Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. III, Issue 6 June Newsletter June 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!

Summer Break

Parent Forum Newsletter is taking a break. Although I’ll still be answering your parenting questions via email, there won’t be a newsletter for July or August. We’ll resume our monthly publication in September. Here’s wishing you and your family and happy, healthy, creative and relaxing time together this summer. And if you’ve got some extra time, pick up any of these excellent parenting books.

In this Newsletter

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Happy Father’s Day!

There are biological fathers and then there are real dads. Real dads consciously choose to be involved with their daughters, sons, stepkids, grandkids, fosterkids, and daughters- and sons-in-law. Real dads walk the walk when it comes to supporting character development. Thanks to all of you for the invaluable and lasting contribution you’ve made and continue to make in the lives of young people.

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June Parenting Article
Thanks, Dad

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

[my dad]… was exactly the kind of father I needed to become who I am.
click for Parent Forum ArticleMy dad, Herman “Hy” Larris, died of a sudden heart attack when he was 50 and I was 15. I only had a child’s perspective of him. I knew him as Daddy, a man who loved his wife and three kids and worked hard to provide for us. He had a large extended family (more than 30 first cousins) and loved getting all of us together with them and their kids. My father was a man with a big laugh. He had a kind heart, apple cheeks and warm fleshy hands. He loved the beach, an occasional cigar, borscht, pickled herring, and my mom’s pot roast. He adored Broadway musicals. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel was one of his favorite songs.

Annie and her dadI was his youngest child and his only daughter. As self-absorbed as I was (and believe me, I took self-absorption to gold medal heights), I couldn’t overlook the obvious – my dad got a lot of nachas (joy and pride, especially in one’s children) signing my straight-A report cards, watching me onstage and listening to me sing and play the piano. While I was growing up, he was my #1 fan and I knew it. My eyes just filled with tears as I wrote that last sentence. I still miss him after 40 years.

I treasure my memories of my dad and I continue searching for new ones. I somehow believe I can make him more real by piecing together bits of other people’s stories and anecdotes. The family tree research I began a year ago was motivated by a desire to reconnect with my father and to better understand the people he came from and the legacy I share with them.

With an eye toward legacies, I asked a bunch of close friends and relatives to send me recollections of what they learned from their parents. They sent me some wonderful comments. I posted life lessons from Mom in the May issue. Now it’s Dad’s turn.

My own dad taught me that a roll-with-the-punches attitude helps you keep your perspective when life throws you a curve ball. He used to tell a joke about a poor schnook who continued to laugh even though a series of terrible events had befallen him. An astonished friend asked, “With all that’s happened to you, why are you still laughing?” To which the schnook shrugged and replied, “What else am I going to do?”

Here is some wisdom from other dads:

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 calmed myself down.”

“I am very strict about my schedule and I don’t like it when or my time calendar is messed up. Today my grandma picked me up late, and she was driving so slow I got stressed out, so I took a deep breath. Then when I was trying to get to your website it took forever and I got angry. So, again I took a deep breath. Then I asked my brother, who has a nice Mac, if I could use his computer to go your website and he wouldn’t let me so I got angry again. I had to calmed myself down and think it through so I could relax.” — a 6th grader

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Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems

“Mean girls are giving my daughter a terrible time.”

Dear Annie,

My 6th grade daughter has constant trouble with mean girls and has made only a few new friends this year. All but one have recently decided not to be her friend any longer. She has no insight as to why the kids treat her so badly, but I have a suspicion that she has something to do with it. Whatever the reason, the teasing and bullying is not appropriate.

I don’t know how to help her, except to listen, but would appreciate advice on whether there is something more to be done. We have talked with school counselors and administrative staff with some results, but the problems persist.

Concerned Mom

Dear Concerned Mom,

My blood boils when I hear about the cruelty of mean girls. I wish parents paid more attention to the behavior of their daughters (on both sides of the Mean Girls issue). The targets need strong support and opportunities to succeed socially outside of school. The perpetrators need strong re-direction from their moms so they understand that what they do in their little social circles can be hurtful and destructive to the feelings and self-esteem of others.
That said, I’m very sorry to hear that your daughter is having these problems. Schools could be doing so much more to shine a light on this anti-social behavior and address it in meaningful ways. I’m not sure why this isn’t a higher priority.

