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.

Podcast: So Sexy So Soon

January 17, 2010

"So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and How Parents Can Protect Their Kids" by Diane E Levin, Ph.D.

“So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and How Parents Can Protect Their Kids” by Diane E Levin, Ph.D.

Little girls have dreamed of being princesses as long as there have been fairy tales. Thanks to Hans Christian Anderson, I myself had a slightly off-kilter fantasy of growing up to be a mermaid. But if I wanted to dress up as a mermaid for Halloween or to paddle around in my friend’s plastic pool I needed to create my own tail, so to speak. Like all former kids who are now today’s parents, my fantasies came directly from my own imagination… evolving naturally from my interests and taking me into realms I chose to explore through play.

But for 21st century kids, kids who live and breathe packaged princesses, Bratz dolls and Transformers, things are very different when it comes to what they play with, how they play and what they wear.

If you’ve got a daughter who can walk and talk you’ve likely had at least a few conversations and some strong disagreements about her choice of clothes. There’s nothing new about any of this. It’s the job of every generation to attempt to scandalize their parents. We did it to our parents and we didn’t turn out so bad.

But pop culture is way more extreme now and something very destructive is being foisted on our kids via TV shows, movies, print and media ads and on the racks in children’s clothing stores. For one thing, styles for girls of all ages are moving in a very dangerous direction. So much of what’s sold is too short, too tight, too low cut, too peek a boo, too… sexy for little girls. Yet there it all is. And they want these styles. Man, do they want them! Because their friends wear them and because too many little girls, tweens and teens truly believe that their value as people is a direct function of how they look.

It gets harder and harder for parents to carry out our prime objectives: keeping our kids safe and raising them to be compassionate, thoughtful, self-assured young adults. But the issue goes way beyond short shorts, crop tops and G-strings marketed for tweens. Beyond TV shows and toys that program girls and boys to think and act and play and dream in the narrowest, most gender-specific ways.

What’s going on here in 21st Century America is a war of values. On one side, parents doing their best to raise healthy young adults. And what are we up against? The marketing might of multi-billion dollar corporations. You probably don’t need anyone to tell you who’s winning.

In this week’s podcast I talk with Diane E. Levin, co-author of So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood And What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids.

Dr. Levin is Professor of Education at Wheelock College in Boston. She has written seven other books including: The War Play Dilemma, Teaching Young Children in Violent Times and Remote Control Childhood? Diane Levin speaks around the world on the impact of violence, media and other societal issues on children, families and schools.

Listen to my interview with Diane Levin right here:

If you have iTunes, you can subscribe to this podcast in the iTunes Store.

Or, you can download an MP3 version here.

Upcoming guests include:

Amalia Starr, author of Raising Brandon: Creating a Path to Independence for your Adult “kid” with Autism & Special Needs

Matthew Amster-Burton, author of Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater

David McQueen, international speaker empowering adults and youth alike on subjects such as leadership, careers and communication skills.

Hannah Friedman, author of Everything Sucks: Losing My Mind and Finding Myself in a High School Quest for Cool

Dara Chadwick, author of You’d Be So Pretty If…

*What’s a podcast? “A podcast is a series of digital media files, usually either digital audio or video, that is made available for download via web syndication.” –Wikipedia… So, in this case, there’s an audio file for you to listen to (in addition to reading the above).


Raising kids who are at home with themselves

January 15, 2010

Life isn't always a bowl of cherries.

Life isn't always a bowl of cherries.

When I was 15 my father died suddenly. Though I continued living at the same address until I left for college, it never again felt like home. That’s probably when I began looking for something that couldn’t be lost or taken away – a feeling of home inside myself.

When you meet someone who is truly at home with herself, she put others at ease by osmosis. Her self-acceptance expands to include accepting you. We are instinctively drawn to such people.

Many of your children will be graduating this spring… from elementary school. From middle or high school. From college. Big changes in store that are best weathered by kids who are at home with themselves so they can be “at home” wherever they are. Accepting of others and new situations.

How well prepared are your children for the next chapter in their lives, whatever it might be? How confident are they in their ability to cope with and adapt to what’s ahead? And what can you do to help and support them throughout? Here are some tips:

How to raise young adults who are at home with themselves

1. Create a home base that’s a safety net and a launching pad. Home should support a child’s emotional development and nurture his spirit. With a stable, loving and accepting family to return to anything is possible… even venturing into the unknown. Kids who grow up with a strong foundation are like turtles, always carrying their sense of home along with them. Remind yourself often that your parenting goal is to prepare your children for life. That means helping them develop critical thinking skills. It also means acting with compassion, kindness, and generosity of spirit. Whenever you catch your teens doing or saying something that demonstrates these capacities, let them know you approve. It helps them develop a positive self-image, essential for feeling at home with themselves.

2. Uncertainty is not a dirty word. When you know absolutely what you stand for then you should absolutely take a stand. A great message for adolescents who often let their addiction to peer approval prevent them from doing what’s right. But uncertainty is part of life. Kids brought up to believe that doubt isn’t an acceptable emotion are reluctant to try new things. How can they be at home with themselves if they’re unwilling to experience confusion? How can they be at home in the world if they’re not open to new things that they may not immediately understand?

If you truly want them to become self-confident adults who move through life with grace and courage then let them know that it’s okay not to know. Sometimes things become clear after we’ve had the courage to venture forth armed only with uncertainty and a willingness to accept what crosses our path, take it in and learn from it.

