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.

Stuff you don’t need to worry about

September 28, 2009

Compared to controlling your mind,  this is easy!

Compared to controlling your mind, this is easy!

Thankfully, our kids survived their teen years. So did David and I, though I know I aged more than he did. But I can still do a headstand, so there.

Nail me for sexism, but I’m convinced we moms feel our kids’ challenges more than dads. Everything from circumcision, to vaccinations, to teething, to leaving a tearful kid with a sitter, to friendship issues, to acne, to failed drivers’ tests, to breakups, to college rejections and the rest. We suffered while we were teens, and we moms are genetically predisposed to put ourselves through the wringer with each of our kids. How unfair is that? I have no solution, but I’ve told David that the next life time we’re together, he gets to be the mom.

Since both our daughter and son are out in the world doing very well, thank you, I thought it might be fun (in a masochistic kinda way) to revisit some of my biggest worries during their teens years. Why? I’m bored. Not really, but I am creatively dodging some other work at the moment. Also, I decided to take up this exercise to prove to myself what a futile endeavor all that worrying turned out to be.

Stuff I Wish I Hadn’t Bothered Worrying About

  1. How will my kid ever make it with his/her self-centered, obnoxious, overly dramatic attitude? Nobody but a parent would put up with this and even we can’t take it!
  2. Who will ever want to live with my kid? You can’t even walk in the room there’s so much crap on the floor. And (s)he doesn’t even seem to notice!
  3. How will my kid ever graduate high school? (S)he racks up more time talking to friends/playing video games/sleeping than there are hours in the day.
  4. How will my kid get through college? Assuming (s)he gets in somewhere. (S)he is a world class procrastinator who can’t get anywhere on time.
  5. What if some spaced out driver runs a red light and hits my kid while walking, riding his/her bike/driving to school?
  6. What if my kid feels pressured to do something that (s)he knows isn’t right? Does my kid have what it takes to stick to their values?
  7. What if my kid gets (someone) pregnant?!
  8. How can I protect my kid when (s)he isn’t right here with me all the time any more?

I’m not saying these aren’t significant, even worthy, issues for any parent to worry about. But I know for a fact that not one single moment of worrying on my part has ever prevented anything bad from happening to anyone I love. Nor has my worrying ever gotten anyone to modify their behavior into something more to my liking. It just doesn’t work. It’s an utter waste of time. An emotional and mental energy sink. Oh yeah, and it causes stress, aging and lactose intolerance. Not 100% sure about that last one, but you get the idea. No good comes from worrying. And yet… letting go of worrisome thoughts isn’t easy. Especially for parents. Make that double for moms. Learning to do a headstand is way simpler.

And for my next trick… The Amazing Worry-free Mom. (Someday, please.)

Filed under: Parenting,Tips — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 10:42 pm

Guest Blogger: Teen Pregnancy from the Eyes of a Sister

September 26, 2009

By Islande

Islande is a 16 year old writer at, a parenting blog written from the kid’s perspective with 80 teen interns. Born in Haiti and currently in Jacksonville, Florida, Islande, wants to be a psychologist so that she can help others with their problems and issues and just be an ear to their venting.

Teen Pregnancy. How cool is that?!

Teen Pregnancy. How cool is that?!

“Mom, Dad…I’m pregnant.” Now I’m pretty sure that no parent wants to hear those words come out of the mouth of their teenage daughter, but the reality is that when it happens, it happens. The daughter now has a child, another being, another soul to take care of and the parents now have shame, shock and surprise to deal with. But then, what about everyone else in the mix? What about the baby’s father, the cousins, the siblings? What about the sisters, like me?

When I first heard the news that my 18 year old sister, fresh out of high school, was pregnant, it hit me. Hard. Not as hard as it hit my folks, but still pretty hard. I didn’t want to believe it. Despite the evidence right in front of me, I still denied it, until I just had to face reality and see that this was going to happen. My sister had gotten pregnant and will have a child.

When I did finally accept the truth, it was time to face facts. I tried looking at the positives but a negative fact kept creeping in not too far behind. For instance, I would think, “I’m going to be an aunt!” Then the negative thoughts came: “Yes, but at 16? You’re an aunt to your 18 year old sister’s child!” The only positive outlook that I see is one: a baby will be born. I just have a soft spot for babies. They’re my weapon of vulnerability. Once I see or hold a baby, nothing else matters.

