Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. II, Issue 3 March Newsletter March 1 , 2006

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

New Internet Safety Resources for Parents

Middle school age kids (and younger) are spending lots of time online and on their ever-present cell phones. Many parents are clueless about what their young adolescents are actually doing with the digital technology so readily available to them. While your kids may be technically sophisticated they are socially immature. To help you set reasonable guidelines for your children’s Internet use, we've put together some excellent Cyber Safety Resources. Annie will devote next month’s newsletter to “Parent Tips for Awareness and Prevention of Cyberbullying.”

Hear Annie on the Internet

On February 21st Annie was a guest on Voice America’s Health and Wellness Radio talking about Teen Relationships and Stress. To hear her interview with Dr. Charles Nozicka, click here for the MP3 version, or click here for other formats.

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March Parenting Article
Donít Add to the Garbage

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

We want them to gain enough self-awareness to ask: ‘Am I really the kind of person who wants to add to the garbage by doing X? Or am I the kind of person who wants less garbage in my school? Less garbage amongst my friends? Within my family?’
Up the street from our home lies Faudé Park with its 13.5 acres of open space preserve. This relatively undeveloped community treasure offers hikers, dog-walkers and naturalists the quiet and beauty of woods and hills. There are wonderful vistas of our valley. And the knock-out view of Mt. Tamalpais makes the trek more than worth the effort. When my husband and I first ventured up to Faudé’s highest point we were delighted. We were also depressed by the thick carpet of broken beer bottles tossed by high school students who liked partying in a “natural” environment. (A large trashcan sits 20 feet from the peak. But hey, the ground’s always much handier, right?)

As I confessed in January David and I aren’t neat freaks, but we hated seeing all that glass in such a beautiful setting so we started cleaning it up. That first day we spent about 30 minutes carefully picking up the biggest pieces and tossing them into the can.

Faude ParkWhen we came back a week later, new broken glass had replaced some of what we’d taken away. But we weren’t deterred. Over a period of several months, we kept picking up glass. At some point our efforts started paying off. Weekend party-goers stopped tossing bottles on the ground. Maybe it was because they now could actually see the ground. Maybe the place looked beautiful to them again, so it just wasn’t cool to mess it up. Whatever the reason, David and I celebrated the new consciousness. Interestingly, we’ve recently discovered that what we observed at the park is a bona fide sociological phenomenon with its own name! According to the Broken Window Theory, the more rundown a neighborhood becomes, the more likely people will break windows in its abandoned buildings, graffiti walls, and litter. The crime rate increases too. Conversely, when a neighborhood gets cleaned up, everything improves.

It’s now many years later and I’m pleased to report that as of my walk this morning, the Faudé Park overlook is still free of glass and Mt. Tam looks more spectacular than ever...

Continue reading the rest of the article...

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March’s Recommended Read

''Real Moments: Discover the Secret for True Happiness'' by Barbara DeAngelis, Ph.DReal Moments: Discover the Secret for True Happiness
by Barbara DeAngelis, Ph.D

Because I’m currently working on a new book for teens about discovering one’s identity and developing a strong sense of self, I’ve been reading books on related topics. When I picked up Real Moments I’d never heard of Barbara DeAngelis. I’m not sure how I’ve missed her, because over the past 25 years, DeAngelis has been a very public figure in the realm of relationships and personal growth, with numerous best sellers, and great success as a TV personality and a motivational speaker. After reading this book, I understand why she’s so popular. DeAngelis has a clear and sometimes surprisingly literary style and yet, her honesty is right there on the page, creating a deep personal connection with the reader. In the author’s own words, Real Moments is about “… the relationship we have with the process of living, itself, and the peace many of us have been searching for, whether we’re aware of it or not.”

Of course DeAngelis isn’t the first one to talk about being in the moment (Ram Dass’ revolutionary Be Here Now was first published in 1971). But since it’s so easy for human beings to space out while tending to the details of our lives, we need well-written reminders like Real Moments: Discover the Secret for True Happiness. Even though this isn’t strictly a “parenting” book, I recommend it as a great read for parents. DeAngelis hits on some invaluable tips for effective parenting every time she talks about being in the moment – rather than skimming through time, encouraging you to open your heart to the real happiness of being with your kids. Her chapter on “Real Moments: Discover the Secret for True Happiness and the Family” has transformative potential.

Check out my Recommended Books here...

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Annie's Books

Annie's BooksThe main focus of my work is helping teens and pre-teens navigate their way through the maze of adolescence. I write my books for teens, but any adult who wants to understand them better 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 of it directly from me and pay by credit card at our own online store. Order your copy here!

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Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems

Mutual trust is at the core of any healthy relationship. It’s no different between parents and kids. Parents want to trust their kids. Kids want to be trusted. Here’s a letter from a dad having trouble trusting his son:

“My kid is a liar.”

Dear Annie,

My son is in the 6th grade and I’ve caught him lying to me. I’m really upset at the thought of my son being a liar. I need some advice about how to teach him the importance of telling the truth.

Troubled Dad

Dear Troubled Dad,

All kids have been caught in a lie at some point in their lives. This doesn’t necessarily predict a life of dishonesty. Of course, nobody wants his/her child to lie and you’re absolutely right, this is the time to teach him your values.

It doesn’t help to think of your son as a “liar”. The kid made a mistake and he needs a course correction. That’s what you’re there for. So take a slow deep breath before you talk to him about it again.

