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.

Cure for obessive teen love?

July 16, 2014

Who gets to break my heart without my permission?

Who gets to break my heart without my permission?

Breaking up is hard to do. And painful. Hopefully, though, there were good times before the relationship tanked, so at least you’ve got some happy memories. On the other hand, if you’re obsessed with someone who was never nice to you, well, that’s just pain on pain. No one needs that.

Recently got an email from a girl in that dark place. Read on…

My heart aches for him and I really want to move, but I find myself checking his instagram, facebook, and all other social media  just to see him.  I cant let go, even though I want to so bad. I’m torn between wanting him to want me and wanting to forget about him completely. It’s been almost a year. I just hate this obsession. What do I do? –So Stuck

Dear So Stuck,

The truth may hurt, but I’ve got to say it anyway. This guy doesn’t care about you, That’s the way it is. You may wish things were different, but all the wishing in the Known Universe and beyond will not change fact.

Here’s something else that’s true: You deserve someone who wants to be with you as much as you want to be with him. This guy is not The One. The sooner you accept it, the sooner you will find The One (Maybe during this coming school year! There’s an exciting thought!)

In the meantime, you’ve got to stop checking up on this guy. It’s a total waste of the summer and, more important, it’s bringing you down. You have gotten into an unhealthy habit here, but you can get back in control. Here’s how:

1. Make an agreement with yourself to stop stalking him.

2. Whenever you get the thought, “I’ll just check his instagram, FB, etc.” notice that thought. 

3. Imagine the device you’re holding is burning hot. Get your hands off the darn thing right now this minute! 

4. Close your eyes and BREATHE mindfully. Inhale slowly and evenly through your nose. Then relax your jaw and exhale, slowly and evenly through your mouth. Repeat 5 times….. S-L-O-W-L-Y.

5. Did you do it? If not, what are you waiting for? Do it now.

6. After breathing, the urge to “check on him” should be less intense. If not, breathe some more. If it is less, congrats! You got yourself back in control. Well done. You know how to do this. And you’ll probably get lots of practice. Whenever you feel the urge to check up on him, think “Fire!!! Will not get burned again. Hands up! Breathe…”

7. Go do something you enjoy. Something away from the phone or computer with people you like who like you back.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,
Terra

 

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A compassionate nudge

May 14, 2014

Let me try to make it better

Let me try to make it better

Unless this is your first visit here, you know I’m all about teaching kids to be good people. What form of “goodness” am I after? Who cares? Good is good. Let’s not quibble.

If I had to choose one flavor of goodness over another, however, I’d say I’m partial to the kind that connects us to the suffering of others with a grip so powerful that we simply cannot resist the temptation to do something to try to make the other guy feel better. This is compassion. Not complicated and yet, in many homes, schools, city streets, compassion seems to be MIA. Why is that? I’ve got a theory. (Unless this is your first visit, you also know I’m very generous with my theories.)

OK, here’s how it works: Within me (and each of you) is a vat overflowing with opinions, assumptions, fears and all the rest of what I secretly stockpile and use to avoid doing the right thing, which is often a scary thing but at the same time, a good thing. Submerged under the fearsome muck lies a luminous pearl. When you pull the plug and let the bubbling crude drain out of the vat, (which just takes an instant because the conscious act of pulling the plug awakens you to the fact that while your inventory is er… interesting, it’s not really you at all) the pearl emerges and vaporizes your resistance to acting compassionately. Which is a helluva lot more helpful than sitting on your butt and simply feeling compassionate.

Speaking of compassionate acts, I’m reading Glennon Melton’s book Carry on, Warrior. (Great writing. Great book. Read it!) When I came to this part in which Glennon writes a letter to her son preparing him for the social garbage he might encounter in 3rd grade, I stopped and smiled. See if it doesn’t have the same effect on you:

“Compassion might lead you to tell a teaser to stop it and then ask the teased kid to play. You might invite a left-out kid to sit next to you at lunch. You might choose a kid for your team first who usually gets chosen last. These things will be hard to do, but you can do hard things.”

Yep. We can do hard things that help each other. Lucky we have this ability because this trip we’re all on is hard. If it was easy (were easy… thank you, Mom) they’d call it a Day at the Beach. Instead they call it LIFE. So keep your hand on the plug and apply compassion as needed.

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National Unplug Day – Time to pull it

March 7, 2014

You can do it. Just yank.

You can do it. Just yank.

It’s official. We’re now all so connection addicted we need a National Unplug Day (March 7-8) to remind us that life is not virtual. I’m thrilled because I know the difference a (national) day makes. What paltry lives we’d live were it not for:

  • National Beer Can Appreciation Day (Jan 24)
  • National Lost Sock Memorial Day (May 9) 
  • National Be Bald and Be Free Day (Oct 14)

Or the one I just declared: National Control Your Destructive Emotions  When Your Dog Has Eaten Your Favorite Gloves for the SECOND Time Day!!! (March 1)

Breathing….. ahhhh….. I think I’m OK now.

I am unplugging at sundown this evening through sundown mañana. Join me. Be prepared for push-back from your family (especially tweens and teens). But you know, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Any amount of unplugged time you commit to, as a family, benefits the family. (Sleeping doesn’t count.) Unplugging creates unique non-digital opportunities for your family to:

Look into each other’s eyes– Unplugging clears our vision and helps us see and understand our children and partners. Understanding often leads to empathy and love. Or it may lead to confusion and frustration which can be resolved with a family meeting. (Another great use of unplugged time.)

