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.

Teen sex under my roof?! No/Yes/Maybe

July 22, 2011

Almost ready for my close-up - Annie Fox before FoxNews.com Live interview

Almost ready for my close-up

Tuesday morning was not typical. Before 8 o’clock I had my professional act in gear (make-up, hair, couture… such as it is) and took my show on the road. Twenty miles south, David and I pulled up to FoxNews.com’s San Francisco studio and into a parking spot six steps from the front door.

I’d been invited to Fox (no relation) to offer my expert opinion about the choice of some parents to permit their teens to have sex in the family home. What did I think about this trend? Truthfully, I hadn’t heard about it. But I take these assignments seriously so I did my research. Rule of thumb: If you’re going to put yourself out there as someone who knows what she’s talking about, it’s best to try to sound like you know what you’re talking about.

Here’s a 6 min clip of my interview with Jonathan Hunt, a thoughtful interviewer with good questions, a good sense of humor, and good listening skills.

Annie Fox on FoxNews.com Live talking about teen sex in the family home

In case you’d rather read than watch the video (though you can do both for the same ridiculously low price… free) here’s the big take-away:

Parents are hard-wired to keep their kids safe. Any hint of a threat to the young ‘un and our inner Mama or Papa Lion instantly reacts.  No thinking involved, which is kinda perfect since over-analyzing in an emergency can get in the way of surviving. But not everything parents perceive of as threatening is actually a threat and an over-the-top reaction can be counter-productive. (Like when you encourage your teen to come to you with any questions and when they ask about sex or drugs, you totally freak out thus shutting down all conversation and insuring (s)he won’t be coming back to you with important stuff any time soon.)

Thankfully our brain also specializes in rational thought. The long-term, rational approach to parenting says our #1 objective is to raise a fully functioning independent young adult. That’s why we’ve got to teach our kids to analyze situations. And to make healthy choices. That’s the only way they can keep themselves safe when we’re not around, which is going to account for most of their lives unless you’re planning on having them live with you forever, in which case we need to talk.

Mr. Hunt quoted this statistic: “By their 19th birthday 70% of young people have had sexual intercourse.”
Translation: They’re going to do it anyway, so why not let them do it in the family home rather than a car or in the park, since it’s safer? Or do you think that’s just off-the wall?

There are enough Parent Police out there judging the way other folks raise their kids and I’m not going to join the squad. How you, as a parent, educate your children about sex is a personal decision. But, the reality is; older teens will be doing it.

Wherever you stand on this issue, here’s my advice (again free for the taking):

  1. Talk about relationships rather than just the “yes” or “no” of teen sex. Talk about sex in context of a relationship, rather than hooking up. If you don’t know where you stand on teen sex or you’re conflicted, that’s honest. Tell your teens that. But remember that you have a leadership role. If you want to transmit your thoughtful values to your teen (as opposed to “Just say no.”) then spend some time thinking about what those values are and why you hold them.
  2. It’s not just one talk. Have a series of conversations. Treat teens with respect. Talk less and listen more. That’s the only way you can find out where they are coming from, what assumptions they have about relationships, etc. There are endless opportunities to have conversations while you’re watching TV, after a movie, reading the news, listening to song lyrics, etc. It’s very important that the parent’s voice is in a teen’s head. You’re not going to be the only voice in there, but you want to be part of the mix and parental influence is powerful.
  3. Be realistic. Sex is part of life for adults and for older teens. In the context of a healthy relationship (the only kind worth having) it’s a joy. Parents who are in denial about teens and sex remain silent and their teens remain uninformed. Some people believe that talking to teens about sex encourages them to become sexually active… right now! Just the opposite is true. Studies show that teens whose parents provide them with reliable information actually wait longer to have sex and are more likely to use protection when they do have sex.

At some point, your teen will decide that (s)he’s ready to have sex. You want the decision to be made from a basis of self-knowledge and information coupled with values. You also want that information and those values to come from you. If you don’t talk to your teens about sex and healthy relationships (mutual trust, respect, etc.), where do you imagine they’ll get their information and values from? Probably from their clueless friends. Not a comforting thought.