3. Model adaptability and an open attitude. If you tend to be anxious your attitude may be making it more difficult for your kids to feel at home anywhere. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I like surprises?
  • Do I enjoy: Meeting new people? Eating new foods? Listening to new music? Going to places and doing things I’ve never done before?
  • Do I take time to notice my surroundings?
  • Am I critical or suspicious of things/people that are different?
  • When I’m feeling “out of my element” do I usually: Shut down and withdraw? Become combative and defensive? Have a drink? Crank up the volume of my social self? Acknowledge my discomfort and try to relax and become more open?

If you always need to feel in control then challenge yourself to become a bit more flexible. The more open you are to change the more adaptable your kids will be.

4. Travel, as a family. Use a family vacation as an opportunity to step back a bit and let your kids show what they’ve already learned about being at home in the world. Notice their competencies and acknowledge them. And if you’re traveling to a new place, you might take the point of view that you are strangers in a strange land together. As “strangers”, your family has a chance to observe, learn and push the edges of your collective comfort zones. Share your feelings. Yes, being in a strange new place can be scary, but it can also reinforce how strong and capable each of you are.

5. Encourage independence. As the parent of a tween or teen now is the time for you to be stepping back from center stage where you’ve managed your child’s life for years. It’s your daughter’s or your son’s turn to take over as their own manager. They’ll need that experience when they actually leave home. They’ll also need to know that “home” (including their growing self-confidence, plus your love and everything you’ve taught them) is always right there in their heart, nurturing their spirit.


Times are a changin’ so hang on and enjoy the ride

January 7, 2010

Steady in the winds of change

Steady in the winds of change

No way is it 2010 already! Didn’t we just do the Y2K thing? Is it just me or does 24 hours just not last as long as it used to? And what about our kids? They’re growing up at warp speed. Probably a blessing we’re all too busy to notice them morphing into young adults before our eyes, otherwise how scary would that be? Of course, when it comes to other people’s kids you can’t miss the changes, but with your own… most of us have a terminal case of blind spots. Unfortunately, turning a blind eye to reality isn’t the most effective way to parent.

Life is all about change and our ability to deal with it. Our bodies, our feelings, our kids, our relationships, our life situation… all constantly changing. (So are all the molecules on your kitchen table, but we can save that for another time.) The more I meditate and breathe and read and write and think and teach the clearer the changing nature of life becomes. The more I twist my torso into improbable positions (Hey, it’s not painful! It’s yoga.) the more I learn how flexibility is the best tool I’ve got going for me.

“Steady in the winds of change,” my yoga teacher says. Steady as she goes. Steady, strong, centered. Those are the keystones to effective parenting. But steady doesn’t mean stuck and true strength requires insight into what’s needed right now.

Suppose you’ve always had a close relationship with your 12-year-old daughter. She’s been a kid who’s always told you everything she thinks and feels. You’ve prided yourself on the closeness you two share and how it reflects so positively on your parenting skills. Then one day you walk past her room and the door’s closed. You go in. She’s listening to music and reading. “Hi Dad,” she grins, not removing her headphones.

You sit on the bed. “Hi, sweetheart. So tell me, what’s new with you?”


An awkward silence follows.

“You want something, Dad?”

You shake your head and slowly walk toward the door. “Dad,” your daughter says sweetly. “Next time could you please knock?”

“Sure, honey,” your smile belies the ice pick skewering your heart. In the hallway your mind reels. Why should I have to knock at my own child’s door?! We’ve never had closed doors between us! She must be hiding something. I’m going back in there and demand that she tell me what’s going on. I couldn’t talk to my father about anything important, but I’m going to make damn sure that my daughter…


What’s going on here? Is this about your 12-year-old’s normal desire for some privacy and respect or is it about your own fear that your relationship with your child is changing into… who knows what?

Should you zig or zag? If you zig only because it’s how you’ve typically reacted when you’re hurt then you’re not paying attention to your child’s needs. Nor are you awake to the parenting challenge in front of you. An unwillingness to change in spite of changes happening all around is a sure-fire formula for unhappiness. The result will be internal struggles and plenty of ongoing conflicts with your ever-changing tween or teen.

What to do? How about going for a walk? An actual walk is great if you can swing it, but any conscious choice to take a head-clearing break will help. While you’re in the self-imposed time out ask yourself:

What does my child need from me now? It’s an essential question whenever you feel stuck in your parenting mission. Children’s behavior at any time, any age, broadcasts a need. Your job is to identify their need as accurately as possible then offer your help. Of course, there’s no formula that will always work because their needs constantly change. One moment she’ll need a hug and an encouraging word. Another moment he’ll need a sympathetic ear and no words from you at all. One time they’ll need you to set clear limits with unambiguous consequences for noncompliance. Another time they’ll need you to respect the meaning of a closed door without taking it personally.

Where do your needs as a parent come in? That depends. You’re absolutely within your rights to have your role, your values, your rules and your property respected. Those are valid needs. But when you need to be needed by your child or you need to use your child to look good in the eyes of others, that’s unhealthy. Always be an adult and take care of your own changing needs as best as you can. Your kids have a big enough job growing up and learning to take care of themselves without having to take care of you too.

Change is our constant companion on this journey we call life. Our kids are the clearest evidence of that. They’re rapidly developing into independent young adults. As parents we’re privileged to have an essential role in their unfolding. If we pay close attention we get to witness parts of the process. We also have the honor of helping them become who they are. Part of the reward is an opportunity to learn and grow along with them.

It’s a new year. A new decade. Change is the air we breathe. The best we can do for ourselves and our family is to remain as steady as possible. It also helps to keep your eyes, your mind, and your heart open. That’s what our kids need most from us.

Filed under: Holidays,Meditation,Parenting,Yoga — Tags: , , , , , , — Annie @ 5:31 pm
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