Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. III, Issue 1 January Newsletter January 1, 2007

Welcome to
Annie Fox's Parent Forum Newsletter

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Happy New Year to you and your family! May 2007 bring you many opportunities to connect with your kids and to celebrate life together.

Since February 2005 Annie Fox’s free monthly Parent Forum has helped parents build healthier relationships with tweens and teens. 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

“Too Stressed to Think?” Receives Good Parenting Seal

Too Stressed to Think?“Too Stressed to Think? A teen guide to staying sane when life makes you CRAZY” by Annie Fox and Ruth Kirschner has just been awarded The Good Parenting Seal from Parental Wisdom:

Parenting Wisdom Good Parenting SealToo Stressed to Think? … is written exclusively for teens in a language they can relate too. It offers advice and strategies for today’s over-scheduled, peer-pressured, multi-tasking, too-tested teen. More than just a ‘how to chill’ manual, Too Stressed to Think? tackles the first step by explaining in teen-friendly terms the roots of stress and its effect on the brain and body. Next, the book offers advice on helping teens learn life-long tools for regaining balance, making good decisions, managing schedules, and maintaining healthier relationships”

Tina Nocera, Founder of Parental Wisdom

Click here for the Parental Wisdom press release. In July 2006 Annie’s Teen Survival Guide to Dating and Relating received the same honor.

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In the Media

Mean Girls and Quiet Time

Read Annie’s advice about mean girls in the New York Daily News and her tips in the News Sentinel for adding quiet time to a packed family schedule.

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January Parenting Article
The Winds of Change

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

... being blind to the changes in front of you isn’t the best way to parent your kids.
Time inflationNo way is it 2007 already! Weren’t we just doing the Y2K thing? We must be experiencing time “inflation” or something equally weird because 24 hours just doesn’t last as long as it used to. And what about our kids? They’re growing up at warp speed, for sure. It’s probably a blessing that we’re all too busy to notice them morphing into adults before our eyes, otherwise how scary would that be? Of course, when it comes to other people’s kids, you can’t miss it. But with your own… well, we parents have our blind spots, don’t we? But being blind to the changes in front of you isn’t the best way to parent your kids.

Life is all about change and our ability to deal with it. Our bodies, our feelings, our kids, our relationships, our situations are all constantly changing. (So are all the molecules on your kitchen table, but we can save that for another time.) The more I meditate and breathe and read and write and think and teach, the clearer the changing nature of life becomes. The more I twist my torso into improbable positions (hey, it’s not painful, it’s yoga!), the more I learn how flexibility is the best tool I’ve got going for me.

“Steady in the winds of change,” my yoga teacher says. Steady as she goes. Steady, strong, centered. Those are the keystones to effective parenting. But steady doesn’t mean “stuck” and true strength requires insight into what’s needed right now.

Private Property - Keep OutSuppose you’ve always had a close relationship with your 12-year-old daughter. She’s been a kid who’s told you everything she thinks and feels. You’ve prided yourself on your closeness and like how it reflects so positively on your parenting skills. Then one day you walk past her room and the door’s closed. You go in. She’s listening to music and reading. “Hi Dad,” she grins, not removing her headphones.

You sit on the bed. “Hi, sweetheart. So tell me, what’s new with you?”


An awkward silence follows.

“You want something, Dad?”

You shake your head and slowly walk toward the door. “Dad,” your daughter says sweetly, “Next time could you please knock?”

“Sure, honey,” your smile belies the ice pick skewering your heart. In the hallway your mind reels. Why should I have to knock at my own child’s door?! We’ve never had closed doors between us! She must be hiding something. I’m going back in there and demand that she tell me what’s going on. I couldn’t talk to my father about important things but I’m going to make sure that my daughter…


Continue reading the rest of the article...

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January’s Recommended Read

''Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting'' Myla and Jon Kabat-ZinnEveryday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting
Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

Reading this book was like being on a meditation retreat with a focus on what it means to be a parent. There’s so much wisdom here that’s directly applicable to the unique job of raising healthy human beings. Happily, the authors are experienced teachers and wise enough to use a reassuring tone throughout that really allows the reader to hear what’s being presented. Not surprising since Jon Kabat-Zinn is founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic, as well as author of two best-sellers, Full Catastrophe Living and Wherever You Go, There You Are. While the Kabat-Zinns talk about all stages of childhood, their insights into the challenges of parenting teens were of particular interest. Here’s a sample of what they have to say on that score:

“Being empathetic in the face of rejection requires us to not let our own hurt feelings get in the way of seeing the pain our child may be feeling. In some sense our children have to feel us holding on to them, no matter what repugnant (to our mind) spells come over them, no matter what dark disguises they try on.”

