Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. III, Issue 9 November Newsletter November 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 teens 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 would welcome a new free parenting/mentoring resource. Miss any back issues? Read them in our archives. Not a subscriber yet? Step right this way!

In this Newsletter

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Season of Giving

Red Scissors Alliance's Costa Rica Pilot ProjectDuring this holiday season we who have much to be grateful for are often called to help others. It’s good karma, it’s great modeling for our kids, and it’s a tax-deductible donation!

There are countless worthy non-profits dedicated to making life better for those in need here in the US and abroad. I encourage you to give to those groups whose mission you support.

Red Scissors Alliance’s Costa Rica Pilot Project is a worthy effort I’ve recently learned about and contributed to. Their connection to teens is direct and the impact you can have is enormous.

Help Buy Textbooks for Impoverished Costa Rican Students

The 300 students who graduate each year from La Carpio’s only school have had to give up their educational dreams because their Costa Rican town has never had a high school. All that is about to change! The very first high school in La Carpio is scheduled to welcome 120 students in February, 2008. For these teens, a high school education is their path out of poverty.

Red Scissors Alliance has pledged to donate $1000 to the first class of students so they can have textbooks and school supplies.

A $25 tax-deductible donation will buy a child a textbook, a dictionary, a notebook, and a box of pencils.

You can help right here.

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November Parenting Article
Someone is Always Not Happy

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

click for Parent Forum Article We don’t really expect our kids to be happy all the time, but we still want it for them. I want it for myself. So I developed a four-prong approach to increase my happiness quotient (aka HapQ). It’s simple. If you want to be happy just:

  1. Do more of what brings you joy. A no-brainer, but still, many of us live like we’ve got forever to get to the fun stuff when actually it could all be over… Whoa! That kind of talk lowers my HapQ. Onward to #2.
  2. Happy guyAvoid obvious joy-busters. If you know something brings you down, don’t go there. A few of my personal “somethings” include: burnt popcorn, yellow jackets, and stubble. The same strategy works with people who are consistently no fun to be around. Don’t go camping with them.
  3. Attend to whatever smooshes your joy ASAP. If a situation is stressing you out, quit complaining. Quit suffering. Simply do whatever you can to change it or change the way you respond to it. Some of my Act now! situations include: cold tea (as opposed to iced tea which totally belongs in #1), cold feet, dog hair on the rug, and any paragraph I’m not yet satisfied with.
  4. Breathe. For anything you can’t avoid or change… inhale, exhale, and smile. Up goes the old HapQ. Free, available 24/7, no reservations needed, breathing can always restore my happiness in unhappy situations except during the truly horrible year my mom was dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. And, much more recently, when we tried to build a new fence. I know, I know. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I try not to, but sometimes my mind loses me.

It’s not like we didn’t already have a fenced-in yard. We did. And our land continued beyond the fence. Like the rest of our neighbors here in the flats, we believed the high ridge above us was designated open space, meaning that everyone can enjoy the land and it can’t be developed. For decades, we boasted to out-of-town visitors how that ridge would forever remain untouched by contractors. Our bragging increased our HapQ (as bragging often does) though I’m sure it decreased our guests’ HapQ, which decreases my own now that I think of it.

Continue reading the rest of the article...

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Annie's Books

Annie's BooksSince 1997 I’ve answered teen email from around the world because kids often need help sorting things out. My books provide students with encouragement, relationship smarts, and clear thinking needed to navigate through adolescence. Caring adults 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 directly from me and pay by credit card at our own online store. Order your copies here! My new 5-book series Going Your Own Way in Middle School and Beyond is part graphic-novel and starts in Fall 2008!

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The Breathing Challenge

The Breathing ChallengeIn my Stress Education student assemblies I teach this invaluable step by step process: 1) Learn your own stress symptoms and notice when you’re feeling off-balance, 2) Stop, 3) Breathe, 4) Think about what you want and whether getting it is within your control, then 5) Consider your options for getting what you need. I challenge tweens and teens to use the tools and let me know how it goes. They quickly discover they can change their lives in many ways when they’re not Too Stressed to Think.

“I can’t be so up-tight”

“In basketball scrimmage a mean girl tripped my friend and hurt her! I was so mad and stressed I wanted to slap that girl. I didn’t but soon we ended up together as a team. I was upset and really didn’t want to play with her. I felt like going away and screaming at my pillow! Of course in basketball you can’t do that so I asked to go and get some water and started to do the breathing exercise. I felt calmer and went out to play. Soon I realized that I can’t be so up-tight like that and have to calm down sooner before I get out of hand.

“Before you knew it I was laughing and having a blast with the mean girl thanks to your exercise! It works and it made me feel much better, calmer, and really relaxed! I think that I might just do that everyday.” —a 5th grader

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Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems

“Our son has no motivation.”

