Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. I, Issue 6 July/August Newsletter July 19, 2005

Welcome to the
Hey Terra Parent Forum Newsletter

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About this Newsletter

The Hey Terra! Parent Forum Newsletter helps you build healthier relationships with your teenage sons and daughters. This free newsletter features parenting tips, recommended parenting books, letters from parents about their teens, letters from teens about their parents, and a schedule of events where parents and teens can hear Annie Fox live.

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July Parenting Article
Family Vacations—Happy teens make for happier times

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

Remove your teen from his/her social circle for too long and their world screeches to a standstill and they'll make you pay for how isolated and miserable they're feeling!
Earlier this summer my 25-year-old daughter and I went on a two-week “Let’s explore Poland by train” adventure. With only our backpacks and no hotel reservations, we flew from London to Warsaw, then traveled by rail to Gdansk, Turon, Poznan, Wroclaw, and finally to Krakow. What an incredible opportunity to learn about the Polish people and their fascinating history and culture. It was also a wonderful chance for the two of us to rediscover what we’ve always enjoyed about being together. And what fun to be strangers in a strange land, relying on our senses of wonder, of humor and our abilities to problem-solve!

Since my return, I’ve thought a lot about what worked and didn’t work during other family vacations my husband and I have taken with our daughter and son. I share these tips in the hope that any family vacation you take this summer will produce good times together and lots of happy memories...

Wroclaw, Poland
View of Wroclaw, Poland from the tower of Cathedral of John the Baptist (c. 13th century)

Continue reading the rest of the article...

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“Too Stressed to Think?” Now in Production

Too Stressed to Think?, by Annie Fox My new book for teens, “Too Stressed to Think? A teen guide to staying sane when life makes you CRAZY” (co-written with Ruth Kirschner) went into production (layout, typesetting) at Free Spirit last week! The book is shipping in September and we've just set up our own online “store” so that you can pre-order an autographed copy of it directly from me and pay by credit card. Signed copies of my other books – “The Teen Survival Guide to Dating and Relating (Free Spirit 2000, 2005) and “Can You Relate?” (Free Spirit 2000) – can also be ordered this way. Order your copy here!

Check out my Recommended Books here...

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Letters from Teens and Parents about Family Problems

Keeping the lines of communication open with teens can be challenging when both parents are on the same page. But how much more difficult it becomes when parents in the middle of divorce use their child as a weapon against each other. For example...

“My husband has turned our daughter against me.”

Hi Annie,

My husband I are in the middle of a divorce. It breaks my heart that our 15 yr old daughter has aligned herself with her dad who really is a Disneyland Dad. He has often inappropriately complained to her about the divorce, about me, about financial woes, and she is to a point where she quotes him verbatim. She was an angry child to begin with — coupled with being a teen and now a child of divorce. She has no summer plans and her father has effectively kept me out of the loop. I don't know what goes on at their house. I am the last to know. This is how he punishes me — and my daughter does the same. Yes, she is seeing a therapist and so am I. My soon to be ex-husband is not.

My question — how can I help get this teen into a summer program? I hate to see her sitting all summer and doing nothing.

Thank you,

Out of the Loop

Dear Out of the Loop,

I'm sure it's very frustrating not to know what's going on during the time your daughter is with her father. I'm very glad to hear that your daughter has a counselor to talk to during this time. And it's also good that you have someone you trust to help you get your life back in balance. Perhaps with the coping skills you're learning you will be able to reach some decisions with your ex about the best ways in which you two can co-parent your daughter.

As for her summer break... It sounds like you believe that too much unstructured time won't be a healthy thing for her. Instead of creating a battleground over it, how about having a calm and respectful conversation about "summer plans"? Explore some options ahead of time. Depending on your daughter's interests these might include anything from volunteering at a veterinarian's office to getting a job through a Parks and Rec Department Day camp for young children to getting an unpaid "internship" with a chapter of an environmental organization.

If you have the financial resources, there are also some wonderful group travel programs for teens that include community service. Do some research before you have the discussion with your daughter. Ask her (calmly) what she envisions for the remainder of her summer break. LISTEN to what she has to say. Tell her how you feel about balancing unstructured time (which she needs after the demands of school) with structured time. Why is that an important thing to you? Share with her any memorable summer experiences you had at her age. The idea is to work with her so that you are dictating less and acting more as a consultant. Always keeping her needs and interests in mind while you guide her in healthy directions.

So, explore some options on your own first, then bring your "cards" to the table and talk to her.

Sound like a plan?