There are many others out there like me, others of different ages, races, and genders, who know what I may be going through. Some may be experiencing it worse than I am. And it seems as if everyday, more and more teens are getting pregnant and it’s no longer, in my opinion, a “big deal”. You’re a teen pregnant out of wedlock? No problem! It’s normal! Society will take care of you! Everyday it’s turning less and less into a serious issue and more and more into a…well, a fad, a trend, an okay thing.

According to, “The United States has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and births in the western industrialized world. Teen pregnancy costs the United States at least $7 billion annually. Thirty-four percent of young women become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20 — about 820,000 a year. Eight in ten of these teen pregnancies are unintended and 79 percent are to unmarried teens. Most teenagers giving birth before 1980 were married whereas most teens giving birth today are unmarried.” The sad part is that teen pregnancy is becoming widely publicized. Teen celebrities and actresses, such as Jamie Lynn Spears, are becoming pregnant. Movies, like Juno, are portraying teen mothers. Books, music videos, magazines are all treating this issue so lightly. But who is out there to say no? Who out there is getting the point out to our teens, preventing them to not get pregnant?

The only name that comes to mind at the top of my head is Maury. I watch his shows all the time. Not all of his shows speak of “lie detector tests” and “DNA tests”. Certain episodes address teen mothers and want-to-be teen mothers. Guests, such as real girls who experience it and are still fighting for child support, trying to find their baby’s father or fighting each day for financial security for them and their baby, appear on the show. But they can’t go back in time. You can’t move back, only forward in life. But it’s sad and unbelievable. Like Maury likes to say to his audience and special guests, “You’re only a child yourself. How can you take care of another being when you can’t even take care of yourself?” And his question still remains unanswered.

So is it a fad? Sadly, it seems that way. But things aren’t always what they seem. Let’s hope not, because we can’t just let this happen to our teens and act like it’s ok and everything’s just “fine and dandy”, because it’s not and it won’t be. Teen pregnancy affects everyone, not just those who get pregnant. All we can do is stick by our teens and day by day, try to decimate this widely popular fad. One day at a time.


I tweet therefore I am

September 23, 2009

twitter-logoIt took me a while to get Twitter. I thought, what’s the point of sending out 140 character blasts? I’m walking down 124th Street eating the most awesome peach raspberry gelato ever. Looks like my dog needs to poop. Damn didn’t bring a bag! Does the world need this info? Even if said world does, do I need to broadcast it?

But then David started doing some research on how professionals use Twitter to enhance their careers. I still didn’t get it. But David’s the guy who, in 1976, dragged me into the computer age, alternately biting, bitching and nodding off. Since that foray out of my comfort zone turned into a brilliant career move for us both, I decided to retract my claws long enough to hear him out.

That was in early August.

Now I’m a very happy tweeter, indeed. I’ve met some great people doing truly interesting and important work. I’ve learned to play nicely with them. So nicely, in fact, that last night I gathered together a few of my new twitter friends for a twitter chat. Don’t know twitter chat from channa chat? Simply, it’s a way to use Twitter tools to have a meaningful discussion in real time. We assembled a virtual panel of experts and for one hour we fielded parenting questions from the rest of Twitterland. It was a lot of fun and the parenting professionals put out top notch information. In case you missed it, I’ve reposted the “transcript” here.

Knock yourself out:

Annie_Fox I’m Annie Fox. I’m an author, who majored in tweens & teens. Panelists… tell us about yourselves please.

drdrrose I’m Dina Rose, a Food Sociologist, specializing in helping parents teach their kids to eat!

kidlutions I’m Wendy Young, child and family therapist. I deal w/behavioral issues/grief loss, etc

MarjieKnudsen I’m Marjie Knudsen, author, writer, child advocate, parent for over 23 years.

DianePMayer I’m Diane Peters Mayer therapist/writer working with kids and parents around anxiety, school anxiety and other issues.

ShapingYouth I’m Amy Jussel, former ad agency writer/creative dir; & Founder/Exec. Dir. of a nonprofit focusing on media/marketing/kids.