You say, “I have a suspicion that she [my daughter] has something to do with it [the bad treatment she’s receiving].” Please tell me more about your theory.

In friendship

Dear Annie,

My daughter has a strange sense of humor and might rub people the wrong way. She has a certain bragging/ teasing way about her. It’s not meant to be hurtful but because she is somewhat insecure. (I try to give her as much attention as possible, but I think she may not have had enough at times in her past due to working mom and all, and I just quit my job to be around more). She gets defensive when I try to talk with her about it. So I usually let it go. I don’t want to convey the message there’s something wrong with her or that she must be someone she’s not in order to have friends.

She has only one friend left, who is not the best influence (too interested in looks and boys).

My daughter came home in tears yesterday because no one would allow her to work with them on a class project and she ended up having to work with 2 boys who are poor students and tease her.

Any advice is appreciated! Thanks again for this wonderful support you provide!

Concerned Mom

PS: What worries me the most is that she is doing a 3 week day camp this summer with one of her “new friends” that decided she couldn’t be a “good” friend anymore. We paid a deposit, which I don’t mind losing, and I keep asking my daughter if she wants to back out but she says NO. Don’t know what to think!

Dear Concerned Mom,

This problem is so prevalent! Here’s a recent San Francisco Chronicle article about bullying. It offers a unique approach.

We each must do what we can with our own children (both the targets and the bullies) to send them clear messages. We must also be willing to get in the faces of school administrators (especially in middle school where it’s the worst). Let them know what’s going on, how it’s affecting our kids (their emotional well-being, their safety and their ability to learn). Frankly I’m at a loss when I hear that two “friends” in your daughter’s class would not “allow her to work with them on a class project.” Where do those girls get the idea that they can prevent a classmate from working on a class project with them?! What do they tell themselves that makes it all right to treat someone like this? Where the hell is the teacher?


Here is an article I wrote not long ago about the concept of social “garbage” and another about Real Friends vs. the Other Kind.

Also here are some of my tips for parents dealing with this issue.

Hopefully these will offer you some perspective and guidance.

In friendship,

PS: If she wants to go to the day camp let her. It’s possible that she sees it as a challenge. Not necessarily to get back in the good graces of this so-called friend, but to meet new people.

Good luck!

“My stepbrother is out of control.”

Hey Terra,

My new stepbrother is causing problems for my entire family. Today, his mother (my stepmom) saved him from his abusive father and he still treats her like sludge. Right now my stepbrother is screaming at my father and my stepmom. He has a mouth worse than a sailor. He is really scaring me right now. Tonight, his mom said he could bring home one person to stay. About 8:30 he goes somewhere with his guest and returns at midnight with four more boys. He totally disrespects and defies her all the time. I don’t know what to do about him anymore. PLEASE HELP ME!!

Stressed Stepsister

Dear Stressed Stepsister,

I’m really sorry to hear that there are problems in your family right now. I can certainly understand that having a loud and verbally abusive and disrespectful stepbrother around is scary and very stressful.

Unfortunately this is not a problem that you can solve on your own. The adults need to get on the same page and decide how, as parents, they are going to get him and the family back in balance.

My suggestion is that you talk with your father and tell him how all of this is making you feel. Tell him that it doesn’t feel safe for you to be around all of this yelling and defiance and cursing. Ask him what the parents are going to do about it.

If your dad and stepmom feel that the boy is beyond their control, then it’s their responsibility to get some outside help ASAP. That means a family therapist. If they let things go in the direction they’re going now... your stepbrother’s behavior will only get worse and everyone will continue to suffer.

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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Parenting Workshops and Student Assemblies

Click here for a list of Annie's past events. Read what they're saying about Annie's presentations. If you’re interested in having Annie speak next Fall to parents, teachers, or students, click here.

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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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