Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. III, Issue 10 December Newsletter December 1, 2007

Welcome to
Annie Fox's Parent Forum Newsletter

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Christmas Cactus


Parent Forum supports parents, teachers, counselors and youth leaders as they help teens journey through adolescence. Adults living and working with kids have the most rewarding and the toughest job in the world, so please forward this newsletter to anyone who would welcome a new free parenting/mentoring resource. Miss any back issues? Read them in our archives. Not a subscriber yet? Step right this way!

In this Newsletter

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Season of Giving – An Update

Thanks to those of you who contributed, over $900 has been raised so far for the first-ever high school in La Carpio, Costa Rica. Your $25 tax-deductible donation to the Red Scissors Alliance will buy a child a textbook, a dictionary, a notebook, and a box of pencils.

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December Parenting Article
A Gift Beyond Measure

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

click for Parent Forum Article

Sunday’s ad section weighed in at a pound and a half. “Wonder if the delivery guys get extra this time of year?” David mused. Not likely, unless we’re talking about an extra sore throwing arm. But we appreciate their sacrifice because without it how would we know where to go for the best gift deals?

Whether you joined the throngs in the pre-dawn line up outside of your local big box or you’re sipping coffee and shopping online, you’re buying lots of stuff for your kids. But do you know they really want this year more than anything? No? Don’t worry. I’ve done some research.

Foggy sunset on Mt. TamChecking out the ads before shredding them into bedding for my worm composter, I’ve deduced that young male adolescents want, among other things, the WWE Official Scale Ring Series 3 Elimination Chamber*. Female adolescents apparently crave, among other things, the Virgin Mobile London Experience cell phone and headset gift pack with phone decals*. (What’s a phone without decals?)

*I do not endorse either of these products. I just mention them because I like the catchy names and the kids in the ads sure look happy, which has to count for something, right?

If you buy all the gizmos the ads say that your kids want, then in return you can expect to be showered with gratitude.

And years from now when they are grown
With little children of their own
You can hope that they’ll recall
The greatest holiday gift of all

…that special hunk of consumer electronics they received for Christmas or Chanukah back in 2007. And at that same distant moment hopefully they will remember you with equal if not greater fondness. Just kidding! Of course your children will always remember you. But the stuff you buy them… not so much. In fact, according to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of San Francisco by March 2008, two-thirds of us who received a holiday gift, won’t be able to remember what it was.

So, why bother?

Continue reading the rest of the article...

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Annie's Books

Annie's BooksSince 1997 I’ve answered teen email from around the world because kids often need help sorting things out. My books provide students with encouragement, relationship smarts, and clear thinking needed to navigate through adolescence. Caring adults 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 directly from me and pay by credit card at our own online store. Order your copies here! My new 5-book series Going Your Own Way in Middle School and Beyond is part graphic-novel and starts in Fall 2008!

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The Breathing Challenge

The Breathing ChallengeIn my Stress Education student assemblies I teach this invaluable step by step process: 1) Learn your own stress symptoms and notice when you’re feeling off-balance, 2) Stop, 3) Breathe, 4) Think about what you want and whether getting it is within your control, then 5) Consider your options for getting what you need. I challenge tweens and teens to use the tools and let me know how it goes. They quickly discover they can change their lives in many ways when they’re not Too Stressed to Think.

“I just wanted to go to sleep”

“I came home after school to help my mom clean the car, house, and help pack and load baggage because my mom, dad, and three younger siblings are going on a 16-hour drive for the holidays. My dad gets really stressed and crabby before a big trip, which makes the rest of us stressed too. He kept coming into my room and yelling at me about homework, why my room’s a mess, why the kitchen is a mess, and then he went back to asking about homework. I was constantly thinking about my projects and when, where, and how I was going to get all of this done and I just wanted to go to sleep (because that’s how I relieve stress). Then I remembered what you said about the whole breathing thing, and I did it and it really worked! While I was concentrating on my breathing I calmed down, finished my packing, everything… then I had to stop and do the breathing again! lol Then I cleaned the kitchen and got everything I needed to done. Thanks!” —a high school student

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Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems

“My daughter isn’t talking to me as much.”

Dear Annie,

My 12 yr old daughter is going to her first dance tonight. She is going with a boy (though they are meeting there). She seems to want a boyfriend, but doesn’t really know what that entails. She had a “boyfriend” last year for a few weeks before they both figured out that it wasn’t working. They held hands, but didn’t really talk, and I think it felt too forced on both their parts. Now she’s a year older and I think she wants to try again.

