Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. III, Issue 3 March Newsletter March 1, 2007

Welcome to
Annie Fox's Parent Forum Newsletter

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Parent Forum 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

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In the Media

Enjoying Family Vacations

Read Annie’s advice for traveling (happily) with teens in the LA Times.

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March Parenting Article
She’s Your Daughter and She Needs You

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

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’s monumentally wrong.
bebe adOver 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, eating disorders, substance abuse, and sexual promiscuity.) Scientists explored the possible causes of this “trend”. Turns out, according to the research done by biologist Sandra Steingraber, American girls’ onset of menarche (getting 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 (the development 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.”

Pacific Sun - click for storyThe 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.

Buffalo Jeans ad - click for more infoGirls 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 article...

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Annie's Books

Annie's Books I 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 store. Order your copies here! Look for my new books series Going Your Own Way in Middle School and Beyond starting in 2008!

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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 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

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Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems

My stepdaughter-to-be is way out of control.

Dear Annie,

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????


Dear Help,

This “mess” is not likely to “be gone” any time soon, my friend. And you’re about to marry into it.

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.

In friendship,

“My mom is so negative!”

Hey Terra,

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?


Dear Frustrated,

When I was your age I think I had the same mother too! So I understand completely how this feels. Nobody enjoys “yelling 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.”
Or “I 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.

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
3/2/07 Grant Elementary SchoolRead Across America celebration author presentation Petaluma, CA
3/2/07 Piedmont Community Church — Parent Fellowship Evening: “Guiding our Tweens and Teens Through Stressful Times” For information call 510 547-5700 Piedmont, CA
3/10/07 San Ramon Library — “Make it Write” Teen Journaling Workshop. For information call 925-973-2850 San Ramon, CA
3/11/07 Center for Jewish Living and Learning — “Making the Most of your Mentoring Opportunities” for teen mentors. Oakland, CA
4/4/07 San Rafael High School PTSA — For parents and students, “Too Stressed to Think: A Teen’s Guide to Survival” 7:00 pm. For information call 415 485-2330. San Rafael, CA
4/18/07 Congregation Beth Israel-Judea — Parent Education Evening “Why 21st Century Kids Need 21st Century Parenting” San Francisco, CA
4/25/07 Marin County Office of Education — Parenting Workshop “Guiding our Tweens and Teens Through Stressful Times” 7-8:30 pm. For information contact Luke McCann at 415 472-4110. San Rafael, 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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