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.

What a long strange trip it’s been. Time for a breathing break…

October 22, 2016

Don't forget to breathe

Don’t forget to breathe

I’ve done a crazy amount of breathing since Trump won the GOP nomination. Had to. I mean really, the way this guy talks reflects so much scary stuff it would challenge the Dalai Lama’s equilibrium. (OK, maybe not the Dalai Lama, but my sanity for sure.) So I breathe. Doesn’t always help. At best it provides only a few seconds of relief from catastrophic thinking, but even so… it’s all I’ve got when my stress response spins out of control.

With the debates over and now reflecting a sizable advantage for Hillary Clinton, my blood pressure has returned to normal. But breathing still comes in handy to help deal with day-to-day frustrations.

Last week I visited a Bay Area middle school to talk with 6th-8th graders about healthy ways to manage stress. I finished the student sessions with a Breathing Challenge. It goes like this: Sometime during today, you will experience at least one situation that triggers a strong emotion. When it happens, catch yourself in the middle of a freak-out, take a slow deep breath (or three or four) and think about your next best move. Email me and let me know what happened.

I told the students their email would be their entry into a contest to win a free copy of my book Too Stressed to Think: The teen guide to staying sane when life makes you CRAZY.  I would award one book to one student in each of the three grades.

Twelve of the 1200 students entered the contest. Their experiences were so transformative I couldn’t resist sharing them with you. (For the record, I’m guessing many more of them used the breathing technique I taught, they just didn’t follow through with the email part.) OK… here we go. Be inspired.

1. Today, my siblings started talking to my friends leaving me to walk alone all by myself. Usually I would run up to my brother and punch him in the face. But instead, I breathed in and called him. He said that he had simply thought that I was with them the whole time so, it wasn’t intentional. After hearing that I just ran ahead and caught up to the group completely calm.

2. Today my brother did something and I got blamed for it… like always. I did the breath in then out and that helped to calm down. Now instead of talking back I could just accept it.

3. Today my chorus teacher was being SUPER hard on us because we are trying to learn a song. I did the breathing exercise. It worked completely thank you so much, I felt great for next period in PE and I ran my mile super fast.

4. Tonight when I wanted to keep messing around with my volleyball, my dad asked me to do the dishes. I REALLY didn’t want to do. I started getting mad when he said I had to but I took a deep breath and I did the dishes, and that made me feel good so I continued to help my parents make dinner. I was so glad I knew that breathing trick!

5. Today when I was taking my math test, I came across a difficult problem. Instead of not doing the problem like I normally do, I took a deep breath and tried to do the problem. And you know what? I actually solved the problem.

6. Earlier today my dad and I were eating lunch when he told me that I had to clean everything up when we were done. I told him I didn’t really feel like doing it because I was having a really bad headache from all of my school work. He yelled at me for not doing what he asked and I was feeling really stressed, so I inhaled and exhaled just like you told us to. That was the way I got my headache to hurt less and for me to calm down a little.

7. I saw my best friend laughing with someone who is mean to me. It bothered me. I did a breath and asked my friend about it. She explained that she was not laughing about something the mean girl had said. It turned out that she was laughing with one of my other friends and not the mean girl. The mean girl had just joined in to the laughing.

8. My brother was really stressing me out in the car today when he was singing and stomping his feet when our parents were in the store and being really annoying!!! So, I did what you told me to do- inhale slowly and exhale out. It really worked.

9. I used my breathing tool when my friend in cross country practice kept trying to pass me. I got really annoyed, but once I did the breathing, I felt much better.

10. Today I wasn’t able to remember my homework. This made me stress. “What is my homework? How can I find out????!!!!” I thought in my head. I couldn’t think because I was so frantic. I then thought about you. I took a long deep breath and went to my binder. My memory started to flow and I remembered it was #102-104. That doesn’t matter, but the point is that I used your method to solve my problem.

11. Today I was doing homework and my little sister came in and started stepping on it. I started to get really mad until I realized what I was doing and used the breathing technique you talked about. I calmly led my little sister out of my room instead of doing something that would have made it worse.

