Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. II, Issue 2 February Newsletter February 1 , 2006

Welcome to the
Hey Terra Parent Forum Newsletter

* * * * * * * * * * *

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. If you know anyone (parent, educator, counselor) who you think would appreciate reading this newsletter, please forward it to them.

Hear Annie Live on the Internet!

On February 21st at 2 pm (PST) Annie will be interviewed on Voice America’s Health and Wellness Radio. She’ll be a guest on Dr. Charles Nozicka's call-in show “Growing up in America”. Mark your calendars and join in!

* * * * * * * * * * *

February Parenting Article
Focus on Listening

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

I’m becoming more aware how multi-tasking makes me crazy and cranky. It also separates me from connecting with people and activities on a deep level. So I’m trying to cut back, but it ain’t easy.
I’ve never been a sports fanatic (except back when the 49ers were a team worth screaming my head off for), but I’ve always loved the Olympic Games. Ordinarily TV watching doesn’t make my list of Family Bonding Activities, but the Olympics are a worthwhile exception. First off, they’re educational. (Where else can you learn the rules of curling?) More importantly, they’re rich with human drama (“...the thrill of victory… the agony of defeat”). So gather round the set February 10-26 and enjoy. And if you need inspiration on the meaning of the word “focus,” just observe any Olympian in action. Or you can take a look at your own life.

Without belaboring the Olympics, those folks spend years preparing for their events. It’s the practice that makes them ready. As it’s been said, “Great athletes aren’t great all the time, they’re just great when they need to be.” Same goes for parents. You can be a great parent when you need to be by setting up an environment where your teen can talk to you and where you’re prepared to focus on their needs.

Focusing is the opposite of multi-tasking. Lots of us think that we’re more efficient when we do more than one thing at a time. Personally I don’t find that to be the case. When I multi-task, I actually take more time to complete what I’m doing, and I’m more likely to make a mistake. When you also factor in the inevitable stress and the emotional detachment resulting from being so “scattered,” well, it doesn’t make a great case in favor of multi-tasking.

I’m becoming more aware how multi-tasking makes me crazy and cranky. It also separates me from connecting with people and activities on a deep level. So I’m trying to cut back, but it ain’t easy. Admittedly, as I’m writing this I’m also eating lunch, answering email, thinking about an expected call from a new client, looking forward to a conversation with my cousin, picking burrs out of my dog’s tail, and wondering what to make for dinner that would use some of those bananas browning on my kitchen counter...

Continue reading the rest of the article...

* * * * * * * * * * *

February’s Recommended Read

Family First, by Dr. Phil McGrawFamily First
by Dr. Phil McGraw

I go into learning mode when I watch Dr. Phil. Occasional daytime TV theatrics aside, when the man “gets real” with his guests, he impresses me. That’s particularly true with his advice to parents of teens. So even though I like Dr. Phil, his book Family First actually exceeded my expectations.

I don’t think it’s overreaching to say that anyone could benefit from his step-by-step lessons for becoming the compassionate, and clear-minded parent needed to create a “phenomenal family.”

When most parents are asked, “What do you want for your kids?” they invariably say, “I want them to be happy.” But Dr. Phil points out that “being happy” isn’t enough. When you really think about it, your parental goal is more likely: “I want a child who actively engages the world with positive, productive and results-generating behaviors.” That’s very specific and yet open-ended enough to fit an infinite number of paths determined by your child’s own passions. Your job as a parent is to guide your kids, model and reinforce positive behavior, and provide an environment conducive to achieving what they’re meant to achieve.

When we indulge our kids with every “toy” they request, we may rob them of opportunities to work towards earning what they want. Likewise, when we cave in to every demand and grant them privileges that are beyond their current level of responsibility, we set them up for making bad decisions.

Parents need to take the leadership role in the family. Your child’s safety and healthy development is much more important than his/her happiness. On this, Dr. Phil and I are on the same page.

Another Dr. Phil gem is about being authentic as a parent. His advice is to be honest with your kids about how you feel and why you make certain choices. When you do, you encourage them to think about what motivates other people. That’s invaluable emotional intelligence skill-building which will help them to understand themselves and others, now and throughout their lives. Well done, Dr. Phil.

Check out my Recommended Books here...

