Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. IV, Issue 4 April Newsletter April 1, 2008

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.

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In this Newsletter

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April Parenting Article
That is better than this... or is it?

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

click for Parent Forum ArticleEver notice how cool lemon trees are? Born on the East Coast I never had a personal encounter with one until I reached adulthood and moved West, but now that I’ve got have a dwarf Meyer lemon in my garden, let me tell you this is one under-rated miracle of nature. Here’s a tree with teeny flower buds, heavenly smelling blossoms, baby green fruit and ripe golden orbs, all happening at the same time!

On a cosmic level, the lemon tree is always manifesting its entire life cycle. So it’s simultaneous living every moment of its existence!

Lemon Generations - Photo by David FoxNow you might assume that straddling the time space-continuum would cause internal conflict for the tree. Like maybe an undeveloped little green guy eyes a juicy yellow beauty and gripes, “Damn! How come I’m not more mature?” Or some blossom whose petals flap in the wind, whines about how unfair it is that she’s no longer taut and firm like that sweet young bud. But noooo.

This plant has evolved to a point where no phase of life is any better or worse than any other. In the realm of lemon trees, there is total acceptance. No complaints. What is, is.

Humans on the other hand are hard-wired for complaining. Even (maybe especially) those of us who have pretty soft lives compared to most people on this planet.

Since adults often judge things, situations, and other people in terms of what’s “wrong,” it’s no surprise that teens are frequently bitching about something. In addition to what we’re modeling for them, teens are incredibly judgmental because they’re grappling with some key questions: Am I normal? Am I loveable? Am I loving? Consequently, our kids feel pressured to compare themselves with everyone in the real and virtual universe to determine: Am I cool enough? Am I hot enough? Am I good enough?

Continue reading the rest of the article...

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New Parent Education Workshops with Annie Fox
Now Booking for Fall 2008

Parent Workshop - Photo by David FoxStarting in September, Annie’s offering these new workshops for parents of middle and high school students:

  • What Do They Want? What Do They Need? – Understanding the basics of teen well-being. Explore teen social/emotional development with an eye toward supporting your son/daughter’s sense of belonging, sense of control, feelings of self-worth, personal attachments, and relationships with peers.
  • Peer Approval Addiction – Helping teens strengthen their sense of self. When 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.” Parents need to help middle and high schoolers experience the true value in living your own life.
  • Turn that Thing Off! – Improving parent-teen communication in the Digital Age. To connect more effectively with your sons and daughters, parents may need to learn how to listen with more compassion and respect. That means increasing your EQ (Emotional Intelligence) and providing teens with a reason to quit texting and IMing when they’re with you.
  • Stepping Back & Letting Go – Raising fully functioning adults. Young children benefit from help with academic and social challenges. But for 6th graders and up, some kinds of parental help aren’t all that helpful. Parents help most effectively when they recognize and support a young adolescent’s need to do more and more for him/herself.
  • Staying Balanced – Managing stress in healthy ways (and helping your kids do the same). We live in dizzying times. So do our kids. By understanding the mind-body connection and making it work for you, you can improve your own stress management skills and model healthier coping skills for your family.

Read reviews from Annie’s workshops for kids, teens, parents, and teachers. For Fall 2008 or early 2009 workshop information click here.

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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!

The first book of my new 5-book series, “Middle School Confidential” will be published by Free Spirit this Fall. It is part full-color graphic novel (illustrated by award winning illustrator Matt Kindt of Super Spy fame) and part straight-talk life skills for 5-8th graders. It all begins with Book 1, “Be Confident in Who You Are.” Stay tuned for a full announcement next month.

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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 wasn’t sure if we were going to pull it all together”

“Tonight on my way home from volleyball I was thinking about my talent show costume with a few of the other girls in my class that I am doing it with. I felt like we were never available for all of us to get together. Since the show is just around the corner I wasn’t sure if we were going to pull it all together. When I got home I went straight to my room and decided to close my eyes and do that breathing technique that you demonstrated and it worked! After, I called them to see if Sunday would work and it does for all of us! Thank you so much for coming to our school and giving us good pointers on how to manage stress.”
   —a 7th grader

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Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems

“My son has trouble keeping friends”

Dear Annie,

My wonderful 11-year-old son is smart, good looking and talented, but he can also be annoying, and several of the kids in his class have rejected him as a friend. He is really hurt by this, and I don’t understand what the problem is. How can I get to the bottom of this and help him keep friendships?

