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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.

Fifth grader wants to know: How do I get my BFF back?!

October 29, 2014

I met Beth Engleman (@Momonastring) back in 2002 when we worked together on a project at LeapFrog. Smart woman. Quick to smile. Liked her immediately. Twelve years later she’s rocking it out at

Last Friday Beth kindly hosted a stop on The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship blog tour and challenged me with sticky questions from 4th-7th graders. This one touched my heart:

Is this really the end?

Is this really the end?

M: I am in 5th grade and my best friend since 1st grade is now hanging out with a new girl who moved to our school this year. They often don’t include me. What should I do to get my BFF back?

Annie: It can be very upsetting when someone you were once so close to now acts like the friendship isn’t important. It can be disappointing and confusing when a friend doesn’t treat you with the care and respect you deserve. It can also hurt when someone “new” shows up and seems to be taking your place in your friend’s heart.

You seem to think that you can do something to get your BFF “back.” Maybe if you had a magic wand and a handy spell you might be able to turn the friendship back to the way it was. That would be cool, but that’s not going to happen. You don’t need me to tell you that there are no such things as wands and spells. Your friend has her own thoughts and feelings and there is nothing you can do to get her to “include” you unless she chooses to do it! 

But even without magic, you are not powerless. There are always options for improving a situation, especially for lightening up the heavy way you feel right now. You are hurting. You may also be feeling jealous (of the new girl) and/or lonely. If your goal is to feel better, then you could talk to your friend (privately and calmly… you don’t need an audience or any drama). You might say something like this, “I really miss hanging out with you. I miss the good times we used to have. I feel left out when you and _____ do stuff without me.” That’s the truth and it is often empowering to speak the truth. Saying the words will give your friend something to think about. If the friendship grows stronger, then it was a good thing that you spoke up for yourself. If things between you do not change and the girls continue not including you, then it was still good that you spoke up. Now you know that you deserve to be treated with respect. Take what you’ve learned and be on the look-out for new friends. Good luck!

Check out the rest of Beth’s Q’s and my A’s and the rest of the blog tour.

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA


Day 18: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Where’s my social courage?)

October 18, 2013

It's right there and it's already yours

If doing the right thing were easy it would be called A Day at the Beach. Instead it’s call social courage and it’s often missing in action when we need it. Why is that? Because we’re as wired for peer approval as we are for empathy. If your gut says you ought to stand up for the underdog or for tolerance but your peeps aren’t into that stuff, you’re going to feel stuck. You might wonder: “Do I shut up and play it safe? (Those who don’t try, never look foolish.) Or should I speak up and risk ridicule (or worse)?”

If you’ve ever had someone regale you with offensive jokes, maybe you’ve experienced this dilemma. I have. And while the guy across the table blithely displayed his racism, sexism and homophobia, I mentally screamed my righteous indignation. But did I say anything to Mr. I. M. A. Jerk? Nope. Chickened out. Kept my mouth shut. And felt deeply ashamed of myself for weeks.

Like I said, sometimes it’s hard for adults to do the right thing. Imagine how much harder it can be for kids.

Like this 6th grader:

Hey Terra, When I’m with my friends I don’t behave. And even though I don’t want to act cool and kinda mean, I have no other choice! I don’t wanna be with them any more. But if I leave to be with nicer girls, they’ll call me names like “You’re a user.” HELP! —Maggie

Dear Maggie,

I can tell you are a good-hearted person because you are bothered by the way your friends are acting. You don’t feel right being mean. Your self-awareness is your friend. It’s your Inner Voice. Listen closely and it can guide you in the direction of being a good person.

I understand it’s scary to leave one group and go to another. Especially if you’re worried that your old friends may turn their meanness on you! That might happen. And it might not. But what are your choices? If you stay with these girls and continue to doing things to hurt other people you’ll add to the bullying and meanness in your school. Your school already has plenty of that social garbage and doesn’t need any more. Also, if you stick with these friends you will lose respect for yourself. You don’t ever want to lose that.

On the other hand, if you leave this group to be with “nicer” girls, you will add to what is good about your school. You’ll feel happier and more relaxed. You’ll feel proud of yourself.

