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.

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.

 

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Parenting Question: How can I help my child deal with rejection?

August 21, 2015

"Why doesn't she want to be my friend anymore?"

“Why doesn’t she want to be my friend anymore?”

Today’s question comes from the mom of a 12-year-old who is feeling her daughter’s pain at being rejected by a long-time bff.

How can I help my daughter deal with rejection? Her friend of six years has a new best friend. My daughter is hurt and desperately trying to win her friend back. What can I do to help her accept that sometimes friends move on?

Rejection comes up a lot in life, so we get lots of practice dealing with it. Either we didn’t get chosen for the team or didn’t get into the school we wanted or didn’t get the job we interviewed for. These are as “institutional” rejections. They sting, but at least they are not truly personal. This 12-year-old is grappling with a very personal form of rejection, being ditched by a close friend who has moved on into the embrace of a new bff. Ouch!

When we talk to our kids about feelings of rejection it’s important to give them a chance to talk about it. “I feel bad! What did I do wrong? Why doesn’t she want to be my friend any more?!” These aren’t necessarily questions that require answers from you. A child asking these questions is most helped by a parent who listens with compassion and patience and understanding. But when this girl talks to Mom about “trying to win her friend back” that is when a parent ought to do more than listen and empathize.

The daughter seems to believe she can change her friend’s mind. Mom can help by providing a  reality check (compassionately, of course). Mom needs to tell her there are certain things in life that we can control and certain things we can’t. In the area of what we can’t control: the thoughts, feelings and behavior of other people. In the area of what we can control: our response to what’s going on inside and out.

If someone were to kick me in the shins, I’d yell “Ow!” because it hurt. If someone says, “I don’t want to be your friend” that’s going to hurt, too. But how long will it hurt? And how many times will I play over in my mind those hurtful words? If I’m a healthy, resilient child or adult, I won’t replay it much. Why re-hash something when the hash didn’t taste great to begin with?

Talk to your children about the concept of re-hashing negative thoughts and mental movies. Then say to your child, “Sweetheart, you already have what it takes to be a good friend. You were Emma’s best friend for six years! And that is a great accomplishment. But friendships don’t always last forever.” Now would be a good time to remind your child of the friend she was close to in preschool or third grade who, now in sixth grade, is no longer a close friend. That might help her understand the evolution of feelings and friendships.

My best advice for helping children dealing with rejection:

a) Let kids express how they feel without your interrupting, correcting, or invalidating those feelings.

b) Prompt kids to think and talk about what, if anything, they might have done to contribute to the rejection. Relationships are a two-way street and it’s good for them to acknowledge what they might have done or failed to do to keep the friendship healthy and strong.

c) Brainstorm with kids about how they might respond next time they are rejected. It’s important for them to recognize they always have options in the way they behave.

d) Encourage them to think about a candidate who might become their next best friend.

These conversations will empower your child. It will also strengthen your bond and help your child become more resilient.

 

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Defense Against the Dark Side: Where’s Harry Potter When We Need Him?

April 23, 2015

A Good Use of Power

A Good Use of Power

In our 40 years together, David and I have read many books. Add another hundred or so books on tape we’ve consumed on road trips. Yep, we’re addicted to good stories. So it wasn’t too weird when, after a business trip to Florida and a side trip to Universal’s Wizarding World, we decided to re-read all the Harry Potter books… aloud… to each other.

Starting in mid-December, I’d read a couple chapters over breakfast each morning. At dinner, with wine and candlelight, I’d read another chapter or so. If we were driving for more than 20 minutes in any direction, I’d read aloud in the car. (Yes, I can do that without barfing. Lucky me.) At the end of each day we’d watch the film adaptation of the current book, making sure to stop when we got to a new part (i.e., a section of film we hadn’t yet read.)

To date we’ve completed six books and six films. (When we get into something we really get into it.) We’re now half-way through Book 7.

Ever since the kids of Hogwarts took their education into their own hands, I’ve been thinking about the Dark Arts as it relates to the dark side of humanity. While we rarely hear about jinxes or debilitating spells, we’re plenty aware of public humiliation and shaming in social media. Character assasination is a curse, high on the list of Dark Arts. So how do we defend ourselves against the real and present danger of social garbage? How do we teach our kids to defend themselves, online and off, from the hostility of their peers? Where is Harry Potter when we need him?

When I think about what it means to defend oneself, I picture someone standing up for their rights or the rights of others and actively fighting back against the vitriol. But there is inherent danger when one uses vitriol to fight vitriol. The weapon we use has the power to infect us and make us more and more like the perpetrators we seek to vanquish. We can so easily become the enemy. Doing the right thing in a good way isn’t easy.

How do you help your children defend themselves against the prevailing Culture of Cruelty? How do you teach them not to succumb to its ways? Post here and let’s get into it. You can also follow my tweets at @Annie_Fox and @GirlDramaChat. Every Friday you can join the conversation as I host #girldramachat, a weekly Twitter chat (11AM PST) to help parents/teachers/counselors support girls thru friendship drama w/compassion, respect & social courage.