She seems very confident and strong willed, so I’m not afraid of her being taken advantage of (a problem I had when I was young). She’s always talked to me about her feelings, but now I’m afraid she’s starting to hold back a little. I’m OK with that, but want her to be able to talk to someone or get info from a book.

So my question is — would your book on teen relationships and dating be too old for her?

Mom on the Shelf

Dear Mom on the Shelf,

I hope your daughter has a wonderful time tonight. I appreciate your understanding of your daughter’s need to separate from you by “holding back a little” in conversations about her feelings. It’s really important that her need for privacy is respected.

It’s equally important that you a) not take her pulling away personally (it’s not about you at all!) and b) make sure she knows that you are always available to listen whenever SHE chooses to talk to you about anything. When she does come to you, do your best to listen more than you talk. Often young adolescents just need for their parents to hear what they have to say, listen with compassion and respect and let them know that whatever they’re feeling, it’s all perfectly NORMAL.

Here’s an article I wrote on the fine art of listening.

As for The Teen Survival Guide to Dating and Relating, I wrote it for middle and high school students. The emails I’ve included (along with my answers) represent a broad range of “relationship” issues including: your relationship with yourself, with your parents, with your friends, and, of course, the Boyfriend/Girlfriend Zone. So, while your daughter obviously has not yet had direct experience with the dating issues the emailers describe, the book is a wonderful reference that she will come back to again and again as she needs it.

Many parents also use the emails in the book to trigger meaningful discussions with their teens and pre-teens.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,

Hi Annie,

Thanks for your response. I really appreciate it. I read the article on Listening and the timing is perfect. I’m guilty of multi-tasking when my daughter tries to talk to me. It can get difficult because she talks a lot, and often right at bedtime or when I’m trying to get something done. But I will make sure to not let trivial tasks keep my attention from her.


Mom on the Shelf

Hi Mom on the Shelf,

I’m so glad that something I said was helpful to you.

Enjoy the holidays and write to me any time you need help sorting things out.

In friendship,

“How can I help my friend?”

Hey Terra,

I have a friend who has an eating disorder. First, she “trained” herself not to eat, and whenever she does she throws it up. She does a little better sometimes, but it still happens! No one knows except my friend and I. Is there anything I can do to help her other than what I’m trying? (When I can I’m making sure she doesn’t throw up and that she eats.) The symptoms/aftermath of her eating disorder are kicking in now. She often is dizzy and feels like she’s going to fall over and is dehydrated. I know you’re going to say tell someone and I kinda think we should do that but the other friend doesn’t. Is there anything other than that that we can do to help her?

Angel in Distress

Dear Angel,

Eating disorders kill. Seriously. You care about your friend, but you can’t give her the help she needs. It’s not just a matter of keeping an eye on her to make sure she doesn’t throw up after she eats. First of all, you can’t be with her 24/7 and secondly (and more important) eating disorders can only be treated effectively by trained therapists and health care professionals.

Educate yourself about:

  • eating disorders on this page in The InSite.
  • an organization that offers treatment, ANRED (Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders).

By not telling an adult about your friend’s dangerous condition, you are delaying the start of the help she so desperately needs.

When you said you thought I’d tell you to “tell someone” you’re right. And the someone I have in mind is your mom. You need to do that... Today.

If, for whatever reason, your mom doesn’t want to call and talk to your friend’s mom about her daughter’s eating disorder, then tell the school counselor ASAP.

Your friend’s life depends on this.

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 Parenting Workshops and Student Assemblies

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
1/28/08 DrawBridge: An Arts Program for Homeless Children Staff development: “Guiding Kids and Teens Through Emotional Times” San Rafael, CA
2/2/08 Girl Scouts of San Francisco Bay Area annual DISCOVEREE. As a workshop presenter Annie will focus on: “Peer Approval Addiction – Helping teens strengthen their sense of self” Alvarado Middle School
Union City, CA
2/6/08 Girl Scouts of San Francisco Bay Area “Friendship Workshop” for 4th graders Piedmont, CA
2/15/08 Hall Middle School Career Day — As a workshop presenter Annie will focus on: “Fighting Peer Approval Addiction Everyday” Larkspur, CA
2/23/08 San Ramon Valley Council of PTAs presents “Parenting 2008 and Beyond...” As a workshop presenter Annie will focus on: “Teaching our Daughters Relationship Smarts” 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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