Annie Fox's Parent Forum Newsletter
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Last Newsletter until September
Parent Forum does not publish in July and August (everyone needs a break!). But Annie will still answer your parenting questions by email throughout the summer. Have a happy and safe one and we’ll see you in September!
In this Newsletter
June Parenting Article
Hello, Summer. Hello, You.
by Annie Fox, M.Ed.
I joined the line of cars stopped at the only traffic light in my neighborhood. It’s a long one in this direction and as I absently gazed down a side street I spotted the girl on the swing. Smiling, I recalled the freedom of having sunny days all to myself, with no particular place to go.
For me, summer has always been more than a season. It’s a gateway to the land of “Who Knows Where Until You’re There.”
When I was a kid, summer was magical. Thanks to the benign neglect of my parents, I had weeks on end to decide how to spend my own time. Unlike school, where time is measured and prescribed and dictated by bells, summer days were radiant with possibilities. Want to eat cornflakes out under the mimosa tree? Why not? How about hanging out with 4 years worth of Mad Magazines? Go for it! And when I needed a real adventure, I hopped on my bike. Sometimes I headed for a friend’s house or to the children’s library. Other days, I just rode. When something intriguing crossed my path, like a home under construction or a tree enshrouded with tent caterpillar cocoons, I investigated, staying as long as I pleased. I was on my own.
Summer always ended, but that newly minted self-reliance stayed with me. And year after year, I used those summer experiences to grow a strong inner self that’s become the essence of who I am today. June, July and August hold this potential for every kid, provided (s)he has the freedom and enough time without a whole lot of other stuff to do.
Curious about what childhood summers meant to others, I put out the word to friends and family and here are some of the memories they shared:
Continue reading the rest of the article...
Annie’s New Book Series
“Middle School Confidential”
Annie’s ground-breaking new Middle School Confidential series for 10-14 year olds will be published by Free Spirit Publishing in August 2008. A unique hybrid blending fiction and smart-talk practical advice, Middle School Confidential provides the answers tweens and young teens need in a full-color graphic-novel format that will draw in even reluctant readers.
Fighting “Peer Approval Addiction”
Now Booking for Fall 2008
“I just want people to like me…” The pressure for peer approval can cause 5th-8th graders to lose sight of what’s right. In doing whatever it takes to gain popularity some kids make thoughtless choices that hurt themselves and others. Many are often unhappy, confused or stressed. Middle schoolers need help ASAP!
Starting in September Annie will combine her dynamic teaching style, with her warmth, wisdom and humor into Middle School Confidential Workshops for Students. Based on the her new books, these assemblies challenge youth’s thinking about themselves and their peers while encouraging more respectful and inclusive behavior at school and among friends.
For parents and teachers – Adults have enormous potential for supporting positive, school-wide social change. Annie’s workshops for parents and teachers provide unique opportunities to explore the reality of today’s middle schools. By providing an understanding of adolescent brain function and insight into how self-perceptions can work against self-confidence, Annie helps adults give students what they need for healthy social/emotional development in middle school and beyond.
Bring Annie Fox to your school:
Annie Fox, M.Ed. is an educator with 30+ years experience. A trusted online adviser, Annie is presenting at this year’s 35th Annual National Middle School Association Conference. Her books include: “Too
Stressed to Think? A teen guide to staying sane when life makes you CRAZY” (co-author Ruth Kirschner) and “The
Teen Survival Guide to Dating and Relating”. To request Fall 2008 or early 2009 workshop information click here.
Letters from Parents and Teens
“She’s too young to date!”
My 9th grade daughter is a great girl and a great student. Recently she and this 12th grade boy started liking each other. I am not happy but decided that rather than alienating her, I reluctantly agreed that she could go to the Senior Prom with him with the following conditions: I drive them to the prom and afterwards, she comes straight home. They don’t like my rules but they agreed.
I have met this boy. He’s a mother’s dream for a first boyfriend. But I feel like he is crowding her. She does not spend much time with her friends anymore, only him. But my biggest issue is the age difference, since she’s only 15. Also he drives and my daughter is not allowed in anyone’s car but ours. I feel she is way too young for a 1 on 1 date. I feel I cannot even consider that until perhaps age 17 when she is legal to drive. So I’ve told them that they can spend time together as long as at least two of my daughter’s friends are with them at all times. My daughter and her boyfriend both feel I am being ridiculous.