12. Today my dad said that I could hang out with friends but then he changed his mind after I told my friends I could go. So I got REALLY MAD! But then I talked it out with him and took breaths and calmed down. Your advice really helped me, thank you so much!!

That’s it for today. Enjoy your weekend. And don’t forget to breathe.


How not to apologize

October 8, 2016



Teen: You wanted to talk to me, Mom?

Mom: Sit down.

Teen: Did I do something wrong?

Mom (holding up evidence): You tell me.

Teen: Oh. That.

Mom: Yes, that. I am absolutely mortified by what you did.

Teen: I was just joking.

Mom: Why am I not laughing?

Teen: OK. Not funny. I get it. Can I go now? I’ve got stuff to do.

Mom: Sit down.

Teen: What now?

Mom holds up the evidence. Again.

Teen: We’re still talking about that?

Mom: You need to apologize. Now.

After hours of silence.

Mom: I’m still waiting.

Teen: Fine. I apologize if anyone was offended.

Mom: That’s not an apology!

Teen: Huh? Why not? I used the word apologize.

Mom (totally exasperated): An apology is a sincere expression of regret for what you’ve done. You have to show awareness of why your behavior crossed the line. You need to take responsibility for the harm you caused to others and start making amends immediately. A real apology demonstrates you’ve learned something important that you will use to help you become a more responsible person.

Teen: All that?

Mom: Yes. All that. Now, try again. And say it like you mean it.

Teen: (deadpan) I am not perfect. I have said and done things I regret. I was wrong. I apologize. I don’t want to talk about this any more. It is a distraction. Let’s talk about other things. Grieving mothers. Laid-off workers.

Mom: What are you talking about?

Teen: Don’t interrupt, Mom, I’m on a roll. (back to deadpan) Washington is broken. Change for America…

Mom: This is ridiculous!

Teen:… Bill is an abuser. Hillary is a bully.

Mom: You’re grounded.

Teen: You can’t do that, Mom. I’ve got plans for Sunday.

Mom: Go to your room.

Teen starts to storm off.

Mom: Wait!

Teen: (turning, hopeful): Yeah?

Mom: Gimme your phone. No more tweeting.

Filed under: Parenting — Annie @ 8:12 am

How to have The Talk (about Trump) with your kids

September 16, 2016

You don't like me? Get the hell outta here!

You don’t like me? Get the hell outta here!

Sweetie, I want to talk to you about the election. Please don’t roll your eyes. I know your dad and I watch a lot of political news coverage. The first Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is on September 26th and we’ll be glued to the TV for that, too. (And to the other two Presidential debates and for the Vice Presidential debate, too.) No worries, we’ll be ordering out for pizza on those days.

It may seem like we are obsessed with what’s going on in this campaign. That’s pretty close to the truth. Elections are very important. Presidential elections are especially important.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are running for President of the United States. That may be the most important job in the whole world. Part of the job is knowing how to treat people with respect.

Our responsibility as American citizens is to inform ourselves about the issues and where each candidate stands on those issues. We have to learn as much as we can about the kind of person each candidate is. We do all of this so we will feel confident when it is time to vote on November 8th, that we are making the best choice for our country. When you are eighteen, this responsibility will be yours as well.

You’ve heard me muttering at the TV when Donald Trump is on the screen. Maybe even cursing a few times. Just to put your mind at ease, I really do know that he can’t hear me. Not that he’d listen if he could, but that’s beside the point. No, actually, that may be a large part of the point I want to make. Donald Trump is a man who doesn’t listen to anyone who’s not telling him how wonderful he is.  Remember that assembly you had a school about bullying? Remember how you learned that put-downs are not OK. That’s the #1 rule for how to treat people. Donald Trump is very rich and he likes to tell people that he has a “very large brain.” Even if that were true, it doesn’t mean he is better than anyone else. It doesn’t mean the rules of how to treat people don’t apply to him.