Parenting Question #1: How best to deal with 6yr old who often still doesn’t get to the toilet on time (#2’s) — says he doesn’t feel it??

MarjieKnudsen Magic bullet for my son, take him to bathroom and play with warm water in a bowl after he hasn’t gone. My son thought it was a blast and I am still amazed how well it worked. Others have tried it to and it worked! Only took 3 times doing this. Amazing. And he recognized feeling better.

kidlutions First off, stay calm cool as a cucumber. The less emotion you show, the better. Also start talking to him about “listening to your body.” Help him understand the signs that he might feel. He may be so preoccupied w/playing, that he ignores his body’s signals until it is too late. I LOVE Marjie’s FUN idea, too. Also, see if you can find a pattern in his BM’s and try to “plan” potty breaks around that time.

MarjieKnudsen Kids usually like to hide or go behind something when they have bm… watch for him to change locations.

RJTwoHomes Thanks, it’s normally when he’s busy & doesn’t want to stop what he’s doing. Not good at school as his gets embarrassed.

kidlutions Potty training is a HUGE battle of the wills! For some kids this is major. The less it affects you,the better

DianePMayer I agree with staying calm. You don’t want to create a will battle.

MarjieKnudsen I agree with staying very calm, no big reactions.

kidlutions That helps and the listening to the body thing will be HUGE.

Annie_Fox Anyone have any books/resources to recommend to about potty training?

MarjieKnudsen Well, there is the book, “Everybody Poops” … a classic now.

kidlutions A video from 12yrs that I used w/my kids…”It’s Potty Time”…has catchy songs…”YOU are a SUPER DOOPER POOPER”!

Parenting Question #2: My 5th grader is overwhelmed w/homework! Hate 2 see him struggle. 🙁 What should I do to help him?

Annie_Fox So hard to know how much to do FOR a 10 year old and when to step back and let him handle it.

DianePMayer I would set up teacher meeting to get idea of homework load. And breaking down the homework is the best way to reduce anxiety is to have child work for about 10-15 mins then take 5 min break, then 10-15 and so on. As child gains confidence they can up study time. Lots of my clients have success with this method.

MarjieKnudsen Rest brain by switching projects – research shows it works

kidlutions Break it into smaller segments and take “brain breaks”…let him get some movement in. Ever heard of “brain gym”? Those exercises are great!

MarjieKnudsen You’re right. Breaks help when they’ve been going at it too long.

ShapingYouth This is akin to the ‘Stressed Out Students’ project at #Stanford, so try Denise’s Clark Pope’s new site:

Annie_Fox Yes it is stressful for the kids and for parents. We hate the homework wars! Parents often ask me, “What can we do about the homework load?” Do parents have any power in this?

kidlutions I think parents can/should approach the schools about WAY too much homework. I read something recently that said approx. 15 mins per grade level. Anybody else see this?

DianePMayer I’ve seen 10 min per grade level.

kidlutions I have a 3rd grade teacher friend who tells parents, have them work for max 45 mins/send me a note of where they left off, etc.

Annie_Fox Have any of you found schools to be responsive to parents’ request to ease up on h/w?

MarjieKnudsen I know of parents in a Talented and Gifted program who got together and arranged the amt. of homework. They went from 2 hours a day down to 45 minutes maximum… the teachers agreed.

Annie_Fox I love hearing that! Kids & parents need down time in the evenings and weekends. Homework can be such a corrosive force!

kidlutions YES! I have seen kids in therapy SOOOOOO stressed out by 5th grade. Parents can start w/ teacher, go to principal, superintendent, and finally to school board, if needed. Just had a HUGE discussion on this on Facebook a few days ago…LOTS of emotion surrounding this.

DianePMayer I have kids streaming into my practice due to homework anxiety. I agree that parents need to advocate… and check out books like “The End of Homework.” by Etta Kralove and John Buell. And The Case Against Homework by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish.

Annie_Fox Thanks for those recommendations, Diane. Parents do need to advocate for their kids’… Too much homework is unhealthy. Besides, studies have shown that more homework doesn’t translate into better learning. Not after a certain point.