Dear Annie,

My son recently graduated from high school and thinks this is it. He does not want to get a job or go to college. He doesn’t even have an interest in getting his driver’s license. We don’t know how to motivate him. We have always encouraged him, but all he wants to do is be on his computer and Playstation. HELP!!

At the End of My Rope

Dear At the End,

I can understand how your son’s lack of motivation is a cause for concern. It certainly sounds like there’s something going on emotionally with an 18 year old whose only interests are computers and games. I’m guessing he lacks self-confidence (though he might not admit as much). What’s “safe” for him is status quo. When he sticks by his computer, he doesn’t have to test himself in the broader arena of life.

You’ve probably seen this lack of motivation and lack of self-confidence for several years. He needs encouragement to begin mastering age-appropriate tasks. For an 18 year old that would be an expanding social life (moving into the realm of romantic relationships), work (earning a living, being responsible to an employer, etc.) and/or continuing one’s education and being responsible for course assignments, and independent living.

As well meaning as your encouragement may be, it’s clearly falling on deaf ears. A licensed marriage and family therapist could be a great resource for him and for you as parents to learn how to cope with this situation and how to better support your son’s independence. Part of that might be the need for tough love. Speaking of which: Who paid for your son’s computer and Playstation? Who does his laundry? Who pays for his food and clothing? In what ways does he contribute to the smooth running of the household (i.e., chores)?

Don’t expect your son to be thrilled with the idea of seeing a family therapist. He may not think he’s got a “problem.” That’s the problem. But he’s not the only one in this family with a problem. You and your husband are part of the dynamic as well.

By writing to me you’ve taken the first step toward getting your son and yourselves the help you all need. Now it’s time to take the next step. Call your health care provider and get a referral to a family therapist.

Good luck!

In friendship,

My friends want me to smoke with them.”

Hey Terra,

I’m scared! My friends are pushing me to smoke cigarettes with them and I’ve heard a lot of bad things it causes for you. Like lung cancer and probably dying. My parents and siblings don’t know about this. I refused to smoke cigarettes with my friends a couple of times but they didn’t say anything up until now. Now they said if I don’t smoke with them tomorrow night, they won’t let me hang out with them anymore. I don’t know what to do!

Help me!

City Girl

Dear City Girl,

You call these people “friends”?! C’mon, you sound way too intelligent to be pressured into this kind of thing. Calm down for a minute and think about this. Someone who says she’s your friend tells you, “If you don’t smoke with us then we’re not going to be friends with you anymore.” What kind of rubbish is that!?

You say “I’ve heard a lot of bad things [smoking] causes for you.” You don’t actually think “cigarette smoking causes lung cancer” is a RUMOR do you?

You say “I don’t know what to do.” Ok. I’ll tell you. I’ll bet you already know this, but here goes… These girls aren’t real friends. You obviously don’t respect their choices, so why go against your own values (and put your health at risk) to get their approval?


Here are some facts for you to think about before you cave in to the threats of your so-called friends: about the addictive drug, nicotine.

And about who’s smoking and what it’s doing to them and the people closest to them.

City Girl, get yourself the kind of friends you deserve. You have my support and encouragement for doing the right thing.

In friendship,

Hey Terra,

Thanks for you advice and the information. I really appreciate it. Thanks to you, I’ve made some friends other than those friends I had, who were trying to ruin their own life and my life. I feel so much better right now. I told my parents all about it and they were so understanding. I owe you big time.

City Girl

Hey City Girl,


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 Parenting Workshops and Student Assemblies

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
11/02/07 Healthy Teens Marin Committee presents Peer Summit XII — Annie's Workshop for 7th and 8th graders: “Going Your Own Way” — For more information call 415 492-4786 College of Marin, Kentfield, CA
11/6/07 Woodside Priory School — Parent Education Evening: “Why 21st Century Kids Need 21st Century Parenting” Portola Valley, CA
11/16/07 Dublin High School — Student Assemblies: “Too Stressed Out to Think?” Dublin, CA
11/17/07 Mill Valley Middle School Parent Ed Mini-conference: Enjoy the Roller Coaster years: Positive Parenting for 10 to 15 Year Olds. As a workshop presenter, Annie will focus on “What Everyone Else Thinks — Helping your child fight peer approval addiction.” This event is free. Mill Valley Middle School, Mill Valley, CA
2/2/08 Girl Scouts of San Francisco Bay Area annual DISCOVEREE. As a workshop presenter Annie will focus on: “Peer Approval Addiction – Helping teens strengthen their sense of self” Alvarado Middle School
Union City, CA
2/6/08 Girl Scouts of San Francisco Bay Area “Friendship Workshop” for 4th graders Piedmont, CA
2/23/08 San Ramon Valley Council of PTAs presents “Parenting 2008 and Beyond...” As a workshop presenter Annie will focus on: “Teaching our Daughters Relationship Smarts” San Ramon, 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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