In friendship,

One of the most desirable qualities you can have as the parent of a teen is being "easy to talk to." Your son or daughter often swims in uncharted emotional waters. Just knowing that they can speak to you honestly about their fears, doubts and imperfections can literally be a life saver to them during tough times. Here's what can happen when teens don't view their parents as "approachable."

“I used to be an active social person; now I hate everything.”

Hey Terra,

I used to be an active social person; now I frankly hate everything. I used to bike, play basketball, write and publish poetry. Now I do nothing.

My friends keep telling me that I am not myself anymore. I even lost the brightness in my eyes. I don't sleep as I used to do. I stay all night awake thinking of what I am doing here and why my life has changed this way. I am mostly locked in my room lying on my bed and thinking.

Lately I have thought of committing suicide. I took pills from my dad's closet without telling anyone as a means to commit suicide. The result was that I had severe stomach pains and constipation but unfortunately didn't die. I want my old me back. I want to be out of my sadness and loneliness. I need someone to help me out. I don't want to end up committing suicide and succeeding.


Dear Depressed,

You are going through some difficult times and I'm very proud of you for loving yourself enough to know that you need help.

Please tell your parents what you've just told me. They love you and they want you to be safe and happy. You deserve to be much happier than you are now and you CAN be... with help.

Please, do yourself and a huge favor and reach out to your parents in the same way that you reached out to me. They must be aware that something isn't right. Go to them, today, and say, "Mom, Dad... I need help. I'm sad all the time. I'm thinking about hurting myself, and I don't want to. I need to see a therapist. Please, help me find one."

Ok, sweetie? Will you talk to your parents?

In friendship,


Hey Terra,

It is me again Terra. Thanks for your reply and concern. But sorry, telling my parents is the most impossible thing I would do. They won't hear. They won't understand what I am passing through. I and my parents are on different levels of communication. We rarely talk. Even when we talk, they don't show me any interest in my intellectual, emotional, and psychological problems. They aren't that understanding.

I tried once before to communicate with them and all I got was a bunch of shouts and huge anger against me. They think that I am not helping myself as everyone does and that is why I am ending up this way. But I swear to you, Terra, it is not that way. I am really tired and I need someone's help. My parents aren't going to help me out, they would blame me more and more and make me feel I am driving myself toward this bad way of living. My dad is a doctor and he rarely talks with me. Mom believes I am a spoiled kid and thus have made my life miserable. But I am not a spoiled kid, and I am not happy I am living this way. Can't you help me with something else because I can't tell my parents. They aren't that able to understand me. Please Terra, can you?


Dear Depressed,

Ok, I hear what you're saying about your parents. Though as a mom myself, I know in my heart that they love you and that they would never want anything bad to happen to you.

The other help I can offer is for you to start educating yourself. You may be "depressed" -- that would have to be determined by a therapist, but here's a first step to give you more insight into what might be going on. Read this article I wrote for my website on depression.

Then call the phone number at the bottom of the page if it feels like you're ready to do that. Or if you're not feeling suicidal right now (and I certainly hope that you're not) then here are three teen help lines that will connect you with caring trained individuals who can begin to help you sort things out:

Covenant House Crisis Support
1-800-999-9999 (24 hrs)

Family and Children's Mental Health Hot Line
1-800-654-1247 (24 hrs)

Youth Crisis Line

All of these are free calls and they will NOT appear on your parents' phone bill.

I care about you and I want you to get the help and support you need.

If you don't want to talk with your parents, please consider making the phone call and getting the help you need and deserve.

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 Events

In the Fall, Annie will be speaking at the following places.

Date Description Location
10/10/05, 10/14/05 The Branson School "Transitioning to High School Social Life Without the Stress" A series of seminars for freshman (not a public event) Ross, CA
10/24/05, 10/28/05 San Domenico School "Don't Stress About Stress" A series of seminars for 4th-8th graders (not a public event) San Anselmo, CA
10/26/05 Hillview Middle School "The 7th grade Survival Guide", part of the 7th grade speaker series (not a public event) Menlo Park, CA
10/26/05 Hillview Middle School Parent Education Night Presentation "Middle School Parenting: How to maintain your sense of humor and your balance." For information call 650 326-4341 Menlo Park, CA
11/1/05 San Domenico School Parent Education Night Presentation "Why 21st Century Kids Need 21st Century Parenting" (not a public event) San Anselmo, CA

If you want Annie to speak at your school, event, or conference, click here.

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Past Newsletters – read our archive of past Parent Forum Newsletters.

Recommended Books – Annie highly recommends these parenting books.

Hey Terra (www.AnnieFox.com) – includes 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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