Filed under: Parenting,Tips — Tags: , , , , , , — Annie @ 6:01 pm
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Teen’s not a girly girl. What will it take for Mom to accept it?

July 17, 2011

Just got an unusual email from a woman who thinks her daughter has a problem. Have a read and see what you think…

Dear Annie,

My daughter and I are not seeing eye to eye. I want to help her with but she will not listen to me. You always hear of parents not wanting their kids to go with the crowd. But my kid does the opposite. She dresses like a boy, only wearing boy’s sports shorts and a t-shirt. She doesn’t like anything girly. Absolutely nothing!! She isn’t boy crazy, that’s a good thing. It is beyond being a tomboy. During sports she will never put her hair up or back like the rest of the girls (even though the coach tells her to). Even on group pictures of the teams she is the only one with her hair down. Could it be that she wants to stand out or that she is trying to fight the establishment? I want her to be herself but this has gotten way overboard and it is causing a lack of friendship. She almost has no friends because she is so different. Should I just let her learn the hard way?

Frustrated Mom


Dear Mom,

I’m not sure what you think your daughter needs to “learn the hard way” or any way for that matter. And while we’re clearing stuff up, how can anyone possibly go “overboard” in being themselves? That’s like saying, “You are too much of who you are.”

You say “I want her to be herself”… but do you really? What I’m hearing loud and clear sounds like “The way she is, is unacceptable!” If that’s where you’re coming from your daughter feels the sting of your disapproval every day. That’s not helpful.

The only positive thing you said about your daughter is that she’s “not boy crazy.” Surely she possesses many admirable traits, but you didn’t mention any. That’s a sign this girl isn’t getting much positive feedback from her mom. Also not helpful.

Clearly you believe your daughter has a problem and if she’d only “listen” to you all would be well. I disagree. This isn’t about you or your well-intended advice. Your daughter may be rejecting girly clothes because she’s questioning her sexual identity. If that’s the case, she’s not purposely defying anyone, rather she’s on an important journey of self-discovery. Whatever her sexual orientation is, she doesn’t need “fixing.” With all due respect, you may be the one who needs a course correction, not your daughter. Because it sounds like she’s doing her own thing very well, thank you and I say, props to her for all that self-confidence!

I don’t mean to give you a hard time. I’m a parent. I understand what it’s like to have expectations of your daughter from Day #1. All parents dream of what their child will grow up to be. Maybe your daughter’s behavior, choice of clothing, etc. is a disappointment to you. Be honest with yourself about that disappointment. Maybe her way of being is embarrassing to you as you watch the reactions she gets from peers and other adults. Please be honest with yourself about that embarrassment as well, but don’t share these emotions with your daughter. She doesn’t need to hear it.

Bottom line, your daughter is who she is and trying to get your approval by pretending to be someone other than her authentic self is not healthy. That would only encourage her to live a lie and put her in conflict with herself. Not the advice she needs.

I’m going to state the obvious because it’s a good reminder to all parents. Your child is not you. And it’s not her job to fulfill your expectations of who she’s “supposed” to be. She is her own wonderfully unique self. She doesn’t need fixing. She needs the unconditional love of her mom. In order to support her journey into adulthood, wherever it may lead, you need to stop trying to change her and start trying to understand her better. I’d strongly suggest you talk with a family therapist or a psychologist ASAP. Hopefully that will help you sort out your feelings so you can learn to accept your daughter and give her the support she needs.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,
Annie

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , — Annie @ 6:50 pm
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Guest blogger: I hate homework

July 12, 2011

by Roberto Lebrón

Summer may seem like an odd time to discuss homework, but I can’t think of a better opportunity to appreciate the absence of it. Isn’t that part of the reason families cherish July and August? Because without homework we all have more time to hang out and be a family. Today’s guest blogger is Roberto Lebrón, teacher, artist, writer and  founder of the blog Raising Children on Planet Earth, where you can find “… values and behavior tips and information for brave, loving parents who are willing to do the hard work of raising their own children, instead of delegating their duties to others, including the government, or letting their children raise themselves. You’ll also find food for thought for peaceful, mindful, no-drama dadas and mamas.” AF

I hate homework!

