Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. III, Issue 5 May Newsletter May 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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Shaded Orchids - Photographed by Annie FoxHappy Mother’s Day!

These virtual flowers are for all moms, stepmoms, grandmoms, fostermoms, moms-in-law and anyone consciously mothering kids and supporting their development. They are given in recognition of the profound difference you’ve made and continue to make in the lives of young people.

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May Parenting Article
Thanks, Mom

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

…people, including our own parents, come into our lives for a reason.
click for Parent Forum ArticleMy mom, Martha Scolnick Larris, has been gone for more than a dozen years. Memories of her pop in unexpectedly throughout the year… her impressive vocabulary, her love of sales, her incomparable matzoh balls! But it’s in spring, when I spend more and more time in my garden, that I think of her most often. The very fact that I have a garden and take so much pleasure tending it is a direct result of being my mom’s daughter. That woman knew her flowers! And I’m really grateful she transmitted that knowledge to me.

Maybe it seems like a small thing to know a freesia from a forsythia, a gardenia from a gladiolus, a hydrangea from a hyacinth. But to me, this special awareness offers constant opportunities to notice what’s around me… to celebrate the beauty and the incredibly variety in nature. If I thought they were all “just flowers” I wouldn’t be able to enjoy them nearly as much as I do. So thank you, Mom.

I’ve been thinking about the legacy each of us received from our mothers. I wondered if, given the chance, people could describe what they had been given. In honor of Mother’s Day I sent out a questionnaire asking friends and family what “life lessons” they had learned from their mom. I want to thank everyone who took the time to respond. I appreciate your help, your honesty, and your insight!

Here’s a sampling of what people had to say:

What life lessons did you learn from your mom?

    Dahlia - Photographed by Annie Fox
  • Don’t take too long to shuffle the cards. It drives people crazy.
  • Don’t be so dramatic.
  • Don’t be like me.
  • Don’t waste money, water or electricity.
  • It can’t hurt to ask.
  • Be kind to children.
  • Always put your best foot forward whatever you do.
  • Go for whatever you want in life.
  • Creativity is a good thing.
  • Do for each of your children what they need.
  • When you go to dinner at someone’s house, bring some cake.

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 (making sure your goal is actually within your power to impact) and 5) Consider your options for getting what you want. Then I challenge kids to start using the tools 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 apologized to my dad.”

“I was on the computer IMing my friend and my dad was getting very mad! He was saying “15 seconds, 14-13-12…” I didn’t know what to say to my friend because she was in the middle of typing a VERY important question. I really wanted to just yell at my dad. Then I remembered what you said, to stop and breathe. I tried it and it worked! I told my dad sorry and I told my friend I had to go, but I would be back on later. THANKS FOR THE ADVICE!” — an 8th grader

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Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems

“Should my step-daughter be allowed to lock her door?”

Dear Annie,

My 13-year old stepdaughter keeps her bedroom door locked whenever she is in it, day or night. My husband allows her to do it. I say she should not, for several reasons, fire, safety, not knowing what she is doing on the Internet, etc. Also, when he wakes her up for school in the mornings, he has to bang on the door forever, while she tells him to go away, before she finally opens the door. Should she be allowed to keep her bedroom door locked?

Locked Out

Dear Locked Out

Step-parenting a teen can very challenging. The onus falls on the adult to create an emotional “landscape” in which a teen feels welcome. Maybe an attitude shift on your part would be helpful. I obviously don’t have the whole picture, but in light of the fact that your husband doesn’t think there’s a problem here, it sounds like you may be letting some assumptions color your view of your stepdaughter.

It’s normal for a 13 year old to want privacy. I wouldn’t necessarily assume that just because she locks her door that she’s doing something she’s got no right to do. She may be, and she may not be. I can’t say what the odds are either way because you don’t reveal much about the child’s overall responsibility level, trustworthiness, or her relationship with her father or you. Has she indicated by her past behavior that she’s making inappropriate choices vis à vie her school work, her friends, her activities, and/or her overall behavior? Or is she, essentially a good kid who has a history of making good choices? In other words, is there something to be concerned about here?

I suggest you talk with your husband about how the two of you get on the same page as you assess your stepdaughter’s behavior. That will help you both see what, if any, changes need to be implemented in your collective parenting approach. If you have reason to be concerned about her isolation while she’s at home, then I suggest you seek out the help of a licensed marriage and family therapist.

In friendship,

PS: I’d recommend your reading Re-Married with Children. You might also want to read this letter from a step mom and this one concerning a rocky relationship with a stepdad.

“I’m the good kid!”

Hey Terra,

My parents don’t like me as much as they do my older sister. I listen to them and stuff but my sister doesn’t. She gets what she wants when she wants it, but I never do and I’m the good kid.

Good Kid

Dear Good Kid,

It sounds like you feel less appreciated and less loved than your sister. That probably hurts and confuses you since you’re “the good kid” and deserve some recognition from your parents for your good behavior. Even though it seems that your parents “don’t like you as much as... your older sister” I’m sure that’s not really the case. What’s more likely is that because she’s less cooperative than you, your parents believe that caving in to her demands makes more peace in the family. Not true! She’ll just get more outrageous in her behavior.

It’s too bad your parents haven’t been showing you how much they appreciate what a good kid you are. But don’t lose hope because there’s a solution here. (And it doesn’t involve your acting out like your sister to get more of their attention!) Tell them how you feel. They’re probably not even aware of what they’re doing. By talking to them calmly and respectfully, you give them a chance to understand where you’re coming from and to change their behavior toward you so that you get more of what you want and need from them.

I hope this helps.

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 month, 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
5/4/07 Beacon Day School — “Help Yourself: Becoming more independent” — a middle school workshop Oakland, CA
5/8/07 Congregation Shir Hadash — Parent Education Evening, “Giving Support/Getting Support” Los Altos, 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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