: “The Power of Advisory: Supporting social/emotional development at school and at home” Oakland, CA
10/18/06 Archway School – Upper Campus Parent Education Night: “The Power of Advisory: Supporting social/emotional development at school and at home” Berkeley, 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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