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.

Thanksgiving as an intentional act of world peace

November 17, 2015

Terrorism. Roast turkey with stuffing. Refugees. Sweet potatoes with marshmallows. Fear. Trust. Violence. Kindness. We need Thanksgiving more than ever. But who gets the invite and who doesn’t?

Hello, dear friend. You are welcome.

Hello, dear friend. You are welcome.

A few years back, my dear friend Bettina was having health issues and emailed: “I know this is incredibly presumptuous and Miss Manners would be scandalized, but I’m wrangling for an invitation for Thanksgiving.” (Yes, she actually wrote that.)

I couldn’t believe she assumed she’d crossed the line by saying, “I’m not feeling well and I don’t want to be alone. Can I come over?” I called immediately and gave her top marks for asking for what she needed. She was relieved knowing she’d done the right thing by speaking up.

Most of us are quicker to stand up for others than for ourselves. On some level we must believe it’s a sign of weakness to ask for support. But where does that foolishness come from? Not long ago I asked a bunch of 6th-8th graders to rate themselves on two statements: “It’s easy for me to ask for help” and “I lie and pretend things are OK when they aren’t.” The results? Twenty-five percent of the kids said it was “never or almost never” easy to ask for help. Another 25 percent reported that “sometimes” they had trouble asking for help. Another sad finding: A whopping 83 percent admitted that “sometimes, always, or almost always” they fudge the truth and pretend things are OK when they aren’t.

An inability to ask for help, coupled with a habit of pretending things are fine when they’re not, is unhealthy. When we deny our human need to connect heart-to-heart we short-change ourselves and the people who love us.

Teaching kids to be good people includes helping them get comfortable asking for support. Sure, self-reliance is essential, so is resilience and learning to calm yourself when stressed. But inner resources aside, we all feel vulnerable at times. We are also interdependent. When we let people know how we feel and allow them to love us and help us, we honor our humanity. We do the same when we welcome others to our table, our classroom, our community. 

When Bettina reached out to me, I was filled with love for her. I wanted to help, but our family was heading out of town for Thanksgiving. With my encouragement she confidently expressed her needs to another friend who gladly opened his heart and home. What would surely have been a sad and lonely day for her turned into a wonderful experience of friendship and a sense of belonging.

Less than two years later Bettina died. I’m comforted knowing she wasn’t alone that Thanksgiving. I admired her courage in reaching out and asking for what she needed. She taught me a powerful lesson: When it comes to friends and family, hold nothing back. Allow yourself to love and be loved fully, without limits.

Happy Holidays, from our family to yours.




Dealing with feelings so no one (else) gets hurt

November 12, 2015

I'm so MAD I could... ?

I’m so MAD I could… !

From the moment we learn a baby is coming we begin a life-long journey to understand this new person. At first it’s a clear-cut mission. I am key to my child’s survival. I must understand what the child needs and provide it. Sure there may have been lovers who proclaimed, “You are my life.” “I’d be lost without.” “I would die without you.” That is fantasy. But our baby’s need for us doesn’t get any realer. Without our love and protection… the child would die.

As kids grow they learn to take care of their own physical needs. Feeding. Toileting. Bathing. And they learn to decode the world by exploring its textures, tastes and sounds.

How about learning to take care of their emotional needs? Little children have big emotions. Tweens and teens often experience off-the-chart emotions. We parents need to hang in there, continually trying to understand what’s going on. We often do it by asking:

How do you feel?

What scared you?

Why are you crying?

This line of questioning helps kids tune in to their emotions and learn about what sets them off.

She was mean to me!

He hurt my feelings!

These conversations are important and helpful, but that’s not the end of the story. If we make it the end kids can get stuck believing: My feelings are most important of all. That mindset just isn’t very helpful for raising kind, respectful and socially courageous kids who do the right thing, online and off.

After your children have talked about their emotions and had a chance to calm down, it’s time for the rest of the story. Ask: “What can you do about this situation? What would be helpful? What would not be helpful?”

Encourage your children to explore their options, aka their next best move because, even though our feelings matter, ultimately, our behavior matters more.

So… how do you feel about that perspective? What do you think about? And what are you going to do with it?

I look forward to hearing from you.


Moms helping daughters with friendship issues

November 7, 2015

We've got the tools and we're brave enough to use 'em!

We’ve got the tools and we’re brave enough to use ’em!

Last month I began partnering with the Girl Scouts of Northern California by presenting my  Girls Friendship without the Drama Workshops.  In the first hour I teach girls to navigate all kinds of sticky peer conflicts while the moms (and the few cool dads who’ve shown up) sit back, listen and observe. During the second hour the girls skedaddle into another room where they engage in more (supervised) friendship-building skills while the parents and I circle the wagons and get to the heart of what girls need from those of us who love them.

To date I’ve done nine of these workshops with another seven scheduled. Girls can’t wait to start using what they’ve learned. Moms are reminded how painful it can be feel “replaced” by a friend. Dads are stunned at how hard it is for girls to tell a friend, “Stop. I don’t like that.” Parents are thrilled to have new insight, language, and context to help their daughters do a better job navigating friendships.