The choice is yours. Good luck!

In friendship,


See Day 21 of the Kindness and Respect Challenge



Day 14: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Keep your head)

October 14, 2013

At the start of middle school my best friend ditched me for a popular new girl. Confusion turned to shock, hurt and then anxiety when Popular Girl got my ex-BFF (and pretty much the rest of the class) to turn against me. They teased me, started rumors, blamed me for stuff. I was drowning in a sea of social garbage with no clue what to do to help myself.

Getting to know you... and myself

When our teacher announced we were putting on The King and I, Popular Girl and ex-BFF let all the girls know they had the two female leads sewn up and no one else need apply. Despite their mind-games, I tried out for the lead role of Anna. Looking back, that took guts… and stupidity. Oh, I knew I could sing (though no one else did at that point), and I had confidence in my acting ability, but I also knew none of it mattered because the other students would be “voting” on the cast. Screw ability, it was going to be a popularity contest. I didn’t have a chance.

We each auditioned for the roles we wanted. Then we all voted. By some twist of fate, I got the lead.

Playing “I” in the King and I provided life-altering education. For the first time, I found something I could do well that transported me into someone else’s life. And through my performance I could take an audience along with me. Magic! So began my life-long passion for theater. And since Anna was a teacher, it may also have started me thinking about the delights of working with children. The role was challenging and joyful, but dealing with the off-stage drama in class was very hard.

Thank goodness for Rudyard Kipling. He was another part of 6th grade that’s still with me because our teacher required us to memorize and recite Kipling’s, If. Line after line that poem served as my life-preserver during that Year of Social Garbage.

That’s why, whenever I get emails from girls and guys suffering at the hands of enemies, friends and “fren-emies” I think of this bit of wisdom from Kipling:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs, and blaming it on you.

Or this:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or this:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise

Today’s challenge… keep your head about you.

Check out Day 15 of the Kindness and Respect Challenge


Day 10: Kindness and Respect Challenge (R-E-S-P-E-C-T) Part 2

October 10, 2013

In case you missed yesterday’s episode, you might want to take a minute to read the email from the teen whose friendship with her bff made her feel like a prisoner “in jail.” She wanted out, but didn’t know how to find the exit. I advised her to talk to her friend and take a vacation from the friendship.

Here’s what happened next:

Hey Terra,
Thank you very much! I’ve already told her today but things got all crazy. I said that I don’t want to be her best friend anymore, just want to be an ordinary friend to her. But I think she got it all wrong. Guess what she did?? She bad-mouthed me to my other friends!! She created bad stories about me! None of it was true! I hate her and exams are next week but my head just can’t focus!! Help!

Now What?!

Dear Now What,

I’m not surprised she turned against you.  She hasn’t been acting like a real friend for a while. This is just more of the same… with the volume cranked up. If your other friends believe the lies she made up and turn against you too, they’re not acting like real friends either. You deserve so much better.

I understand this is hard. We all want to be liked. We want people to say only good things and think only good thoughts about us. But no one has the remote controller for anyone else’s mouth or brain. People say what they want to say and think what they want to think. People also believe exactly what they choose to believe. You’ve got no control over any of it. Zero. But…you can choose not to let this upset you so much. Your ex-bff and the other girls have no power over you unless you give away your power to them.

You need to relax so you can study for your exams… and do your best. Every time you catch yourself thinking about the social garbage these girls are creating and spreading around, STOP… and take some slow deep breaths. Here’s how:
Inhale slowly and evenly through your nose (Try it right now)….
Then relax your jaw, open your mouth and slowly and evenly exhale.
(Go ahead.)
Repeat the cycle.
Inhale (and think “I am breathing IN….”)
Exhale (and think “I am breathing OUT…”
Close your eyes and continue breathing, slowly and mindfully.
SMILE (Go ahead. Even a half smile will do)

From now on, whenever you catch yourself getting sucked back into this silly drama or the next one, stop and breathe.  Re-center. Be kind to yourself. Be respectful of your power for good. Be here.

I hope this helps. Good luck with your exams.

In friendship,

A few days later I heard back from her one more time:

Thanks a bunch! (= it really helps.



See Day 11.

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