DianePMayer No it doesn’t and often destroys kid’s confidence

kidlutions Homework to understand concepts is one thing. Homework that is busywork a totally diff thing!

ShapingYouth Gr8 research/resources on hazardous hmwk/guidelines here:

kidlutions Parents should be armed w/the research that is being shared, and then approach teachers/admins/boards.

MarjieKnudsen Students who are successful are usually the ones who start out by engaging in something interesting to them. Pressure to be the best can destroy that feeling…as in too much HW

kidlutions And…what of kids that learn diff than by writing/rote memory? Hands on kids?
MarjieKnudsen Yes, Wendy. They stay more curious when they can use their strengths.

kidlutions I think at times, since kids are switching classes at an earlier age, teachers have NO idea how much homework the kids have. Support your child w/o undermining the teachers, etc.

MarjieKnudsen Talk to the teacher, and then keep going up ’til you get someone who will help. See counselor for help here.

Annie_Fox Bring it up at PTA mtgs.

MarjieKnudsen “Curious?” is an excellent book for parents from Psychologist Todd Kashdan

kidlutions Also, another book…Coloring Outside of the Lines… by Roger Schank.

Annie_Fox Encourage the school policy that teachers check w/each other about h/w loads. They all have the same students!

DianePMayer I also see teachers in my practice who complain about the curriculum–teaching to the test… they want to be creative in their work, but can’t. Worksheets don’t teach much at all–kids are bored, bored, bored!

Annie_Fox Bored kids get turned off to learning and often start acting out, making the teacher’s job that much harder! & less joyful!

ShapingYouth Yep. In a nat’l survey, students were asked to use 3 words to describe how they felt in school; “bored” followed by “tired”

Parenting Question #3: Our daughter’s best friend is now acting mean to her. Should I talk to the mom?

Annie_Fox That’s a tough one. Depends on how well the moms know each other.

drdrrose The question I would have is: how mean?

kidlutions First things, first. Since U won’t be there to handle every squabble daughter has, this is time to teach her how to be assertive and how to get her needs met. It is a gift to teach our kids HOW to navigate some of the not so fun social situations.

MarjieKnudsen In situations where I intervened and not…. when I have stayed out… it was always better. My girls are 19 and 23 now. Best to just ‘listen’ to girls’ feelings, repeat back worries to make sure you understand.. Give unconditional love and support.

kidlutions Send your daughter the msg that she can handle it, be assertive, stand up for herself, set limits. She may need lots of coaching. And always VALIDATE how it must be affecting the girl! Let her feel heard and understood!

Annie_Fox I love that message. But like the kid w/the homework overload, sometimes kids really are suffering and it can be nearly impossible for parents to stand back and let the kid handle things when it can appear that nothing is improving.

kidlutions Give her plenty of TLC and loving! Share times when you had similar things happen. Role play how to approach the friend.

MarjieKnudsen My girls always loved hearing similar situation stories!

MarjieKnudsen Marjie, I think that those stories of our own downfall, foibles, hurts and unfortunate circumstances are worth their weight in gold.

MarjieKnudsen Worked for me – discuss things you can change and not change… daughter will realize that she can let go, detach.

ShapingYouth Ironically, CNN just did a post on ‘when parents should butt in’ (I’m doing a followup re: peer/coaches/etc.)

kidlutions Now, if this is a “bullying” thing, that would call for diff tactics.

drdrrose Rachel Simmons’ book “Odd Girl Out” is a great resource to understand girl bullying.

Annie_Fox Yes, Dina! And Rachel’s got a new book “Curse of the Good Girl! Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence.” I think parents can help by staying calm and helping kids sort out what they can and can’t control in the situation. That’s what I see in my work. Girls would often rather get stomped on by friends than tell the truth about their hurt.

kidlutions In my practice, I have seen girls just break down sobbing when they start to share abt how “friends” have tx’d them. They never verbalized it before to anyone and once they say it out loud, it hits them like a ton of bricks!
DianePMayer Problem-solve together. Get her ideas–she’s not alone in this is the message.

Annie_Fox Friendship skills ought to be taught at school. Kids wouldn’t get BORED learning that!

kidlutions Yes…Annie, some schools are better at it than others. Some teachers R fab at it!

