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.

Enjoying a family vacation with teens (yes, you can!)

July 30, 2012

Gotta admit, this is cool!

We started taking long road trips with our kids when they were still in car seats. As a family, international travel began when our daughter was 10 and our son was 5. As a 7th grader we noticed our daughter’s tolerance for being away from her friends was noticeably lower. Keeping her (and the rest of us) happy while being away from home for more than a week took some serious rethinking. Here’s what we learned works best.

  1. Get input from your teens about your vacation destination — Obviously if you’re expected at a family reunion, then that’s where you’re going. But if you haven’t finalized your plans, let the kids in on the discussion. They might not get the same voting power as the adults, but if they feel respected and listened to then you’ll get teens with a positive attitude. That’s worth all the souvenirs in the world!
  2. Be realistic about how long you’ll be gone – If you’ve got a really social teen boy or girl, two weeks away may be torturous. Remember: A teen’s world doesn’t revolve around her friends it revolves because of her friends. Remove her from her social circle for too long and her world screeches to a standstill and she’ll make you pay for how isolated and miserable she’s feeling!
  3. Encourage each family member to decide what they’d like to do for part of each day — This practice works great as long as you’ve got this ground rule in place: if anyone mopes around during someone else’s chosen activity, then the party pooper loses his/her right to choose an activity that day. Even when our son was 5, he’d be cooperative for just about anything knowing that in a few hours he’d have his chance. He also realized that being an unwilling participant took away from everyone’s fun, including his. If a 5 year old can make that connection, your teen certainly can!
  4. Maintain schedules — Schedules create a rhythm for the day. That reduces some of the inevitable stress of being away from home. Your teens may not admit this, but they feel security (and comfort) knowing that at 7 PM the family sits down to dinner. Without getting rigid about it, a sleep schedule’s important too. Sure you’re on vacation, but if teens don’t go to sleep at a reasonable hour then they’re likely to sleep past noon (or later) and that’s probably going to:
    • irritate everyone else who wants to get an early start
    • compel you to drag your Sleeping Prince(ss) out of bed forcing everyone else to put up with a foul-tempered, sleep-deprived adolescent
  5. Get novels on tape or CD for road trips — If the books are well chosen (mysteries are great) then getting back in the car for 8 more hours can actually be something everyone looks forward to (got to find out what happens next in the story!).
  6. Factor in jet lag — Traveling internationally or just across the country? Jet lag can really knock you off balance for a day or more. At its worst, jet lag can make you feel like you’ve been flattened by a steamroller then injected with a flu virus. Studies show that people with strong internal clocks (circadian rhythms) are most susceptible to jet lag. Got any of those in your family? If necessary, go easy with activities for the first day or so. To prevent jet lag, here are some tips: drink water in flight, avoid alcohol and caffeine, and walk around the cabin periodically. There are also some homeopathic remedies available in health food stores that some people swear by. One that we’ve had great success with is appropriately called “No Jet-Lag” and is available at many health food stores, or can be ordered online.

    Harrods, London

    You wanna shop? Right this way...

  7. Explore your new environment as a family, but pace yourself — Feel compelled to see every single thing listed in the guidebook? If it feels like you’re rushing around then you probably are. So temper your expectations and slow down, you may see less but you’ll also stress less and enjoy things more.
  8. Give yourself permission to abandon some of your attitudes — Vacations take you out of the norm, so they’re great times for self-exploration. If you (and your teens) choose not to limit yourselves with normally strong opinions (“I don’t like boats.” “I never eat anything with coconut in it.”), you can become a “freer” you, at least for a while. And who knows? It might help everyone in the family to become more openhearted, open-minded on a permanent basis.
  9. Keep a family travel journal — Words can capture a completely different kind of memory than photos. Interactions between people you passed on the street, a conversation with a shopkeeper, etc. At the end of every travel day you might come together and talk about what each of you found memorable. Everyone is bound to have a different perspective of the day. That’s part of what makes this “debriefing” so interesting! The person with the best handwriting can take the job of “transcriber” while everyone takes a turn dictating his/her most memorable part of the day. We started doing this on our first trip to Europe in 1990 and we’ve had wonderful times over the years, rereading sections of our travel journals to each other.
  10. Relax — You’re on vacation. Consciously choose to leave stress-related worries at home (they’ll be fine without you). Give your mind as well as your body a chance to regain equilibrium. When you’re not stressing you show your best side to your family. The way I see it, that’s the best part of any family vacation.