Here are some tips to help you help your daughters and sons resolve the inevitable issues that come up between our kids and their peers.

Dealing with Friendship Challenges

  • Calm Down. No matter what awful thing some child has done to your daughter or son, calming down first makes it easier to get through the upset. So take some slow deep breaths and encourage your child to do the same.
  • Show that you get it. Acknowledge that it hurts when a friend turns against you. Reflect back what you hear, “You sound really hurt, angry, and confused.” Share one of your own “hurt by a friend” stories. Share what you learned and how you used it to become a more thoughtful person and a better friend. This models empathy and reassures your child that (s)he will survive.
  • What Can/Can’t You Control? Tell your child,You can’t control a friend’s behavior or feelings, but you can get a handle on your own.” When we try to control things we can’t control, it stresses us out and makes us feel powerless. Don’t let your kid go there!
  • You’ve got options! Even after a blow-up with a bff, your child is  far from powerless. She always has options. For example, your child might:
    • Never talk to that friend again
    • Get back at her by spreading gossip
    • Suppress the hurt and act like it didn’t bother you
    • Find new friends

Brainstorming should be open-ended. Encourage your child to freely explore ideas without your judging them. They’re just ideas and this is a clearing process. Even the worst, knee-jerk options offer great (and totally safe) learning opportunities. In addition, you’ll give your child a gift by talking about all of this. When s/he doesn’t have to worry about your rushing in to “fix” the problem, your child’s thinking process will be accelerated. Hopefully, she’ll move closer to the time when she no longer accepts disrespectful behavior from anyone, including herself!

At the end of the process your child may decide to take a vacation from the drama or to find the EXIT out of the friendship. That’s her choice. But just because she’s finished, doesn’t mean she has the right to make life unhappy for an ex-friend. I put it is this way: You have the right to choose your friends, but it’s NEVER okay to be cruel or disrespectful. Keep your distance if you choose, but always treat others the way you want to be treated. Old rule. Still applies.



From today’s IN BOX: Getting dumped by a BFF hurts so bad!

October 28, 2015

Forever may be shorter than you think

Forever may be shorter than you think

The emails from girls who have been “dumped” by a BFF and “replaced” by their ex-BFF’s new BFF continue to pile up. I get several every day. And while it’s normal to feel upset when the person you’ve been closest to no longer gives a fig for your friendship and it’s helpful to reach out to someone you can trust, you’ve got to ask yourself: what can I do besides feeling like crap?

If you’re a teen, this one’s is for you. I’m going to tell you how to use your power in ways that will make you feel good about yourself… not like the “thrown out pickle on a hamburger” (as one 13 year old so eloquently put it.)

If you’re the parent of a teen, this one’s for you too because even when your girl feels “helpless” there are ways you can help her through this rejection.

Hey Terra – My BFF and I have been really close for 3 years. Last year I became close with another friend. I treated them both like my best friends and I had no idea my first BFF was kinda jealous of the other, she never told me. I felt her drifting away. Then she started getting close to a newcomer and calling her her best friend! I felt replaced. I am getting jealous and I really wish I can have my best friend back. It hurts everytime I see their pictures together. They are always hugging each other and holding hands, which I dislike because she never did that with me. It really hurts at the moment because I can feel my friend ignoring me. I feel so lost Terra, please help me. – Lost and Hurting

Dear Lost and Hurting,

It’s not easy to feel “replaced” in the heart of someone you really care about. I’m sorry you’re hurting. Maybe I can help.

I think it’s interesting that the first half of your email describes the feelings of jealousy your friend experienced when you got close to the other girl. You are intelligent and you’ve probably already noticed the situation has flippednow you’re feeling the same way she did!

The question to be answered is: What can you do about this?

You cannot control your friend’s feelings or thoughts or behavior. If she wants to spend more time with the other girl and if she wants to call the other girl her best friend, you have no control over that. But you do have control over how you respond from this moment on.

If it hurts or makes you jealous to look at their pictures then don’t look. Stop hurting yourself this way. Choose to stay away from her FB page or Instagram or whatever. Likewise, if you feel jealous when you see them hugging each other then stop following them with your eyes. And if you see them, by chance, look away. These choices are within your power.

You don’t say how long this has been bringing you down. I hope not too long. You can choose to continue feeling sad, jealous and rejected if you want to. I wouldn’t recommend that! Instead, I’d recommend that you think about new friends. Start with a list where you fill in the blank to complete this sentence: “I want a best friend who is—————.” Think about all the qualities you are looking for in a close friend. Are you looking for friend who is as intelligent as you are? A friend who shares your values and interests and sense of humor? A friend who wants to be with you as much as you want to be with her? Make a list and then go shopping for a new friend. And be patient. Sometimes it takes a while to find a quality friend.

I hope this helps.
In friendship,

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