* * * * * * * *

The Teen Survival Guide to Dating and Relating

The Teen Survival Guide to Dating and Relating, by Annie FoxMy first book, “The Teen Survival Guide to Dating and Relating” (Free Spirit 2000, 2005) features emails from teens asking important questions about relationships. Find out what they want to know. Order an autographed copy of it directly from me and pay by credit card at our own online store. My latest book, “Too Stressed to Think? A teen guide to staying sane when life makes you CRAZY” (co-written with Ruth Kirschner) is available here, or Or order this book from Barnes & Noble or at your local bookstore. Order your copy here!

* * * * * * * * * * *

Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems

Parents sometimes waver when their teens protest restrictions by saying, “Why can’t I do it? Everyone else is.” Your values need to be communicated loud and clear if you want your kids to know exactly where you stand:

“I don’t want my daughter making the same mistakes as her friends.”

Dear Annie,

I’m trying to raise my 16 year old to be “alcohol and drug free,” at least until she goes off to college. Recently she wanted to see what it was like to get drunk with a group of her friends. Things got out of control and she called an adult to get her out of a bad situation. Now her “friends” aren’t talking to her... saying she was trying to get them in trouble! She’s known these girls for years and they’ve been drinking and smoking pot for quite some time now, but the other parents continue to turn a blind eye to it. I’m having trouble dealing with the other parents’ lack of concern and their belief that “everybody is doing it!” I don’t care if that’s true. I don’t want my kid involved in it!

Do I need to step back, or am I doing my job as a concerned parent?


Dear Needs Advice,

You are absolutely doing your job as a concerned parent (the only kind worth being and having).

It’s unfortunate that your daughter’s friends are giving her a hard time for doing the right thing. They’re demonstrating their lack of maturity to blame her for the poor choices they’ve made.

As for the other parents, well, my only hope is that their denial or negligence doesn’t come back to haunt them in the form of some preventable tragedy involving their kids and drugs and alcohol.

Of course you don’t want your daughter anywhere near these girls when they are drinking or doing drugs. If, for some reason, she still wants them as friends and to hang out with them, you’ve got to let her know that until those girls start making better choices (i.e., no more drugs and alcohol), your daughter is NOT to hang out with them in an unsupervised capacity.

By the way, your email doesn’t mention how you handled the choice your daughter made to “see what it was like to get drunk.” I’m curious. Surely the level of trust you have in her judgment was damaged. How did you deal with that?

In friendship,

Dear Annie,

I felt like my daughter was severely punished by her friends — who are still not talking to her and have told their version of this episode to the entire school via IM’s and MySpace!! Going to school is tough for her right now, as she sees everyone as “hating her.” Even her friends’ parents have taken sides since they truly believe their girls “only had a sip” while we know otherwise.

That’s why I wasn’t too strict on her. She was grounded for a few days with the exception of going to gymnastics practice and seeing her boyfriend who is absolutely against this form of activity and was EXTREMELY upset with her actions.

I wonder if maybe her home punishment was too easy.


Dear Needs Advice,

I understand what you’re saying and of course it’s hard for you to see your daughter treated so insensitively by her friends. Maybe it will blow over or maybe what happened between these girls marks a parting of ways. After all, your daughter needs to know, and I’m sure you’d agree, that when we don’t share core values with friends, it strains the friendship.

It’s good that her boyfriend was upset by her actions. But she needs to know from her parents that the choice she made to drink was, without a doubt, totally unacceptable to you. She knew how you felt and she did it anyway. Aside from the fact that her friends are snubbing her, are you 100% confident that she regrets what she did? In other words, where is your trust level for your daughter at this time?

If it’s not at “complete trust,” then I’d suggest you talk about this and help her figure out a way to earn your trust back.

In friendship,

This is one from a teen whose mom needs to drop everything immediately and focus on her troubled daughter:

“What will I do if my mom finds out that I’m cutting?”

Hey Terra,

I’m 13 and I cut myself. Most of my friends cut too and when my mom found out that they do it, she got mad and asked me why I didn’t tell someone. Then she asked if I did it, and I said no. But lately she seems be noticing that I am always wearing long-sleeves or a wristband. What should I do if she finds out?

Lying Lines

Dear Lying Lines,

What you are doing is very dangerous. You’ve asked me what you should do if your mom finds out that you are cutting, but a more important question that needs to be answered is: How can you get the help you need to STOP harming yourself?

