Annie Fox's Parent Forum Newsletter
supports parents, teachers, counselors and youth leaders as they help teens journey through adolescence.
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In this Newsletter
Need a Speaker?
Annie’s ongoing work on her new book series, Going Your Own Way in Middle School and Beyond (2008), has inspired
her to develop 6 dynamic presentations for parents of middle and high school students. Her current Parent Education offerings
- What Do They Want? What Do They Need? – Understanding the basics of teen well-being
Explore the social/emotional
development of 11-17 year olds with an eye toward supporting a sense of belonging, a sense of control, feelings of self-worth,
personal attachments, relationships with peers, and intellectual stimulation.
- Peer Approval Addiction – Helping teens strengthen their sense of self
When tweens and teens worry too
much about what “other people” think, they hold themselves back from becoming
who they fully are. It’s not enough to say, “Be your own person,” you’ve also got to help them
experience the true value in that.
- Turn that Thing Off! – Improving adult-teen communication in the Digital Age
Connecting more effectively with the young people in your life, requires listening to them with more compassion and respect.
That means increasing your “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence) and providing teens with reasons to quit texting
and IMing when they’re with you.
- Stepping Back and Letting Go – Raising fully functioning young adults
Young children benefit when parents are available to help with academic and social challenges. But starting in 6th grade,
some kinds of parental help aren’t all that helpful. Truly helpful adults recognize and support a young adolescent’s
need to do more and more for herself/himself.
If any of these topics strike a chord and you are looking for a parenting expert to speak at your PTA or congregation,
please contact Annie. To see what other parents have said
about Annie’s presentations, click here.
September Parenting Article
Prepare to Stop
by Annie Fox, M.Ed.
Well, what do you know? It’s Back-to-School again. That means another summer has… evaporated. Sigh. What
is it about summer that we all love so much? It’s not the heat, that’s for sure. It’s not even the sound
of the ice cream truck that makes me want to run outside yelling “Stoooooppppp!”
Here’s my theory, we’re all hooked on summer’s golden promise. Every year we’re suckered by the dream
of slamming on the brakes and busting out of the almighty “Schedule” that turns life into Class V white water,
churning with demands, deadlines, and delusions. But the Schedule is an intractable beast and we’re bolted to it. Week
after blurry week we ride the rapids, often white-knuckling it, and always holding our breath until we smack into something
and capsize. Princess Diana’s memorial is announced. Has it been ten years, already?!
For a moment the Schedule
loses its grip.
We stop. We ponder the unknowable. Where’d the time go?
Time doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s always right here. It’s us who zip
around like a bunch of crazies. Maybe you think you know where this is going. Maybe you’re thinking, “Sure,
Annie, slowing down is a fine idea. I might try it some day. But right now, I’ve got way too much on my plate
to even think about downshifting.”
Believe me, I understand. I’m the same way. As I scrub up in the shower I’m planning my dog-walking route.
When the pooch and I trot down the driveway, I’m evaluating breakfast options. As I eat my oatmeal, I’m
thinking about email, phone calls, and this newsletter that I’ve got to finish writing today. It never stops.
I never stop.
Continue reading the rest of the
September’s Recommended Read
on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Parents
by Jane Isay
Our son and his girlfriend are living at our house, part-time, for the next several months until they head off to Asia
to teach English for a year. Clearly he’s in a transitional stage and must have thought it would be a good idea to
educate his parents about the best way to navigate this new phase of our relationship. So he came home from the library
with a copy of Walking
on Eggshells. Fair enough. Our son’s giving us this book reflects the way we brought him up… when
something’s on your mind, speak up and get your needs met. Bravo!
So I read Walking on
Eggshells and read chunks of it to my husband, David. It stimulated lots of conversation between
us as parents of a new college graduate. It also inspired an important family meeting in
which our son, his girlfriend, David and I discussed the give and take of living together in peace.
We had a really nice summer… and part of the ease came from the principles in Eggshells.
I’ll pass them along to you:
They don’t want to hear it.
They don’t hear it.
They resent it.
Don’t give it.
|“They resent it when parents meddle and are distressed when parents try to fix everything ASAP. When they feel they are being judged, they become even harsher judges (of us).”|
Jane Isay interviewed nearly 100 parents and as many “adult children” (How’s that for an oxymoron?)
Her retelling of their personal stories made this book very engaging. These are real parents and real sons and daughters,
struggling with their relationships. Some were botching it up royally and some were enjoying a new level of mutual respect
and appreciation for one another. The degree of success was directly connected to the parents’ willingness to back
off and let their kids live their own lives.
Most of you have middle and high school age kids. The last thing you may want to imagine is life as an “empty nester.” But
even for parents whose kids are a decade or more away from college graduation, this book offers an opportunity to think
about the kind of relationship you want with your kids when they do grow up.
