Annie Fox's Parent Forum Newsletter
supports parents, teachers, counselors and youth leaders as they help tweens and teens in their 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 needs it.
Miss any back
issues? Read them in our archives.
Not a subscriber yet?
Step right this way!
In this Newsletter
In the Media
Enjoying Family Vacations
Annie’s advice for traveling (happily) with teens in the LA Times.
March Parenting Article
She’s Your Daughter and She Needs You
by Annie Fox, M.Ed.
an 11-year-old writes that her boyfriend wants to have sex but she’s ‘scared cuz all we’ve
done so far is oral,’ something’s monumentally wrong.”
the past decade research has indicated that girls are getting their periods earlier and earlier. Experts weighed in about
the ramifications of the early onset of puberty. Higher risk for cancer, violent victimization and depression made the list.
(Depression in girls can lead to cutting
, substance abuse, and sexual promiscuity.) Scientists explored the possible causes of this “trend”.
Turns out, according to the research done by biologist Sandra
, American girls’ onset of menarche
their first period) has pretty much stayed the same for the past 35 years. That is, 12.8 years to 12.6 years. What has changed
fairly dramatically is the onset of thelarche
of breasts). According to the studies Steingraber reviewed in her ground-breaking 1998 book Living
Downstream: A Scientist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment
, “By age 8, 14% of American
girls have breasts.”
causes, it seems, may have little to do with biology. Steingraber said in a recent interview with the Pacific
Sun, “We have… hijacked that system [reproductive readiness as determined by one’s biological
clock] and bombarded it with signals that speed [things up].” The apparent triggers of early breast development
are a slew of environmental factors including: sedentary lifestyle, high calorie diets, vinyl shower curtains,
and too much TV.
I read this and immediately thought about all the sex-related
email I get from 11-15 year-olds. Younger and younger girls are finding themselves in sexual situations.
Obviously they shouldn’t be there and they haven’t a clue how to handle it, but there they are. When
an 11-year-old writes that her boyfriend wants to have sex but she’s “scared cuz all we’ve
done so far is oral,” something is so monumentally wrong I don’t know where to begin.
are overdosing on sexualized images of girls and women on TV (and in movies, magazines and on the Internet) with
no understanding of how that’s affecting their self-image
image and their behavior. Apparently all that sexy stuff may be triggering their brains into believing it’s
time to become a woman. Hormones rush in, breasts develop on 3rd graders and suddenly your little girl is getting
a whole lot of attention from the boys.
The brain of a young adolescent just isn’t sufficiently developed to help her control her impulses or predict
the consequences of her actions. And I’m not just dumping on girls! Boys have the same temporary brain “dysfunction” so
sharply described by Michael Bradley in his book Yes,
Your Teen is Crazy! A whole other topic is how to raise responsible, caring sons. I’ll tackle
that in an upcoming issue.
Continue reading the rest of the
write my books especially for grades 6 and up because I know how often tweens and teens need help sorting
things out. My books provide encouragement, relationship smarts, and clear thinking needed to navigate through middle and
high school. 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
your copies here! Look for my new books series Going Your Own Way in Middle School and Beyond starting
The Breathing Challenge
In 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
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 cured my own headache.”
“Well, it’s right before 10:30 and I was feeling hopeless and distressed about these
two tests I have tomorrow. I also had a headache which worsens the pain. So I sat on my bed and just kept breathing in
and out really slowly for a loooong time. I feel much better and my headache went away and now I can go to sleep. Thanks
much!” — an 8th grader
Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems
“My stepdaughter-to-be is way out of control.”
I’m engaged to a man with a 13-year-old girl whose ex wife has primary custody. We’ve been together 2 years
and will be getting married soon. Until recently the daughter and I have had a good relationship. Right now I don’t
want to talk to her at all because of her attitude. The mother lets the daughter get away with way too much. The girl is
constantly disrespectful to my fiancé and his parents and to her mother as well, but Mom just says she’s being “moody.” Mom
allows her to have a boyfriend at age 13 (he’s 16, and she sees nothing wrong with this either).
The girl plays Mom and Dad against each other constantly – lies to us and her mom constantly – to which mom
believes every word she says. Mom doesn’t think she needs counseling. I have no children, but if I did they would
certainly not be behaving the way that this woman is allowing her daughter to. She’s never been grounded, they won’t
take anything away from her, and when my fiancé questions her it doesn’t matter what he says or how things
should be handled, he’s wrong.
I’m the outsider watching the action, but being drawn in quickly. I’ve been pretty quiet, but with the marriage
looming closer I want this mess to be gone or at least some peace before we get together. Any ideas????
This “mess” is not likely to “be gone” any time soon, my friend. And you’re about to marry
It’s not up to you to discipline your fiancé’s daughter but when she becomes your step-daughter and
spends time in your home, you are certainly responsible for setting standards of behavior. Without cooperation from your
fiancé, I don’t see how that’s going to happen.
As an outsider it’s too easy to say: In this situation the problem is the mother, “she let’s the daughter
get away with way too much” and the daughter “she’s constantly disrespectful.” But the father is
very much a part of this unhappy picture as well. You’re marrying into a hornet’s nest of trouble. The whole
family needs counseling. At the very least you and your fiancé should go to couple’s counseling BEFORE another
week passes and figure out how you are going to have a marriage in this context.
I hope this helps.
“My mom is so negative!”
I feel like “Enough”, who wrote to you
about her mother, and I have the same mother.
She constantly is yelling and complaining about me and my father. Yet when we tell her about something she does that annoys
us she says, “That’s right, I’m the bad guy.” I
honestly feel as if I don’t even want to look at her. All she does is complain! Then, when I complain, she tells
me to stop, that all this pessimism is making her mad! But my father! He annoys me too! Every little thing I say or do
is turned into something worse then it really is!
They both make me SOOO angry! They don’t respect me and I want out, but I’m 11. What do I do?
When I was your age I think I had the same mother too! So I understand completely how this feels. Nobody
and complaining.” And being around it is never fun.
You sound like a very intelligent, self-aware young woman. As much as you might “want out,” you’re 11,
so the reality of this situation is that you aren’t leaving any time soon. What can you do?
Well, I suggest you ask yourself, “What do I want?” What’s the goal, for you, in this situation?
Is it “I want my parents to respect me.”
Or is it “I want my mom to listen to what I have to say.”
want my mom to be more positive in her attitude.”
Think about what it is you want and then after you have stated a goal, ask yourself this question: “Is that [the
goal you stated] actually something that I can control or change or make happen?”
When it comes to what other people say, think, feel, or do... you get ZERO power. Absolutely zippo. On the other hand,
when it comes to your own choices, you have 100% control. Ahhhhh... So maybe there’s a solution in here.
Maybe your goal in this situation might be: “I want my mother and father’s behavior to NOT BOTHER ME so much.” Do
you have any control over that goal? You sure do!
What would it take for you not to get your buttons pushed... Not to get SOOOO angry?
Think about it.
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
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
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.
If this newsletter was forwarded to you
and you’d like to subscribe (free!), click