You say that “most of your friends” are cutting. Does that mean this wasn’t your idea to begin with? Would you have thought of this all by yourself as something you wanted to do or did you feel pressured to start doing it because your friends were doing it?

Another question that’s very important to ask yourself and find the answer to is this: Why are you doing this?

Here are some reasons teens have given for their self-harm:

  • It relieves tension when they feel upset
  • The pain makes them feel “more alive” when they feel numb or dead inside.
  • Self-harm (like anorexia) is something they think they can control when other parts of their life may seem out of control.

Maybe some of these answers fit with the reasons you are harming yourself. Maybe you have other reasons. It would be so much better to find a healthier way to express how you feel when you’re upset. It would be very good to have someone you trust to talk to. You need someone who is there for you — someone who wants to hear what you have to say and who wants to help you through the tough times. That person may be any trusted adult. Your mom (who loves you more than anything) could be that person. Or a counselor, a teacher, etc.

You need help and I want to help you get it.

Please think about what I’ve written and write back. We’ll talk some more.

In friendship,

Hey Terra,

I am doing it because it makes me feel better when I’m stressed or upset. I started before I knew my friends were doing it. My mom reacted negatively when she found out that some of my friends were cutting, like saying I couldn’t hang out with them. She says that they are weak, selfish, and immature for doing it. So I’m thinking, if she feels this way about them, she’ll probably feel the same way about me if she finds out that I’m doing it. I want to know what you think I should do when/if she finds out. Should I try and explain when I know she’ll never come close to understanding how I feel, or are there other options?

Lying Lines

Dear Lines,

You say that cutting makes you feel “better when you’re stressed or upset.” It’s totally normal to want to feel better at those times, but you’re a smart girl and you’ve got to know that cutting isn’t a healthy way to relieve stress.

I disagree with your mom. I don’t think that your friends are “weak, selfish, immature, etc.” Not at all! I think they are troubled and don’t know what else to do when they’re overwhelmed by certain feelings.

They need help.

If you don’t know what else to do when you feel that way, then I’d say you need help too.

Would you be interested in finding some other, healthier ways besides cutting to help you deal with stress and intense emotions?

I sure hope so, because if you continue doing this, I guarantee that whatever problems you’ve got are going to get worse.

Check out this link.

I hope this helps.

And so to answer your question, “What should I do if my mother finds out?” Don't wait until she finds out. Tell her what's going on. Be honest with your mom so she can help you get the help you need to be happier.

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.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Upcoming Events

Over the next two months, Annie will be speaking at the following places. Click here for her full calendar of events.

Date Description Location
2/4/06 Lead the Way Senior Girl Scout Leadership Conference Keynote Speech: "Be the Change" (not a public event) Milpitas, CA
2/9/06 Prospect Sierra School Parent Education Night Presentation: "Internet safety and other reasons that 21st Century Kids Need 21st Century Parenting" (not a public event) El Cerrito, CA
2/16/06 Holy Names High School "Don't Stress About Stress", a series of student assemblies for 9th-12th grade girls (not a public event) Oakland, CA
2/17/06 Hall Middle School Career Day Guest speaker: "What's it like to be a Cyberspace Dear Abby?" (not a public event) Larkspur, CA
2/21/06 Voice America's Health & Wellness Radio — Live interview on "Growing Up in America" with host Dr. Charles Nozicka, 2 PM PST.
2/28/06 Archway School Parent Education Night Presentation: "Why 21st Century kids Need 21st Century Parenting" (not a public event) Berkeley, CA
3/7/06 Amador Valley Adult & Community Education "Parenting your teen when you're both too stressed to think" Workshop, 6:30-8:30 PM — for more information call Pnina Tobin at 925 426-4280 Pleasanton, CA
3/11/06 Parent Education Conference, Menlo School — for more information, call 650 330-2001 Atherton, CA
3/18/06 Parent Education Conference, Acalanes Union HS District — for more information, call 925 935-0170 Walnut Creek, CA
3/21/06 Holy Names High School "Are you listening?" Parent-Teen Communication Night (not a public event) Oakland, CA
3/24/06 Hall Middle School Parent Education Presentation "Parenting with Clarity and Compassion when your Middle Schooler Drives you CRAZY" (not a public event) Larkspur, CA

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

* * * * * * * * * * *


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.

* * * * * * * * * * *

If this newsletter was forwarded to you
and you’d like to subscribe (free!), click here.