Whether you and your family have a far away journey in store, or some day-trips close to home, enjoy your time together, be safe, and happy travels!

Filed under: Parenting,Tips — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 10:40 am

The Summer Olympics – A family learning experience

July 27, 2012

Let the Games begin... Peace!

Eight years ago (how’s that possible?!) I was hired to create lesson plans for a middle school advisory program. For those unfamiliar with “advisory,” typically it’s a weekly class  in which small groups of 6th-8th graders come together with a teacher for conversations about social-emotional challenges. Topics might include: body image, peer pressure, conflict resolution, etc. Since that year’s school calendar coincided with the start the ’04 Summer Olympics I created a couple of Olympic themed lesson plans. I was reminded of them this morning and thought you might like to use some of these ideas this evening as you and your family enjoy the opening ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The Olympics Part 1
Educational objective – Understand a bit about the Olympic games as a historic tradition and appreciate them as a model for goal setting, team work, international goodwill.

Some background to share with your kids: Greece was the home of the first Olympics more than 2500 years ago. In the ancient Games, only free men who spoke Greek could compete. Today’s modern Olympics are open to male & female athletes from all over the world. Ask your kids: How is that an improvement over the ancient form?

Watch the Opening Ceremonies on TV and see how many different countries are represented in the Parade of Nations. Find as many as you can on a map.

In ancient times winning athletes received a crown made from olive leaves and they were treated like sports celebrities. ASK: What can Olympic athletes win today?

Ancient Olympic events only included foot races, boxing, wrestling, discus throwing. This year’s Summer Olympics will include 26 sports with 36 disciplines and about 300 events (including archery, weightlifting, Tai Kwondo, volleyball and or course, all kinds of track and swimming events) Women’s Boxing has been added for the first time. ASK: What’s your favorite Olympic event? Talk about why each person in the family likes the sport you do.
EMPHASIZE: All Olympic athletes have short & long term goals. In the same way that each of us has goals, during the summer and throughout the school year. Athletes also have a Game Plan that includes: Daily practice. Work with coach. A support network.

Part 2

Educational objective – Increase awareness of the personal achievements of individual athletes who’ve made it to the Olympics through perseverance and the support they get from coaches, family, teammates.

To make it to the Olympics, you need 2 things. Perseverance is one. ASK: What does perseverance mean?  (Steady and continuous work toward a goal, despite difficulties or setbacks.)

ASK: What does this quotation mean to you? “Constant dripping hollows out a stone.” (Lucretius)  (Keep at it and you will make progress.)

EMPHASIZE: All the Olympic athletes worked very hard for years. It takes perseverance to achieve a goal. So even if they don’t win a medal, they have achieved an impressive goal of getting to the Games.

The other thing the athletes need is support. ASK: What does support mean?  (To give active help and encouragement.)

EMPHASIZE: Perseverance can only come from you. It’s your effort that will help you achieve your goals at school and in life. Support is the help you get from others. ASK:  Who are your supporters, at home? At school?

I hope this helps you bring something extra to your family’s enjoyment of the Olympics. Let the Games begin!



AIDS WALK San Francisco 2012

July 22, 2012

Where the day began...

Last Sunday David and I joined the 26th Annual AIDS WALK San Francisco. We wanted to show support for the ongoing efforts of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, a powerhouse organization that has, for the past 30 years, been working to “end the HIV epidemic in the city where it began– and eventually everywhere.”

