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
Season of Giving
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
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.
November Parenting Article
Someone is Always Not Happy
by Annie Fox, M.Ed.
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:
- 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
- Avoid 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.
- 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.
- 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
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
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!
The Breathing Challenge
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
Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems
“Our son has no motivation.”
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.
“My friends want me to smoke with them.”
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
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
ANSWER: YOU DON’T HAVE TO!
Here are some facts for you to think about before you cave in to the threats of your so-called friends: about the addictive
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.
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.
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
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
||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
||Woodside Priory School — Parent Education Evening: “Why 21st Century Kids Need 21st Century Parenting”
||Portola Valley, CA
School — Student Assemblies: “Too Stressed Out to Think?”
||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
||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
||Girl Scouts of San Francisco Bay Area “Friendship
Workshop” for 4th graders
||San Ramon Valley
Council of PTAs presents “Parenting 2008 and Beyond...” As a workshop presenter
Annie will focus on: “Teaching our Daughters Relationship
||San Ramon, CA
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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