That’s something to keep in mind next time you’re dealing with a raging or negative teen. Here’s another really thoughtful question posed by the authors:

When you were a child, what did you most want from your parents?”

Interesting one to ponder, isn’t it? And think how your answer could help guide your parenting! This is the kind of invaluable “inner work” Everyday Blessing gives you an opportunity to do. I recommend this book for its power to change parents and families for the better.

Check out my Recommended Books here...

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Annie's Books

Annie's BooksMy books make great gifts for the 12-18 year olds you love. They 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 copies 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.

“I did a Breather Challenge today when I got so overwhelmed with schoolwork. I usually think it’s way too much and just end up not doing any homework at all, because why turn in something incomplete? When I remembered your challenge to us. I tried to do the conscious breathing to find my center… and it worked! I realized maybe I could do all my work if I try harder. Also I realized if I didn't do all the work in time, I would suffer the consequence of a bad grade – something I definitely didn’t want! I’ve used other ways to de-stress myself, but somehow the breathing one works pretty well. I’ll try to do that one everyday. Thanks for coming to our school. Hope you stop by again soon.”

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A Letter from a Parent

My stepson is so clingy.

Dear Annie,

My husband’s son (from previous marriage) is 9 years old. He has developed this habit of always clinging to his father or may I say yearning for affection. He is with us every two weeks for the weekend. He lives with his mother, brother and his mother’s new boyfriend and his two sons. What could be the problem here?

Carolina Rose

Dear Carolina Rose,

The fact that you call this boy “my husband’s son” and not “my stepson” might be indicative of what’s going on with this little boy. I don’t mean to imply that you are the cause of his “yearning for affection” but I wonder if there are things you and your husband might be doing (or failing to do) that are contributing to the boy’s discomfort... Discomfort is what’s causing his “clinging” and “yearning for affection.”

His behavior is a cry for emotional security. It should be viewed as exactly what it is... a child’s need to know that he’s still special to his father. Even though there have been major changes recently in his family structure, what does NOT change is his place in his father’s heart.

I hope that your husband takes the boy’s behavior as a sign that he needs to draw the boy closer to him rather than to see the “clinging” as an inconvenience or an embarrassment. Neither you nor your husband should reprimand the boy, shame him, or push him away. That will only confirm what he’s already feeling... “They don’t like me!” Instead, what can you do, starting today, is to show him that you DO like him... Not only that, you love and care about him! I’m not talking about a pile of gifts under a tree... I’m talking about the gift of time you give willingly. I’m talking about meeting a child with an open heart, exactly where he is, on his terms.

You say that the boy’s mother has a “new” boyfriend who has moved in with his 2 sons. Wow! That’s a lot of new personalities to deal with! New demands on space, on time, on family routine and many new emotional demands on Mom, I’d imagine. So this 9 year old is wondering “Where do I fit in with all these changes? Does my mom love me like she used to or is her new boyfriend and his kids more important to her now? And what about my dad? Am I still special to him or is he annoyed to have me around? Would he rather be alone with my stepmom? Does she care about me or would she be happier if I wasn’t here so she and my dad could have time together without me?”

I hope someone steps up to help this child. He is not a “problem” to be solved. The only “problem” I see here is that the adults in this boy’s life are not making the effort to embrace him and include him and make him feel secure in their love.

I would encourage your husband to talk with his ex-wife immediately about what’s going on so that together they can create a plan of action to help this child feel more grounded and secure in the love of both his parents.

I also would strongly suggest that you do whatever it takes to bond with your stepson. Take an interest in him. Show him how happy you are to have him as part of your family. Be a great stepmom. I’m sure you already have everything you need to be that kind of stepmom. As for your husband, this is his son. His son is hurting. Without delay he needs to help this child feel more secure.

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 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. 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
1/19/07 Piedmont Community Church — Parent Fellowship Evening: “Too Stressed to Think? Guiding your tweens and teens with clarity, compassion, and respect.” For information call 510 547-5700 Piedmont, CA
1/28/07 Foundation for Jewish CampingCornerstone Faculty Professional Training Workshop New York, NY
2/7/07 San Ramon Library — Parent Education Night: “Too Stressed to Think? Staying clear-headed and compassionate even when your kids drive you CRAZY.” For information call 925-973-2850 San Ramon, CA
2/9/07 Union for Reform Judaism Pacific Central West Council — Education Day Youth Leadership Training Workshop Santa Clara, CA
2/11/07 St. John's Episcopal Church — Parent-Teen Communication Workshop Oakland, CA
2/24/07 San Ramon Valley Council of PTAs — annual parenting conference, Parenting 2007 and Beyond, “Parenting Your Daughter with Compassion and Respect (even when she's acting irrational)” San Ramon, 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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