Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. III, Issue 4 April Newsletter April 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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Newsletter Follow-up

How do you start a conversation about
sex, sexuality, and the media?

Last month’s article (“She’s Your Daughter and She Needs You” March 2007) brought strong reactions. A couple of people canceled their subscriptions. Everyone else expressed appreciation for a frank discussion of sexual media messages aimed at teens. Some wanted more specific tips for having those conversations (see below). Depending on your child, dads might want to have an ongoing conversation with their sons and moms with their daughters. Personally, my husband and I have found it incredibly valuable for both of us (together and individually) to have dialogues with our son and our daughter. When parents share values and teachable moments occur, grab the opportunity to talk and listen.

Dear Annie,

I just finished your article on pre-teen sexuality and I agree with you that we do need to engage in a series of discussions with our children. However, I am terribly disappointed that you provide no guidance on how to engage in this critical dialogue. We need more, specific examples, coaching on how to broach the subject and so on. I think that your keen advice would benefit us all.

Best regards,

Ms. F.

Dear Ms. F,

I appreciate your feedback. I’d suggest that you show your daughter the photo of the teen in the jeans ad from my article. Tell her it appeared in Cosmo Girl and ask her what she thinks of it. That would be a great lead in to this kind of dialogue.

You might also visit this Gurl.com page with your daughter.

In reading the comments girls posted in reaction to that particular jean ad I was surprised that many of them didn’t think it was “racy” or “any big deal.” That indicates to me that the girls themselves have been so desensitized to the media images that they now think it’s all “normal” which probably skews their attitudes about what’s “normal” in their own sexual behavior.

Ask your daughter what she thinks about the other kids’ comments? Does she agree? Disagree? Why or why not?

  1. Listen more than talk. Be as interested in hearing her opinions as you are in transmitting your personal values.
  2. Make your questions open-ended so there’s real room for dialogue. If you ask a question in a way that makes it clear what you want to hear, that’s the answer you’ll get because it won’t feel safe to respond otherwise. Just know that what she says might or might not be what she believes.
  3. Create a safe talking space between you and your daughter. More than anything, you want to create an environment where she can freely talk with you about sex and sexuality. Do that and you will be rewarded with her trust. Then she’s much more likely to continue coming to you for this kind of information and decision-making support.
Good luck and keep the lines of communication open.

In friendship,

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Parenting Tips

Traveling with Teens

Family vacation coming up? Annie’s 10 Tips for Having a Great Family Vacation with Teens helps you get your teens involved in the planning process now so you’ll be traveling with happier campers this summer.

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April Parenting Article
I’ll Have Some Extra Sunshine and a Little Peace of Mind, Please

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

…our concern for [our kids’] well-being is programmed into the deep recesses of our mammalian brain.
click for Parent Forum ArticleDaylight Savings Time provides us with an extra hour of sunshine to hold back the night. That, plus the fact that my neighborhood’s in full bloom, found me walking recently at 6 pm and encountering this idyllic scene: The sun’s golden rays paint the front yard where a boy pushes his friend on a tree swing. Not ten feet away, two moms sit on the front step, talking and watching their kids play.

Those women enjoyed the peace of mind that comes when your children are safe and happy and in plain sight. Rounding the corner, I passed a dad even more at peace as he cuddled the sleeping infant strapped to his chest.

Safe SwingWe are parents. Built into our job description are phrases like “You’re safe with me.” “I won’t let anything hurt you.” “Don’t worry. I’m here.” When it comes to our kids we are ever vigilant. It’s not a choice. We have to be. Not because the world is truly an evil and dangerous place and without our oversight our kids would be swallowed up and lost. It isn’t and they wouldn’t be. We have no choice but to protect them because we’re parents and our concern for their wellbeing is programmed into the deep recesses of our mammalian brain. So we celebrate when they’re happy. We commiserate when they’re down. We fight for justice on their behalf. We do whatever we can to keep everything bad and sad away from them.

Maybe we protect them too much.

Most of our own parents did a good job even though they weren’t nearly as involved in our lives as we are in the lives of our kids. Despite their benign neglect, many of us turned out okay… happy, accomplished, and successful in every sense of the word.