RJTwoHomes Imagine how powerful it would be if schools taught emotional intelligence!

kidlutions YES, YES, YES! At Head Start, we do! That’s a HUGE piece of my work w/them!

MarjieKnudsen Social and Emotional learning is becoming more widespread…. see Center for Social and Emotional Education (non-profit site) talk a lot about healthy school climate.

Annie_Fox Here’s a site reports on really innovative programs like social/emotional learning curriculum in action.

chrstinef Great conversation…I think it is about teaching parents how to be their child’s emotional coach

kidlutions That’s exactly what we ARE! Emotional coaches! Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the best predictor of our success in life, trumps IQ, how early we learn to read, etc.

CoachNancyP Differentiation b/w bullying & conflict is that bullying is to intentionally gain power over another.

DianePMayer Some schools offer circus skills clubs that include juggling, unicycle riding, etc. and teachers have reported less bullying from these kids, more teamwork plus other benefits

MarjieKnudsen Yes, I’ve heard of kids being taught to juggle to help alleviate anxiety too.

kidlutions A great READ…”How Full is Your Bucket: Positive Strategies for Work and Life” by Tom Rath. They have one for kids, too!

MarjieKnudsen Here’s another good one: Have you filled your bucket today?

CoachNancyP Here’s a post I wrote on “bucket-filling”

DianePMayer I’ve been working on my juggling and teaching it to anxious kids–it helps them. Article on circus curriculum on

Annie_Fox And maybe parents could learn to stop juggling so many things at once and model more mindfulness for kids. When teachers get it, and parents get it… they create school communities with happier, kinder kids.

ShapingYouth Yep, agree Annie; & media could reduce the ‘hype’ as well. Larry Magid has great perspective/context here:

RJTwoHomes It can be scary when we remember that children do as we do!

Annie_Fox They sure do!

Parenting Question #4: I’m expecting our 2nd child in Dec. My 4 yr. old already says she doesn’t want a new baby in the family. Help!

kidlutions Your four year old is to be commended for her honesty! Who would want to be displaced?

MarjieKnudsen Let them be involved as much as possible. Let them make choices, about anything related…. Picking out baby clothes, paint color for room, toys for baby. Let them pick them and try them out first.

kidlutions When I was expecting my 2nd and 3rd, I gathered my other kid(s) on my lap and told them a story about how every time a mom has a new baby, her belly doesn’t just grow, her heart grows, too so w/each new baby, mom’s heart gets bigger and there is ALWAYS, ALWAYS enough LOVE for EVERYONE!

Annie_Fox Lovely! Inclusion in the family process of getting ready for the new baby… excellent advice!

MarjieKnudsen My daughters are 4 yrs apart… everything was fine ’til baby came along… hardest part, make sure time for both.

kidlutions Start talking up what a special role she will have as a BIG sister, maybe make up a story book w/ her about how special BIG sisters are and how much they have to TEACH the baby…and that the baby will have soooooo much to learn from her.

Annie_Fox But mom should be realistic that it’s going to be a transition for the #1 child. It’s also OK if firstborn doesn’t love love love the baby 24/7. Too pressure for #1 child to be “perfect” Not helpful. Not real.

kidlutions Annie, yes, it WILL be a transition. I FELT it, before I delivered each new baby myself!

helpthiskid Buy a gift for the 4 year old from the new baby when he/she is born.

kidlutions YES! I did that for each of mine…and they STILL remember the gifts 15 years later!

ShapingYouth Recent piece on interchild relationships talks about ‘validating angry feelings’ of the sibling: +1 on 1 time

kidlutions On the flip side, mom can make 2 separate books w/1st born detailing all that a BIG sis can do to TEACH the baby and another book that allows BIG sis to “rant” and complain and say things she DOESN’T like about having a new baby!

DianePMayer I was just writing a post about this very thing. Older child has to know it’s ok that she doesn’t want that baby around–feelings have no limit, only behavior does.

Annie_Fox Feelings have no limitations, only behavior does Excellent way to phrase it! You don’t want to make any child feel “wrong” for being pissed off at the little intruder!

kidlutions Annie, LOL, totally not! 😉

iTwixie Let her get mad!

