Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

How to have The Talk (about Trump) with your kids

September 16, 2016

You don't like me? Get the hell outta here!

You don’t like me? Get the hell outta here!

Sweetie, I want to talk to you about the election. Please don’t roll your eyes. I know your dad and I watch a lot of political news coverage. The first Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is in ten days and we’ll be glued to the TV for that, too. (And to the other two Presidential debates and for the Vice Presidential debate, too.) No worries, we’ll be ordering out for pizza on those days.

It may seem like we are obsessed with what’s going on in this campaign. That’s pretty close to the truth. Elections are very important. Presidential elections are especially important.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are running for President of the United States. That may be the most important job in the whole world. Part of the job is knowing how to treat people with respect.

Our responsibility as American citizens is to inform ourselves about the issues and where each candidate stands on those issues. We have to learn as much as we can about the kind of person each candidate is. We do all of this so we will feel confident when it is time to vote on November 8th, that we are making the best choice for our country. When you are eighteen, this responsibility will be yours as well.

You’ve heard me muttering at the TV when Donald Trump is on the screen. Maybe even cursing a few times. Just to put your mind at ease, I really do know that he can’t hear me. Not that he’d listen if he could, but that’s beside the point. No, actually, that may be a large part of the point I want to make. Donald Trump is a man who doesn’t listen to anyone who’s not telling him how wonderful he is.  Remember that assembly you had a school about bullying? Remember how you learned that put-downs are not OK. That’s the #1 rule for how to treat people. Donald Trump is very rich and he likes to tell people that he has a “very large brain.” Even if that were true, it doesn’t mean he is better than anyone else. It doesn’t mean the rules of how to treat people don’t apply to him.

Donald Trump doesn’t care about the rules. He has repeatedly put-down, insulted, cursed at, mocked, demeaned, and threatened people. That includes women, African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, LGBT people, his Republican opponents, as well as Hillary Clinton, journalists, judges, our President, our generals, our allies, just to name a few.

As you can see, there are a lot of people Donald Trump doesn’t seem to like and he believes he has the right to disrespect anyone at any time.

Of course nobody likes everybody. There are kids in your class you say you like and some that you don’t. That’s normal. But you know, in our family, we do our best to always treat people with respect. We’ve taught you that if you don’t like or agree with someone, you have the right to keep your distance, but you do not ever have the right to be rude or disrespectful.

What’s that you ask? Why is Donald Trump so rude to so many people? I honestly don’t know. But if you asked him, he’d probably say you got it all wrong. He’d deny he said any of the things he actually said. He’d blame what you heard on “crooked” reporters (That’s his way of calling someone a liar.). He’d say that Hillary Clinton is the one who’s rude and disrespectful. He’d insist that he actually loves all of those people and they all love him.

When Donald Trump insults someone then turns around and says, “I never said that” it can be very confusing. But as voters we have to work through the confusion. Dad and I have done that. Here’s what we’ve discovered: Donald Trump says whatever he wants to get whatever he wants whether it’s true or not. Whether it is hurtful or not. It doesn’t matter to him. He’s fine with put-downs.

That’s not fine with us.

In case you’re wondering, your Dad and I will not be voting for Donald Trump. We’re voting for Hillary Clinton.

 

 

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Back-to-School Clothing Wars: “My 12yr old looks and dresses like she’s 18!”

August 26, 2016

What's wrong with it, Mom?

What’s wrong with it, Mom?

Back-to-school means new clothes. We’ve had previous conversations here and here about how the clothing and toy industries sexualize kids. It’s hard for parents to push back against billion dollar corporations who couldn’t care less about your standards for appropriate attire for your children.

But you have to shop, so you head to the store armed with your standards, but you can’t find anything you feel good about purchasing. To make things dicier, your child loves the clothes you despise.

That’s this mom’s problem:

Dear Annie:

How do I talk to my 12 year old daughter about how the way she dresses? She has a very “womanly” body and could easily pass for 18! She’s proud of the way she looks and I am delighted she is comfortable with her body. I don’t want to ruin that by saying the wrong thing, but I also do not want her to continue dressing in a way that seems to me to be provocative. She may be teased, she may get “hit-on” by a MAN! I want to protect her and at the same time, foster her confidence in herself.

Please help me with the right words.  Thanks! – In a bind

Dear In a bind,

It’s great your daughter feels so comfortable in her body. May her self-confidence continue throughout her lifetime!

I’ll assume you pay for her clothes. If you aren’t comfortable with her choices you have veto power. Avoid heated conversations in the store. Talk about it before your next shopping trip or before handing over money to her for purchasing clothes.

You might say something like this:

“Sweetheart, I love how confident you are about your body. Many girls don’t feel so comfortable in their own skin as you do. But you need a reality check. We live in a society where men and boys (and other girls and women) judge you based on how you dress.

It isn’t fair to make assumptions about people because of how they look or dress, but fair or unfair, it is part of the reality of growing up as a girl.

We also live in a society where some men and boys feel entitled to treat women as sexual objects not human beings with equal rights. Sexual harassment is unwanted attention (crude remarks, touching, etc.). It is never ok. And it is never a compliment. So don’t be confused.  Harassment makes girls feel uncomfortable and unsafe.  No one has the right to do that to anyone. And yet, too often, harassers take no responsibility and are not held responsible for their behavior. They simply shrug and say, “She brought it on because of the way she dresses.” She (who ever she is) did not “bring it on.” To say that is a lie. It is also disrespectful to girls and women.