The 10K walk through Golden Gate Park was an easy enough thing for us to do. So was raising $625 from friends and family who were all there, virtually, walking with our BeTheChange Team. A big hug from me to you! Also, major props go to the AIDS WALK organizers for their impressive job (providing water, snacks, port-o-potties, doggie drinking stations, an army of encouraging volunteers, and phenomenal entertainment along the route). For them, this could not have been a “walk in the park” but because of their tremendous work, it was just that, a fabulous walk in the park, for David and me, and our 20,000 new friends. It felt awesome to be part of something so important and so… good.

Here are some of the sights from along the WALK:

Part of the AIDS Quilt

So many lives cut short by HIV/AIDS

This corporate team showed their true colors

As far as the eye can see, people walking for change

Yet another reason we love SF!

We're here to help!

Together we are unstoppable

This year’s AIDS WALK SF raised almost $2.7 million! And that number is growing because you can still contribute to our Team BeTheChange until Friday, August 10th.  Why not kick in a few bucks while you’re right here at the computer? David and I would be so appreciative. And by donating to SF AIDS Foundation, you too can be part of something big… without the blisters!

Thanks for being part of Team BeTheChange!


Self-respect: The anti-bullying drug

July 14, 2012

Here’s the final installment of this ‘expert’s‘ 4-part Bing Summer of Doing series. (Bing’s got lots of cool stuff happening through Sunday, but since the word of the week is Giving, tomorrow David and I are doing the AIDS WALK SF, so no blog from me. If you’ve missed anything I’ve served up on this shift, check out the blogs from Monday (Giving), Wednesday (Unplugging)  and Friday (Urban Gardening). Today we’re talking Anti-bullying, so let’s get at it.

Bing Summer of Doing - Be nice, do nice

When stuff comes up between real friends, they show how much they value the friendship by working things out. That can be especially hard when Friend A crosses the line (knowingly or un) and Friend B is upset. But with real friends it’s worth the effort it takes to talk and listen and understand each other’s point of view.

Friendships get damaged when stuff that needs to be said is left unsaid. Unexpressed emotions don’t just fade away. Often they work like acid, silently eating away at a relationship’s foundation. We start doubting our friend’s intentions. We look for evidence to reinforce our doubts while demanding reassurances that our doubts are ungrounded. We talk about the friend instead of talking to him/her. If you’re beyond middle school, you know this crap never helps. It only makes things worse.

Kids with the stickiest peer relationship issues are 6th and 7th graders. Their interpersonal challenges have become increasingly complex. Unfortunately, their ability to resolve conflicts in their multi-tiered friendship doesn’t match the challenges they face. And so it goes in the 21st century. We communicate with more people, but the way we do it, through texting, chatting and tweeting, increases the likelihood of miscommunication, which leads to hurt, jealousy, betrayal, retaliation, AKA social garbage. Unless we learn to effectively resolve conflicts with the folks we like, we’re not going to be able to stand up for ourselves with truly aggressive people, i.e., bullies.

The following question was asked of me by a 6th grader:

What do you do if your friend is bullying you and you don’t want to hurt them?

Sounds like you’re getting hurt by a friend but aren’t willing to stand up for yourself. You’ve got to learn to be your own best friend. That means acting like you deserve to be treated with respect. This new self-respecting attitude won’t guarantee respect from others, but it does mean that when people treat you badly, you  let them know it’s not OK.

You say you’re being hurt but you don’t want to “hurt” your friend by telling him/her to cut it out. I understand your hesitation. Nobody likes to be told that they’re out of line. Your friend might get mad at you and that’s never pleasant. S/he might say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” In which case you’re left feeling confused and embarrassed. Your friend might even accuse you of trying to “ruin” the friendship and may turn other friends against you. OR… s/he might stop and think about what you’ve just said and make some positive changes. That would be a good thing, right? But when we stay silent about things that are bothering us, the person who is ‘bullying’ continues to bully. Things usually just stay the same or get worse. But when we’re brave enough to risk standing up for ourselves (or for others who are being mistreated) we open the door for change.

Back to the question from the 6th grader. How would you have handled that situation when you were 11? How does the question and my advice, apply to any of your current relationships? Funny how our middle school experience can sometimes feel like it all happened in another lifetime… to someone else. Or it can feel like we’re still right there. sigh.

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