You haven’t provided me with much information. Did this happen once or is this a pattern? Does this behavior represent a radical change for your son? Are you noticing any other changes (drop in grades, disinterest in people and activities he used to love, general secretiveness, defiant behavior, etc.)? What did he lie about? Even without these answers, there are two ways you can help him. The first is to talk about how lying hurts people. He’s old enough to understand that lying destroys trust. Talk about this, but do it calmly. Tell him how catching him lying reduces your level of trust for him. Ask him if he ever caught someone lying to him. How did that make him feel? How did it change the relationship? This kind of talk helps your son understand the impact of his choice to lie.

The other way to help is to have him look at what’s going on with him emotionally, i.e., what’s pushing him in the direction of lying? Young adolescents can’t always answer the question: “Why did you do that?” So you’re going to have to work with him to help him understand his motivation. Keep your tone fairly neutral (if you want him to be forthright you can’t appear threatening). You might say, for example, “When you told me that you and Mike were just playing video games, what were you afraid I’d do if I knew the truth?” If your son says “I don’t know.” Rephrase your question: “You probably thought I wouldn’t be happy with what you were really doing, right?” This conversation should feel absolutely SAFE for your son. After he’s opened up and talked about why he is hiding whatever he’s lying about, then you need to praise him for telling the truth right now. It’s obviously hard for him to talk about this stuff. By letting him know how much you value talking to him on this honest level you’re encouraging more honesty. If the lying doesn’t stop, you might want to set up a meeting with the school counselor. I hope this helps.

In friendship,
Annie

The very articulate girl who sent in this question admits that she’s made mistakes and now she’s trying to win back her parents’ trust:

“My parents don’t think I know how to make good decisions.”

Hey Terra,

My parents are very unreasonable. I am 16 and I have made a few mistakes in my lifetime, but ever since I feel like my parents do not trust that I won’t make those mistakes again. It has gotten quite hard for me and my mom to talk in a friendly manner. We always seem to be in a fight about something silly. I sincerely just do not understand. I have tried so many times but every time I tell my parents good reasons of why I should be able to do something they just don’t listen. I have a great social life, and now I feel like they want to take that away. They only want me to have one sleepover each weekend. I do not understand this at all. They might not trust me but I am a great person. I can make the right decisions. And now with this whole “one night” thing I can’t hang with friends tomorrow night and the next night for a dance! There is no point. My mom says I would just come home and sleep. Sleep!? While my friends are out enjoying themselves having these great deep conversations? And I get to sleep. It doesn’t make sense. Help me please with my relationship...

Thanks
Unfair

Dear Unfair,

Sorry you and your parents don’t seem to be getting along well at the moment. It’s tough when you get to a certain age and you feel so certain that you have all the information and experience you need to make good decisions and to live your own life. And yet, there are your parents still making decisions for you. Of course that can be frustrating. I understand.

On the other side of this disagreement (and there’s always “another” side to any conflict) your parents have an awesome responsibility to keep you safe. Many times I talk to teens and they say either “My parents are too strict.” OR “My parents don’t care.” Maybe it’s difficult for parents to show that they care without having their kids feel like they are “unreasonable.”

You say that you tell your parent “good reasons” why you should get to do what you want. But I’m wondering if you know their “good reasons” for the rules they have and the restrictions they place on you. If you don’t understand why, for example, they only want you to have “one sleepover each weekend” then their rules don’t make any sense.

My suggestion is that you and your parents have a conversation about this. Choose a time when no one is rushing around trying to do a million things at once. Say to them: “Mom, Dad I’d like to talk to you about something important.” (That will get their attention.) Then in a calm and mature tone (without yelling or blaming) tell them that you feel like you’re ready for more independence. Tell them that you understand that independence requires more responsibility on your part and that you’re ready for it. Tell them that they’ve done a wonderful job teaching you right from wrong and that you feel good about your ability to use good judgment when you’re on your own. Tell them specifically what you’d like to be allowed to do. (For example, hang out with your friends tonight and go to the dance the next night.) Ask them if that would be ok with them. Then LISTEN to what they have to say. If they’re worried about not knowing where you are, or who you’re with or what you’re doing (normal and reasonable parental concerns) then calmly and respectfully address those concerns. If, for example, they say “We don’t know who you’ll be with.” Then you say: “I’m happy to tell you the names of all the friends that I’ll be with. You can call their parents and check with them.” The idea here is to be open with your parents so that they feel safe when you’re not with them. If you show them that you have nothing to hide (because you’re not doing anything that they wouldn’t approve of) you are much more likely to get their approval for more independence.

On the other hand, if you act rude and resentful about their concerns, they are more likely to think: “She really is still too immature to be granted more independence.”

See what I mean?

Oh, and one other thing, if you get to do what you want, make sure that you are where you say you’ll be and that you follow your parents’ rules. That’s the way to build trust and to continue growing toward independence. If you break their trust, they will pull you back in.

I hope this helps.

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

During March, Annie will be speaking at the following places. Click here for her full calendar of events.

Date Description Location
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
3/26/06 Girl Scouts of San Francisco Bay Area “Real Friends vs. The Other Kind” — a full day friendship and bully-proofing workshop for 5th and 6th graders (not a public event) Oakland, CA
3/26/06 San Domenico School “Peaceful Living through Conscious Choices, Part I” — A workshop for high school resident students (not a public event) San Anselmo, CA
3/28/06 San Domenico School “Peaceful Living through Conscious Choices, Part II” — A workshop for high school resident students (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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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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