Have fun together – Remember face-to-face laughter? How good it feels to enjoy each other’s company? This doesn’t happen with a screen between us. Get creative. Use your imagination. Model what that looks like and encourage your children to use theirs. Be inspired by what this 11 year old did with cardboard!  Be together, as a family, without a keyboard. Let loose and laugh.

Problem solve together – In the next 24 hours how about playing a strategy game? Or brainstorm and work together on that back-burnered home improvement project? With music and a team spirit, even painting a room or clearing out closets can be fun! (Don’t forget to donate the discarded toys and clothes.)  

There is fungus among us and it's beautiful!

There is fungus among us and it’s beautiful!

Get out in nature – When was the last time you and the kids took a walk, a hike, a bike ride together? How about getting out there and exploring the real world this weekend? Last time I looked, it’s still pretty awesome… and all 3D rendered!

Get to know each other – Our teens are  rapidly morphing into adult versions of themselves. Not always easy for them or us. Disconnecting from technology helps us connect with our children so they get more of our love,  support and guidance. They need this time with us. We do to.

Ready. Set. Unplug! Have fun and let me know how it goes.

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Talking about talking trash

January 30, 2014

It seems like we’re always swimming in social garbage – everything from the “just kidding” remarks from so-called friends to the snarky comments from people who hate you (online and off). When it comes to social garbage all of us have had it dumped on us. And all of us have dumped it on others. Weird thing, though, when I talk to students they all wish their school was a place where they could  be accepted for who they are… without all that other crap.

So how do we get there from where we are now? How do we get everyone (including ourselves) to wake up and smell the garbage? This excerpt from my book, Teaching Kids to Be Good People, gives you some new ways to think about gossip, rumors and what it takes to clean up your act.

Don’t Add to the Garbage

Hey, this is our park!

Hey, this is our park!

Up our street lies Faudé Park. Undeveloped except for some narrow trails carved into the hill, this 13.5 acre community treasure offers a mini-retreat to everyone wandering through. When David and I first ventured up to Faudé’s highest point, we were delighted by the knockout view of Mt. Tamalpais. We were also depressed by the thick carpet of broken beer bottles tossed by partygoers who obviously enjoyed the “natural” environment. (A trashcan sits 20 feet from the peak. But hey, the ground’s handier, right?)

David and I aren’t neat freaks. Far from it. But we hated seeing all that glass in such a beautiful setting, so we started cleaning it up. The first day we spent 30 minutes picking up the biggest chunks of glass. When we returned a week later, new chunks replaced some of what we removed. But we weren’t deterred. Over the next several months, we kept picking up glass.

At some point things began to change. Weekend revelers stopped tossing bottles on the ground. Maybe because they could now see the ground! Or maybe the beauty of the park became apparent and now they decided it wasn’t cool to mess it up. Can’t say for sure, but whatever the reason, David and I were happy with the change and didn’t mind taking a little credit for getting things rolling in the right direction.

Turns out the trends we observed at the park reflect a bona fide sociological phenomenon called the broken windows theory. Apparently, the more rundown a neighborhood becomes, the more likely people will break windows in abandoned buildings, graffiti walls, and litter. The crime rate increases too. Conversely, when a neighborhood gets cleaned up, everything improves.

The turnaround at Faudé Park happened years ago, but I’m pleased to report that as of my walk this morning, the overlook is still totally free of garbage. Of course, not all garbage is equal, and the kind infecting most schools, aka social garbage, is of the invisible yet more toxic variety.

I frequently ask students: “If you walk into a room already littered with trash, is it OK to toss your candy wrapper on the floor?” Some kids will say, “Sure, it’s OK.” Why? Because “everyone else is doing it and you won’t get in trouble.”

Then I ask, “If the floor is clean, is it still OK to toss your trash?” Now most kids will say no. But a few kids are likely to let me know it’s never OK to add to the garbage. Which is when I switch the discussion from candy wrappers to rude comments, rumors, and the rest of the social garbage many kids slog through every day.

A school’s mission statement typically mentions something about respect and social responsibility. But how are schools teaching these values to their students? How are we, as parents, teaching them to our kids? We want them to grow into thoughtful, compassionate young adults who take time to think about their choices before they act, hopefully reflecting: “If I really want less garbage at school and at home, what can I do? Am I willing to watch my mouth and keep more hurtful comments to myself? Am I willing to stand up for someone being teased? Am I willing to speak out against demeaning ‘jokes’? Willing to sincerely apologize when I mess up and hurt someone? Willing to reach out to someone who needs a friend?”

As I see it, the goal of effective parenting (aside from keeping your kid alive and well), is to help him develop a code of ethics. If you want your child to become a good person whose actions demonstrate a high level of personal integrity, if you want her to help promote more friendship, peace, and justice in the world, you need a plan.

Character development is an ongoing process for each of us. We have to consistently work through all these issues with our kids and our students, our colleagues and our partners. Talk about ethical behavior where you see it and where you don’t. Model it in your own life. Help children evaluate their choices and learn from their mistakes. Help them deal with intense emotions in appropriate and responsible ways so they don’t intentionally hurt other people.

There are no easy answers here, but one thing is for sure, the world desperately needs less garbage.

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