Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. I, Issue 7 September Newsletter September 1 , 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.

What Happened to August’s Newsletter?

No, you didnít miss the August newsletter, we didnít send one out because we didnít get around to writing it! Family time trumped work and thatís the way it should be, especially during the summer. Apologies to our readers, but no regrets. Itís was a lovely summer and weíre back on schedule now.

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September Parenting Article
Highly Functional Families—Compassion Begins at Home

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

Reunions are great fun as well as fantastic opportunities to observe family dynamics. They can also cause otherwise mature adults to regress into dysfunctional patterns we thought we’d outgrown.
As our children’s most important teachers, we should do our best to help them appreciate and respect diversity in our community. From an early age we need to let our kids know how interesting it is that people have different ethnicities, enjoy different cultural heritages, and practice different traditions. And we also show them by the way we relate to others, that in spite of all the differences, we share a common humanity that entitles each of us to compassion and respect. By teaching these lessons directly and indirectly we help our children get along with others, promote cooperation, and on a very basic level, support world peace.

But how far does respect for differences go when it comes to one’s own family? Even when we share identical ethnic, cultural, and genetic legacies, some of us clash strongly with family members due to contrasting personalities, attitudes, and temperaments...

Continue reading the rest of the article...

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“Too Stressed to Think?” To be Published this Month

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) will ship by the end of this month and should be in stores by October! Pre-order an autographed copy of it directly from me and pay by credit card at our own online “store”. You can also purchase autographed copies of my other books – “The Teen Survival Guide to Dating and Relating (Free Spirit 2000, 2005) and “Can You Relate?” (Free Spirit 2000). Order your copy here!

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A Novel Recommendation

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk KiddThe Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd
This novel is the first work of fiction I’m recommending here at Parents Forum. Obviously it’s not a “how to” or “how not to” book, but it deserves mention because it reveals profound insights into the adolescent psyche and the dynamics of the parent child relationship. It also happens to be a beautiful work of literature and totally engrossing – so how can you lose?

Set in the deep south of 1964, The Secret Life of Bees is told from the point of view of 14-year-old Lily, who has lost her mother and whose dad is completely unable to provide her with even a modicum of understanding and tenderness. Because her need to be mothered is so intense (mirroring the need of every child), Lily risks great danger by abandoning her loveless home and journeying to find a mother. What she discovers about truth and self-deception, strength and vulnerability, courage and forgiveness are lessons that all parents, can benefit from.

Check out my Recommended Books here...

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Letters from Teens and Parents about Family Problems

As challenging as it is to keep the lines of communication open and honest in an established family, it’s even more challenging to build trust when trying to establish a new family. For example...

“How can I protect myself and my daughter
from being disappointed by my boyfriend?”

Hi Annie,

I’m divorced and have recently started dating "Rick". He has already professed his love for me. However, he stood me and my daughter up for dinner with no phone call. He says he was doing some thinking and is very sorry. He also said that he is scared and hasn’t felt like this about anyone in a long time. His sister told me he was very hurt by his ex wife. He completely lied to me about where he was going. His sister told me the truth and begs me to listen to what he has to say, and besides he is a man. What is the fair thing to do? I do care for him a lot.

Molly’s Mom

Dear Molly’s Mom,

Like you, I’m concerned about Rick’s behavior. You say that you "just recently" started dating and that he has "already" professed his love for you. You obviously think this "I love you" has come too soon and it’s making you wonder whether you can trust it. I agree with you.

Then there’s the fact that his words don’t match with his behavior. Not showing up and not calling is not very responsible and doesn’t demonstrate "love". In the beginning of a relationship, especially, the goal is to build trust and if you (and your daughter) can’t rely on this guy to keep his agreements, then how can you build trust? And without trust what have you got?

Then he lies. Another bad sign.

This guy has been hurt by the break up of his marriage. Emotionally, he hasn’t healed from that wound. He is very vulnerable and probably very needy. Then he meets you and right away he may be thinking "Ah... A new start!" But until he heals from the divorce and does some deep self-exploration it’s likely that he will be bringing all of his emotional baggage into a new relationship with you.