Morning Glory

Dear Morning Glory,

First off please make sure that your son is not being teased or harassed in school. If you think that he is, then a conversation with teachers and/or school administrators is in order. If that’s not the issue, then let’s talk about your feelings.

Of course, it’s hurtful when your child is rejected. And I understand your natural instinct to “get to the bottom of this.” But friendship landscapes between 11-year-olds can be very complex. Your problem solving logic might not help the situation. If you were, for example, to ask your son “Why do you think those kids don’t want to be friends with you?” he is likely not to know. How can he possibly know what’s motivating them? If you were to ask the kids themselves, it’s likely that they don’t know. The lot of them may not be of one mind on the issue and secondly, they may not be able to articulate their feelings. You also don’t know the history of their interactions – on all sides.

But you can help your son! And that would be working with him to understand what makes a real friend. (That includes the people he chooses as friends as well as the kind of friend he is himself.) You say, “he can also be annoying.” I wonder what you mean by that.

Is this “annoying” behavior something you’ve ever discussed calmly and compassionately with your son? Is it something that he recognizes in himself? Might he be able to acknowledge that his behavior sometimes makes others not want to be around him? Can he begin to identify times when he acts this way and become more aware of it? Can he then use this new self-awareness to try new ways of behaving in those situations (instead of “being annoying”)? You could help him by role-playing these types of situations with him thus giving him practice and a confidence boost.

You should also tell your son that he deserves to be treated with respect all the time. And when others are rude or insensitive to him, he has done nothing to deserve it. That said, there are no guarantees that your son will always get the respect he deserves. When he is disrespected (and rejection is a form of disrespect) it’s his right to speak up about it. Does that guarantee that the disrespectful behavior will change? Unfortunately, not.

Finally, you can help him become strong in his sense of self. You do that by helping him realize that even though he cannot control or impact the behavior of others (or what others say, think, or feel) that he can control his own choices. That includes the way he responds to other people.

In friendship,

“I don’t trust my dad anymore”

Hey Terra,

My dad has been looking at dirty stuff on the internet. I have tried talking to him about it but he always says he won’t do it again. My relationship with him is really bad. I don’t trust him anymore and I feel I don’t want him as a father anymore. Help


Dear Confused,

I can certainly understand why your dad’s interest in “dirty stuff” is upsetting to you. I can also imagine how uncomfortable it makes you feel to think about it. The fact that you’ve actually talked to him about his habit is quite remarkable. It tells me what a strong and powerful young woman you are.

Since you don’t mention your mother, I’m guessing that she and your dad are no longer married, is that right? If they were, then this would be an appropriate conversation between the two of them. But since that is probably not the case, then what can you do? You’re his daughter. He’s an adult.

As distasteful as viewing this stuff is to you (and I’m with you on this one), there isn’t anything you can do to get him to stop. That would be his choice and you can’t control his behavior.

Look... Either this is a deal-breaker for your relationship with him or you put it off in a corner and find the aspects of the relationship with your dad that you treasure and focus on them.

Trust is important, of course. And if it’s true, as you say, that you don’t trust him anymore because of his broken promises, then this makes the relationship a real challenge. But how is he, as a dad otherwise? Only you know the answer to that one.

Here’s my advice. Perhaps you could tell him this: “Because of your broken promises, I don’t trust you anymore, Dad. That makes me feel _______ (sad, mad, disappointed, hurt, you fill in the blank). It makes me wonder if you really care about me.”

Then LISTEN to what he has to say.

That might be the beginning of an important conversation between you and your dad. Conversations like that can sometimes improve relationships.

I wish you well.

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 Parenting Workshops and Student Assemblies

Middle School Confidential Workshops

Annie’s upcoming new book series, “Middle School Confidential”, written with Annie’s signature wit, wisdom and humor will be available this Fall. Starting in September, Annie’s offering a new set of dynamic Middle School Confidential presentations for students, parents and teachers. To request more information, click here. Click here for a list of Annie's past events. Read what they're saying about Annie's presentations.

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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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