I am petrified of making a mistake and her hating me and running away. She has not threatened it, but she keeps insisting I am being unfair. In her words I am “too uptight worrying about her” and she takes it as mistrust. I trust her, but I know how easy it is to make a mistake. I was a teen mother and want better for her.
Dear Worried Mom,
As a former teen mother I understand why you are reacting this way. You say you are “petrified” that you’ll make a mistake, but it also seems like you’re scared that your daughter will make the same “mistake” that you did.
How honest have you been with her about your early pregnancy and initiation into motherhood, etc.? How honest have you been for the past 3 years or so in terms of discussing your feelings and your expectations for her social/sexual behavior?
Rules need to be appropriate for a teen’s current level of maturity, judgment and track record for trustworthiness. When you make blanket rules without giving her hope that she can earn your trust and thus gain more independence (which ought to be your parenting objective) you make her feel like there’s nothing she can do to prove that she can make good choices. That’s frustrating for her!
You need some time to get comfortable with the reality that your daughter has a boyfriend. How about the idea of working through this on a gradient? Figure out some baby steps that you are comfortable with that will eventually lead to her going on a date in the car alone with her boyfriend. This gradient doesn’t need to go from 1 to 100 in a week or two. No way! It might take you a year or two to feel comfortable at level 100. And by then, the two of them are not likely to even be a couple any more! But, there will be other boys and there’s no reason that you should view any of them as the “enemy.”
Go ahead and create 10 steps on this dating gradient. Step #1 being exactly what you’re comfortable with right now (you drive, two friends of hers have to be there, etc.). What would Step #2 look like? And what would your daughter have to do to prove to you that she was ready for Step #2? How about Step #3? Etc.
Thinking through this logically will remove some of the emotion and help you and your daughter transition into this new phase of her life.
“We can’t agree on a family vacation!”
Our family is having trouble deciding what to do on a 7-10 day summer vacation. We like hiking, national parks, seeing various points of interest wherever we are. Our twin boys, age 14, are sick of national parks and hiking. They don’t really know what they want to do. Each of us has different ideas of what we want, where to go, what is “fun”, etc. Right now it seems like a cruise is our best bet… everyone gets to do what they like—apart or together—on the ship and off. Any ideas to clarify what we might like to do as a family?? This is truly turning into a real problem.
Gimme a Break
Dear Gimme a Break,
You might want to check out my article about family vacations and the challenges of including everyone’s preferences. The key word is “inclusion.” The more participation you get from teens during the planning process (without giving away all your power in an effort to make them happy) the more likely you’ll have their buy-in during the vacation.
Start by calling a family meeting. We’re going on vacation and we need to find a place that offers everyone at least some of what they want. In your mind, what make a GREAT vacation? “I dunno” doesn’t cut it. Neither does “Anything but a national park!” Don’t fall into the trap of suggesting ideas. Teens are way too likely to shoot them down with: “Not that.” “Too boring.” “You’re kidding, right?!” Stay calm and simply say, Each of us will list 3 things that we would include as “Must Haves” for a great family vacation. Think about it because we really want your input. If you can’t say what you want (versus what you don’t want) then, sorry, you’re going to lose your vote.
After they come up with some ideas for what matters to them (near the ocean, theme park, good food, other kids our age, etc.) then brainstorm everyone’s ideas, and see where there is overlap. Split up and do some Internet searches using the key words you’ve all come up with.
Then regroup and put all the ideas on the table.
One more point... As I said in the article
, there needs to be accommodation for the differences in tastes during each day. Part of each day is devoted to an activity of each family member’s choosing and everyone else is expected to be a willing participant
. If anyone acts like a pill during someone else’s chosen activity, they lose the right to choose an activity that day.
Good luck and have fun!
Got a parent-teen problem you need help with? Click
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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
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
||National Middle School Association presents the “35th Annual Conference and Exhibit.” As a workshop presenter
Annie will focus on: “What Everyone Else Thinks: Helping Middle SChoolers Fight Peer Approval Addiction”
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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