The same is true of any healing you need to do as a result of your divorce.

Please remember that you have your daughter to think about too. Any guy that you get serious with has to pass muster on two levels: as a potential partner for you and as a potential dad for Molly. Do not rush into things.

Sure you can "hear him out" but don’t let your desire to be back in a relationship again cloud your judgment. Not everyone you "care a lot about" makes a good partner for you or a good dad! And as for the excuse "he’s a man"... Don’t buy it! A good man tells the truth and acts responsibly and maturely. Assuming that you’re not going to get that from a guy because he’s "a man" is a crock and forces you to lower your standards.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,
Annie

Even when you’re not directly involved in a family conflict, don’t think you can just sit on the sidelines. In the case of battling siblings, for example, parents need to step in (calmly and rationally) and help facilitate a truce between your kids.

“If someone doesn’t help me with my sister
I’m going to install electric fences.”

Hey Terra,

My little sister is so irritating! She comes into my room and bugs me and takes/destroys my stuff and gets me mad so. I tell her to get out and then she runs crying from my room saying I yelled at her when she just wanted to be with me! Whenever I babysit her, she ignores me until I give her a timeout and then she calls my mom and tattles, saying I’m punishing her for nothing and cries. Of course my mom always believes her. My sister is SO ANNOYING! Please help me cuz if someone doesn’t do something I’m afraid I’ll install electric fences or get pit bulls.

On the Edge

Dear On the Edge,

Electric fences... LOL! I appreciate your sense of humor. That’s a great de-stressor, you know. Not to say that you don’t have the right to expect your little sister to respect your space and your stuff. You absolutely do! And I want to help you communicate that to her.

First, how old is your sister? Are we talking about a 4 year old or a 10 year old? The reason I’m asking is because her ability to understand "this is mine and I don’t want you to touch it without my permission" depends on her maturity level.

I’m going to assume that if she’s old enough to call your mom (on the phone) and tattle, then she’s old enough to understand property rights and respect for other people.

Since nothing you’ve done so far has worked, I’m going to suggest that you have a serious (but very calm and mature) conversation with your mom. You need HER help in communicating effectively to your little sister. Choose a time when you and your mom can be alone with nothing else going on that would compete with your mom’s attention. Tell her that you want to improve the relationship you have with your sister (that’s the goal). And that you need your mom’s help. Explain to her which parts of your sister’s behavior "bug you" and explain to your mom that if she is going to put you in charge of your sister, then you need your mom’s support in setting up boundaries (agreements) and giving you the authority to mete out consequences. Up until now, it sounds like your sister is getting away with a bunch of unacceptable behavior. She isn’t showing you any respect. With your mom’s support and your mom joining forces with you to lay down the new rules, your sister ought to get the message that if she wants to be treated with respect, then she needs to learn to treat you with respect.

So, step one... Set up an appointment to talk with your mom.

In friendship,

Terra

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

Over the next two months, Annie will be speaking at the following places.

Date Description Location
9/20/05 The Branson School: Freshman Parents Welcome Dinner — "Helping your students keep their balance and their sense of humor" (not a public event) Ross, CA
9/29/05 Seacrest School: "Being Your Own Person in Middle School" — a student assembly (not a public event) Half Moon Bay, CA
9/29/05 Seacrest School Parent Education Night Presentation: "Middle School Parenting: How to maintain your sense of humor and your balance" For information call 650 712-9892 Half Moon Bay, CA
10/3/05 Crystal Springs Upland School: "Relationships 101" — a series of health classes for 11th graders (not a public event) Hillsborough, CA
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
10/11/05 Scottsdale Public Library: "Being Your Own Person" Workshop for teens. For information call 480 312-2474 Scottsdale, AZ
10/17/05 Free Public Event!
Towne Center Books: Annie will talk about her new book Too Stressed to Think? A teen guide to staying sane when life makes you CRAZY and the challenges of keeping your life in balance. Teens and Parents welcome.
For information call: 925 846-8826
Pleasanton, 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

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

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Resources

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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