As your mom it’s my job to keep you safe and to educate you about the messages your clothing choices might be sending, without your knowing it. Let’s talk about this.”

Stay calm and keep your voice neutral and respectful and you could open up a very positive ongoing conversation with your daughter.

I hope this helps.

Annie

P.S. I reached out to my wise friend and fellow educator, Iréné Celcer for added input on your dilemma. Here are her three tips and thoughts.

1) Engage her in a conversation vs a lecture. Find out her thoughts, feelings and ideas on the topic. (See the paragraph below for a way to start.)

2) This conversation is not a ONE TIME thing. It will develop ebb and turn and change. And it may be the one area that she choses to drive you crazy with. Be smart and chose your battles.

3) No matter how she looks on the outside, she is still only 12 years old. And you are and should be the one who approves the clothing. You hold that wallet.

 

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Is she even my friend any more?

August 6, 2016

The pieces don't always go back together

The pieces don’t always go back together

In 1964 Bob Dylan wrote his classic I Shall Be Free No. 10. A line from that song has stuck with me:

Now I gotta friend who spends his life
Stabbing my picture with a bowie-knife
Dreams of strangling me with a scarf
When my name comes up he pretends to barf
I’ve got a million friends!

A million friends. Imagine. And that was way before social media. Guess it depends on how you define friend. That’s a much discussed topic in the email I get. Like this recent one:

Hey Terra,

Me and Serena have been besties since kindergarten. One day we got into a little fight and stopped talking to each other for a while and during that time she goes to her cousin’s birthday party and meets Katie. Suddenly Serena and Katie are really good friends.  They post selfies of them together all the time.

One day I call I ask if she would like to meet and she says: “Umm I don’t think I can because I’m with Katie” and I get kinda hurt because it kinda sounded like she didn’t want me around. Since then she hasn’t called me or respond to any of my texts. The other day I called her and asked if she would like to have a sleepover and she says “Not really.” and hangs up.  She doesn’t really talk to me anymore. I don’t understand. What did I ever do to her? I really would like to have an answer please!! Are we even best friends anymore? – So Confused

Dear So Confused,

I understand why you’re confused. I don’t know why Serena’s acting this way either. It sounds like your “little fight” meant more to her than it did to you. She’s still upset and unless you two talk about it, you might spend a long while wondering what’s going on.

A “best friend” for all these years is definitely worth keeping, Of course, you can only maintain a friendship if both people are invested in it. It’s not going to work if you’re the only one who cares. While it’s worth trying to get to the bottom of this, it might not be so easy to have that honest, heart-to-heart conversation. Especially if she keeps hanging up on you and refuses your invitations to hang out.

You can send her an “I need to talk to you” message. If she doesn’t respond or she says “I don’t want to talk to you.” then you have to let it go for now. Please try to turn down the volume on the worrying. You can do that by trying my Breathing Challenge. You can also reach out to other people you enjoy being with. Make some plans. Enjoy what’s left of the summer. Getting closer to other people now will give you some new friends to start off the new school year. One more thing: If looking at her posted pictures makes you feel bad,  don’t look. That’s going to help, too.

Good luck!

In friendship,
Terra

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How come I don’t have a boyfriend yet?!

July 10, 2016

When is it my turn to be loved?

When is it my turn to be loved?

If you really want a bf/gf, but don’t have one, and everyone else does, it can bring you down. You may wonder, “What’s wrong with me?” I totally remember feeling this way in high school. It sucked. Once you buy a ticket to ride that depressing train of thought, you’ll assume you don’t have enough of whatever you think you need to be loved. (“I’m not hot enough, not cool enough, not thin enough, not buff enough, not outgoing enough, etc. etc. etc.”)

So I understand what’s going on when I get an email like this one:

Hey Terra – 

I shouldn’t be upset about this but I am. I’m going to be 16 soon and I’ve never had a boyfriend or even had a guy ask me out. I’m worried I’ll be unprepared for a real committed relationship and be forever alone. I really want to know what that teenager rush of young love feels like that so many of my friends have experienced. What do I do? – Ms. Loveless

Dear Ms. Loveless,

I understand where you’re coming from. But please don’t assume that teen relationships prepare you for “real” committed adult relationships based on mutual trust, respect, honesty, shared values, open communication. They rarely do. You need to be an adult to have an adult relationship. As intelligent and mature as you seem to be, you are still becoming an adult, not there yet. You are still a full-time student, still living in your parents’ home, being supported and supervised by them. As it should be… for now.

You say that so many of your friends have experienced the “teenager rush of young love” and you want to feel it, too. It will happen. I guarantee it. I can’t say when, but it will. So don’t worry about that. You should also not assume that you will be “forever alone,” though I understand, in your current loneliness, why you might believe it. It’s not true. So you can relax on that score as well.

You want a boyfriend. That’s an awesome goal. Start working toward it with your eyes wide open. Make a list of the characteristics you want in a boyfriend. What’s important to you? (Honesty? Intelligence? A sense of humor? ) Make as detailed a list as you want. This will get you thinking about what you value most in the people you are closest to. And while you’re making lists, take a shot at listing all the positive characteristics you posses. That will put you into a mindset of being more confident about what you’ve got to offer in a relationship.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,
Terra

Filed under: Parenting,Teens,Tweens — Tags: , , — Annie @ 6:41 pm
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