To help you figure out what direction you’d like to go in and where you’d like to end up, Walking
will inevitably force you to reflect on the relationship you had with your parents as you
transitioned into adulthood. How do you think about that relationship today? If there are aspects of it you’d rather
not duplicate with your own adult child now’s the time to lay the groundwork for change. This book can definitely help.
Check out my Recommended
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
in Fall 2008!
The Breathing Challenge
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 need. 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 have never been so scared.”
“I didn’t get the marks to get into the university my parents are praying I get into. I was truly afraid
of my parents because they think life is about graduating high school and going to university no ifs, ands, or buts.
All my siblings have gotten into university no problem. I guess I’m just not a good student. But my parents have
high hopes for me. Well, today was the day I had to tell my parents I didn’t get into university. I have never
been so scared. I did your breathing exercise about 20 times and guess what?! My parents are totally cool with it! It
was the complete opposite of what I thought it was going to be! It was such a relief!!! It feels as though so much weight
has been lifted off of me... Thank you so much!” —Less Stressed Teen
Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems
“Is this a phase or am I in trouble?”
My 15-year-old daughter seems to be on track in every area. I am crazy about her and have respect for who she has become.
But she isn’t interested in spending time with me, or talking to me very often. She doesn’t talk to me about
what is happening in her friends lives much either. I know she isn’t a gossip. But I would like to hear about “stuff” or
just small talk with her. Is this a phase or am I in trouble?
Left Out Mom
Dear Left Out Mom,
If you and your daughter have been close in the past, of course, this must feel like a loss to you. I understand. But
it is, most likely, a temporary loss. Please keep that in mind. She will be back!
I’m sure it’s uncomfortable for you, and a little sad, too. But as long as your daughter is “on track
in every area” of her life, this isn’t a problem unless you choose to make it one. That’s something I’d
advise against as it will only cause you unhappiness and push your daughter farther away.
Your daughter is inching her way toward adulthood. She is entitled to time with her friends and time on her own. Those
are opportunities for her to learn a lot about who she is and what she stands for. She has already learned much from you
and your job isn’t over. But right now, she’s signaling that she needs space and opportunities to use her own
judgment. She also needs privacy to process her ideas and emotions. That’s perfectly normal for 15 year olds.
So don’t take it personally when she chooses her friends over you. And don’t misinterpret her lack of interest
in “small talk” as a lack of love for you. She still loves you and needs you. Here are three tips to help you
through this transition:
- Respect her need to grow apart
- Refrain from guilt-tripping her into spending time with you
- Remain available to her as a safe, non-judgmental person
Do all three consistently and I guarantee by the time she’s a senior in high school, she will have found ways
to re-incorporate Mom into her life.
I hope this helps!
“Me and my mom can’t talk.”
My mom and I can’t talk about anything. We don’t agree on anything. If I try to talk to her, she either blows
me off or starts a fight. She totally hates my boyfriend. I’ve known him for years, and been dating him for 3 months,
and he’s a really great guy, smart, no drugs, he’s always there for me. But because of the way he dresses,
Mom was against him from the start. He dresses like a goth... all black, chains, but no tattoos or piercings yet. She doesn’t
even know him, but she’s blaming him for everything I do “wrong.” Advice?
I’m sure that it’s no fun to not be able to talk comfortably with your mom. I’m also pretty sure that
she’d like things to be easier between you as much as you would.
Let’s assume that your mom doesn’t “totally hate” your boyfriend because of his fashion sense.
What else might be the reason? Give me a list.
Also, you say that your mom is “blaming him for everything I do wrong.” Please tell me what are some of these “wrong” things.
She says my bf is disrespectful, but he doesn’t usually talk to her, so I’m not sure how she can tell.
Also, she just thinks he’s a bad influence and doesn’t want me around him.
What I do wrong is: Coming home a few minutes late, staying on the phone longer. I get held up a lot and I just lose
track of time. But with the attitude, which she also doesn’t like, it definitely has nothing to do with him.
Me and my mom have been fighting harder and harder for 3 years. I can see where she could connect the other ones to
him, but they’re MY decisions, and MY actions.
“Losing track of time” or “getting held up” doesn’t cut it if it’s happening
a lot. An agreement with your mom about getting home at a certain time needs to be respected. Otherwise she doesn’t
feel like she can trust you. That’s what this is all about. If you want more independence and respect from
her to live your own life, then you need to show her respect. That means being where you say you’re going to
be and coming home on time. No excuses. Do that, and she’ll ease up on you because you will have shown
that you know how to keep agreements.
As for your mom and your bf making the peace, here’s a suggestion: Maybe she thinks he is “disrespectful” because
he doesn’t talk to her. If he’s in your house when she’s there and he doesn’t speak to her,
that’s kinda rude. Ask him to try to be friendly to her and help her see all the good qualities that you see
in him. That would be a step in the right direction.
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
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 to parents,
teachers, or students,
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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