I hate homework.

That may sound strange coming from a teacher. At work, I’ve often heard parents asking teachers for more homework for their children. I’ve also heard parents brag to each other about how good the schools their kids attend are, using the amount of homework their kids get as a measure.

Considering these parents hated homework as students about the same as their own children hate it now, one can wonder why they are so eager to foist upon their children the burdens they resented in their youth. Is this you? Why do you do it?

Perhaps it’s wisdom.

Perhaps parents have learned that what they resented as children was actually good for them — like vegetables. Is this true? Is homework the broccoli of the school world?

Alas, I think not.

The sad truth about homework is that it’s useless makework and, as far as I’m concerned, an unwelcome intrusion into family life. But let me define my terms.

What I Don’t Mean:

When I say, “homework,” this is what I don’t mean:

  • I don’t mean reading material that will be discussed in class, or material on which the students will be tested. That’s called studying.
  • I don’t mean projects to be developed using knowledge acquired in class and research done out of class.
  • I don’t mean the aforementioned research.

What I Do Mean:

  • I mean the other stuff parents love so much because it keeps children busy and out of their hair while they’re at home.
  • I mean that other stuff because when my children are at home, I’d prefer them to enjoy a little something I like to call home life.

If this homework is so important from an academic point of view, I’d just as soon have it done at school, even if that means longer school days. As a matter of fact, I’m all for longer school days, and a longer school year, with shorter vacations. I bet you’re not surprised to hear that coming from a teacher.

Yes, the fact is that, as educators know, and as the President of the United States has acknowledged, we need a longer school year, because we are falling behind other industrialized countries in terms of education. Many of those countries have longer school days and longer school years than we do.

Why Our Calendar Is The Way It Is.

Our school year was designed the way it is in part to allow young people time to work with their families when ours was an economy largely based on agriculture. That reason has gone with the wind. In the meantime, studies have shown that students forget too much of what they’ve learned during the school year during our excessively long summer vacations.

The summer camp industry knows this and many summer camps use this fact to encourage people to enroll their kids in programs that have academic components. This is a poor solution to our problem. Local school boards, not private camps, should determine what our students learn during the summer, and how they learn it. This is our responsibility as a society, and we are neglecting it.

In the end, it may not be necessary to have much less total vacation time during the year. Extending the school day and modifying the length and number of vacations during the year may do the trick. What is clear is that we need to modify our school calendar, and that most homework is a waste of everybody’s time.

Take Action!

1. Get Your Money’s Worth.

  • Your schools are yours. You’re paying for them, whether directly with checks to private schools or indirectly through your taxes. That gives you a voice. Use it.

2. Speak to Parents and Teachers.

  • Speak with other parents. Speak with your children’s teachers.
  • Let them know you value family time in your home, and you don’t appreciate losing this precious time to makework homework.
  • Make a clear distinction between learning to do research or studying for tests, on the one hand, and pointless busywork, on the other.
  • Discuss the need to change our school calendar to keep up with competition in the global marketplace.
  • Parents and teachers should work together as partners. Let your partners know you’re an active participant, and you expect your concerns to be taken seriously.

3. Contact Your School Board.

  • In most places, School Board members are elected officials. Reach out to them and let them know your concerns.
  • Let them know you have seen past the myth of homework. You know that overwhelming children with makework homework is not a sign of a good education.
  • Emphasize the need for family time at home free of useless busywork.
  • Call for a modification of our school calendar to catch up with other countries.
  • Don’t get discouraged when your first efforts are dismissed. Moving bureaucracies to change is difficult, but not impossible. Pace yourself, and don’t give up.
  • The above goes for your state’s Department of Education, too.

4. Use Your Tools.

  • Share this article on Facebook. Tweet it. Stumble it. Spread the word.

You are not alone in feeling that our children need to be unburdened from most if not all of their take-home busywork. They deserve more family time today and a better chance at success tomorrow. You can help make “Less Homework” a reality in schools everywhere. Do it.

 

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