Think back to your teen years and you’ll probably recall a few times when you made a bad choice. Perhaps you knowingly did something foolish, risky or dangerous. Even if your parents never found out, you probably experienced a consequence of some kind (if only personal regret). My guess is that you learned something valuable from your “foolish” choices. I know I did! Maybe you didn’t learn it right away, but you learned it, and you matured.

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 you’re feeling stressed, 2) Stop, 3) Breathe, 4) Think about your goal and your options for getting there. Then I challenge them to use the tools in the real world and let me know how it goes. Here’s this month’s account of the amazing things that can happen when you’re not Too Stressed to Think.

“I chose Option B.”

“My sister and I needed to clean OUR room. She can’t keep focused. If she sees a book, next thing you know she’s reading it and won’t stop. Normally I first ask her nicely to stop. When she doesn’t, I tell her again, louder. When she still ignores me I lose control and YELL. Then she gets really mad and stomps her foot. I yell again and she mimics me! That annoys me more than anything so I blow my top. I run out screaming and slam the door behind me. If I’m really mad I’ll grab the book and throw it at her. Then my mom comes to see what’s going on and my sister makes something up to get me in trouble.

“But this time when she ignored me for the second time, I thought, ‘I know where this is going. I’ll stop it now.’ I took three deep breaths and thought of my goal; getting my sister to clean the room. There was the way I always do it and there was option B: Tell my mom now instead of later. I decided to pick option B, and it worked! Thank you!” — a 6th grader

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Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems

How can I decide if my daughter’s old enough
to go to a movie with her friends?”

Dear Annie,

My 11-year-old daughter wants to be dropped off at a movie with her girlfriends. The movie theatre is in a fairly safe area, but I am not sure she is old enough to be okay. Some of her friends’ parents agree with me and some don’t. What criteria should I use to make this decision?

Momma Hen

Dear Momma Hen,

I think your comfort level is an important factor, but so is your child’s level of responsibility. An 11-year-old who consistently shows that she follows your directions and adheres to your rules is, in my mind, a much more likely candidate for a matinee with friends than a kid who spaces out or is easily influenced by others.

Speaking of others, part of the criteria you should use to decide is the maturity and responsibility levels of the other girls. Do their past behaviors indicate trustworthiness? If the answer is YES, then you don’t want your irrational fears to prevent your daughter from mastering an age-appropriate skill, i.e., taking care of herself out in public with her friends. If you and the other parents discuss your concerns amongst yourselves and provide your daughters with clear behavioral guidelines (with a safety net of cell phones and strictly established drop off and pick up times and places) then I think this could be a great “first step” for your daughter in the direction of more independence.

In friendship,

“My dad won’t let me go anywhere!”

Hey Terra,

My dad is a very caring loving father, but I am about to turn 17 and he won’t let me go anywhere unless he has met the parent. Now everyone is younger then me and is allowed to go where they want and stay out late. Why won’t my dad let me hang out with my friends and let them drive me where I want to go? I want him to trust me and let me go places and hang out. It’s spring break for crying out loud!


Dear Trapped,

I’m glad you can see that your dad’s protectiveness comes from his love for you. If he got to know your friends better he’d probably relax more and allow you more independence. (That’s assuming you and your friends are mature, responsible and trustworthy). So invite them over to meet your dad and give him a chance to talk with them.

My other suggestion is that you ask your best friend to ask his/her dad or mom to call your dad on the phone and talk. Hopefully, your friend’s parent can connect with your dad, parent to parent, and help put his mind at ease. Then sit down with your dad, calmly and respectfully, and tell him that you feel ready for more independence. Be specific about what you want permission to do and when. For example, “Dad, tomorrow I want to go bowling with Jenny from 2-5.” Let him know that you realize with more independence comes more responsibility. Tell him that you’re ready for it. Ask him what he would like you to do in order to prove that you can act responsibly on your own, at the bowling alley from 2-5. If that means you have to check in with him every hour on the hour, then be cheerful and willing to do that. If he wants you home no later than 5:00, make sure that you don’t miss the deadline, not even by a minute! By showing him that you can be responsible, it’s very likely that you will have more opportunities to be independent.

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
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
5/4/07 Beacon Day School — “Help Yourself: Becoming more independent” — a middle school workshop Oakland, CA
5/16/07 Beacon Day School — Parent Education Night: “What kind of help isn't helpful? Guiding your middle schooler toward independence” Oakland, 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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