Annie_Fox Starting the new sib relationship off right is important. I often hear from tweens and teens who can’t stand their sibs. That’s sad to me… normal at times, of course.

MarjieKnudsen Sib relationships can be helped along by parent a great deal!

kidlutions Balance is the name of the game! Don’t expect her to be perfect. Validate anger, jealousy, and keep plenty of 1:1 time. Let her hear you tell baby, “Just a minute honey, I am helping your BIG sister!”

MarjieKnudsen Sibs not getting along is something to always deal with… works to ‘arrange’ surprise fun things when just them. Then they have these great funny, silly, dumb memories of things parents surprised them with… helps bond. Also, I surprise them together with something really silly… they get a laugh and bond together with the memory

Annie_Fox The hour really flew! Time to go. Thanks to all of you wonderful panelists. Let’s do this again soon. You guys rock! Tweet on!

If you like, follow me on Twitter. I tweet about parents, teens and tweens.

Filed under: Parenting,Technology,Tips — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 6:48 pm

First she said she would but now she won’t…

September 16, 2009

We all need time to reflect

We all need time to reflect

Got email from a teen confused about Mom’s reaction to the fact that the girl and her boyfriend were having sex. The confusion came from what probably seemed like a bipolar set of responses from Mom regarding the Sex Talk.  Here… you read it:

Hey Terra,

Me and my bf have been together for over 10 months. My mom knows him well and loves him. A couple months ago me and him started having sex and I was like OK, I want birth control. So I told my mom I was “thinking about having sex” and that I didnt do it yet but wanted birth control just in case. And she was like “OK. I understand. That’s responsible.” And she got it for me.

A couple of days ago I told her that me and my bf did it for the first time. She seemed to take it alright. She said she knew it was coming and was glad I told her. Then later that day, out of nowhere she started being really weird towards me. Now she barely talks to me, hardly talks to my bf, wants to know where I am and what I’m doing all the time even if I’m just with a girlfriend (and she was never like that ever). She’s being mean towards me now. I can’t take it anymore. I’m so uncomfortable around her. I hate being home. I don’t know what to do. Please help.


This is so sad for Mom and daughter. And so unnecessary. Just in case you’re wondering, no, I’m not texting the Bad Mother Police to come cart this woman away just because she isn’t jumping for joy. But her hostility has overshadowed her previous reasonable response. Of course that was then (My daughter having sex some day = abstract idea which I can handle.) vs. now (My daughter’s having sex?!??!! For real?! OMG! What can I do? I feel freakin’ powerless!!)

If I could I’d have picked up the phone and talked to Mom. I’d have told her I understand that finding out your little girl is sexually active takes some getting used to. I would have said that her knee-jerk stress-response isn’t uncommon. But I’d also add that she needs to stop and think about what she’s doing because the silent-treatment and “meanness” is driving her daughter away. This woman doesn’t want that!

But Mom didn’t ask me for help, the teen did. So here’s what I told her:

Hi Confused,

You did the right thing telling your mom about your relationship and about needing birth control.  Your mom did the right thing by helping you protect yourself.  I think she is having a hard time dealing with the REALITY of the situation.  You’re her daughter and up until now she’s thought of you in a certain way (that would include being a virgin).  And even though she said she “knew it was coming” that can be different from actually having a new reality in your face.

Here’s what I suggest… Talk to her.  Tell her that you told me. Tell her how you’re feeling about her barely talking to you and “being mean” to you.  Tell her that you miss the trust and closeness the two of you have always had and you want to talk about that.

Then close your mouth and LISTEN to what she has to say.

Your mom loves you and she wants you to be safe and happy.  She doesn’t want to lose this special relationship. She’s just not sure how she feels about this next phase of your life. She’s confused. If you’ve ever felt confused, then you probably understand.

She loves you.  You love her.  Talk.

In friendship,


Of course giving advice is a lot easier when it’s someone else’s kid. And you’ve got to expect this kind of conversation will be awkward on both sides, at least initially. But getting real with the people you love most in the world is sometimes the only way to nurture and strenghthen your connection. That’s gotta be worth whatever mumbling, stumbling embarrassment comes with it.

Filed under: Parenting,Teens — Tags: , , , , , — Annie @ 6:07 pm
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