 

 

 

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Go on! Love yourself. There’s so much that’s ‘right’ with you.

February 8, 2015

Unchain my heart to love myself more

Unchain my heart to love myself more

We are so loving this current downpour in parched Marin. Feel like sending the rain gods a Valentine.

The big count down to V-Day has begun. Most of us have been brought up on the notion that Valentine’s Day is for lovers. And, yeah, it is. But here’s the thing, if you don’t love yourself, it’s gonna be hard to really love someone else. Also, if you don’t love yourself, you’re going to have trouble recognizing love coming at you… and an even tougher time accepting and savoring it.

That’s why I’m writing about self-love today. Specifically, how hard it can be for tweens and teens to get excited about being who they are when so many of their peers, family members and The Media conspire to convince them they aren’t “__________ enough.” (Not thin enough, smart enough, cool enough, hot enough… not GOOD enough!) That’s such monumental BS and yet, most middle and high school students buy it and dig right in with fork and spoon. Hell, most adults believe they’re not good enough. Good enough for what?! That’s what I’d like to know.

I got an email from a teen who was super upset because she isn’t “tall enough”. Read on…

I’m a 16 years old girl and only 5’1″ tall. People always make fun of me specially guys. I sometimes cry. Before, I was really confident and I didn’t mind being short, but now it really hurts me. My mother refused to take me to a doctor so he would give me some type of medicine to help with my shortness, although she knows how much I hate my height! What can I do? – Too Short

Dear Too Short,

I understand what it’s like to be short. I am 5’2” tall myself. Not a giant! You say that people “always” make fun of you. Really? Always? You say “before” you were really confident and “didn’t mind being short.” What changed your level of self-confidence? Was it going to a new school or was it one person who suddenly started giving you a hard time?

In friendship,
Terra

Hey Terra,

I always get teased when someone asks me about my height, not always whenever they see me. What changed my self-confidence was one boy who gave me a hard time, but I started to ignore him and not care at all. – Too Short

Dear Too Short,

Smart move to ignore that boy. By doing that you took away his power to upset you. Whenever anyone asks you about your height in a rude way, as in “How come you are so short?” (People can be unbelievably insensitive!) consider answering with the plain and simple truth… “Genetics.” Then on to something else. A person’s height is a fairly boring topic of conversation, isn’t it? If that’s all someone can manage to talk about, well, he or she is probably not a very inspiring companion! ;O)

btw, I’ve got a friend whose daughter is also 16 and not quite 5 feet tall. I reached out to them to see if they had some advice for you. Here’s what they wrote:

From the mom:

We realized very early that Angela was smaller than everyone else. People would look disturbed because she was tiny but had an incredible vocabulary. Our doctor assured us everything was fine and to let her grow at her own pace. When she was eight a doctor friend suggested we just check because certain medical conditions are identified because of short stature. One test lead to hundreds of doctor appointments and she does have a medical condition. This year our daughter argued that the benefits of staying on the medication outweighed the risks – she wants to be 5’3″ and is barely five feet. It took a few weeks, X-rays, and the doctor delving deeper into the risks associated with growth hormones for my daughter to concede and accept she’s hit her maximum height potential. It does make her sad sometimes, but the fact that she could have only been 3’9″ if we hadn’t taken action makes us (and her) embrace her height.

If you can discuss how you feel, your parents need to listen. It is worth the visit to the doctor cross off any other issues that could be behind the height deficiency.

Angela always thought the other kids were foolish because they teased her about something she knew she couldn’t help. For every negative remark she has heard people say about her, she immediately called out something good about herself …even if she fell back on “being nice” over and over. To this day – at 16, she still says this. Angela has some advice for you. She says you should “focus on the strength and beauty then write it down and keep it in a place you can refer to.” Angela did this at age 8 and she still has it today. Angela learned to own the beauty in her petiteness:

– I can climb a tree higher than anyone else and see where the birds live
– I’m petite like Mary Lou Retton and other gymnasts
– I have ADHD like Michael Phelps and look what he did!
– I can curl up easily in airplane seats!
– Not many boys want a girl taller than them, so I’ll always have that

Thinking positively can take practice, but once the feelings become familiar, you can embrace and celebrate your good!

I hope this advice from Angela and her mom helps.

In friendship,
Terra

Hey Terra,

My mom finally agreed to let me see a doctor, although she’s so scared from the side effects, but at the same time, she wants me to feel good about myself. After I read Angela’s mom’s message I felt so much better and I think that Angela is such a strong girl. I wish her good luck in reaching her goals. She’s such an inspiration. And I seriously should start thinking more positively and focus on what’s beautiful in me.

I will do what you told me to do, and of course it is a boring topic. People should care about the personality more than anything else. Again thank you, and Angela, and her mom for giving me such great advice when I needed help. You made me feel much better. –Just Right the Way I Am

Dear Just Right,

We are very glad to have helped you. Any time!

In friendship,
Terra

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As we come up on the Day of Love, here’s a delicious truth for you and your children to enjoy: You already are more than good enough for everything that matters. As for the stuff that doesn’t really matter, let it go. Then make yourself a Valentine.

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