Donald Trump doesn’t care about the rules. He has repeatedly put-down, insulted, cursed at, mocked, demeaned, and threatened people. That includes women, African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, LGBT people, his Republican opponents, as well as Hillary Clinton, journalists, judges, our President, our generals, our allies, just to name a few.

As you can see, there are a lot of people Donald Trump doesn’t seem to like and he believes he has the right to disrespect anyone at any time.

Of course nobody likes everybody. There are kids in your class you say you like and some that you don’t. That’s normal. But you know, in our family, we do our best to always treat people with respect. We’ve taught you that if you don’t like or agree with someone, you have the right to keep your distance, but you do not ever have the right to be rude or disrespectful.

What’s that you ask? Why is Donald Trump so rude to so many people? I honestly don’t know. But if you asked him, he’d probably say you got it all wrong. He’d deny he said any of the things he actually said. He’d blame what you heard on “crooked” reporters (That’s his way of calling someone a liar.). He’d say that Hillary Clinton is the one who’s rude and disrespectful. He’d insist that he actually loves all of those people and they all love him.

When Donald Trump insults someone then turns around and says, “I never said that” it can be very confusing. But as voters we have to work through the confusion. Dad and I have done that. Here’s what we’ve discovered: Donald Trump says whatever he wants to get whatever he wants whether it’s true or not. Whether it is hurtful or not. It doesn’t matter to him. He’s fine with put-downs.

That’s not fine with us.

In case you’re wondering, your Dad and I will not be voting for Donald Trump. We’re voting for Hillary Clinton.




Back-to-School Clothing Wars: “My 12yr old looks and dresses like she’s 18!”

August 26, 2016

What's wrong with it, Mom?

What’s wrong with it, Mom?

Back-to-school means new clothes. We’ve had previous conversations here and here about how the clothing and toy industries sexualize kids. It’s hard for parents to push back against billion dollar corporations who couldn’t care less about your standards for appropriate attire for your children.

But you have to shop, so you head to the store armed with your standards, but you can’t find anything you feel good about purchasing. To make things dicier, your child loves the clothes you despise.

That’s this mom’s problem:

Dear Annie:

How do I talk to my 12 year old daughter about how the way she dresses? She has a very “womanly” body and could easily pass for 18! She’s proud of the way she looks and I am delighted she is comfortable with her body. I don’t want to ruin that by saying the wrong thing, but I also do not want her to continue dressing in a way that seems to me to be provocative. She may be teased, she may get “hit-on” by a MAN! I want to protect her and at the same time, foster her confidence in herself.

Please help me with the right words.  Thanks! – In a bind

Dear In a bind,

It’s great your daughter feels so comfortable in her body. May her self-confidence continue throughout her lifetime!

I’ll assume you pay for her clothes. If you aren’t comfortable with her choices you have veto power. Avoid heated conversations in the store. Talk about it before your next shopping trip or before handing over money to her for purchasing clothes.

You might say something like this:

“Sweetheart, I love how confident you are about your body. Many girls don’t feel so comfortable in their own skin as you do. But you need a reality check. We live in a society where men and boys (and other girls and women) judge you based on how you dress.

It isn’t fair to make assumptions about people because of how they look or dress, but fair or unfair, it is part of the reality of growing up as a girl.

We also live in a society where some men and boys feel entitled to treat women as sexual objects not human beings with equal rights. Sexual harassment is unwanted attention (crude remarks, touching, etc.). It is never ok. And it is never a compliment. So don’t be confused.  Harassment makes girls feel uncomfortable and unsafe.  No one has the right to do that to anyone. And yet, too often, harassers take no responsibility and are not held responsible for their behavior. They simply shrug and say, “She brought it on because of the way she dresses.” She (who ever she is) did not “bring it on.” To say that is a lie. It is also disrespectful to girls and women.

As your mom it’s my job to keep you safe and to educate you about the messages your clothing choices might be sending, without your knowing it. Let’s talk about this.”

Stay calm and keep your voice neutral and respectful and you could open up a very positive ongoing conversation with your daughter.

I hope this helps.


P.S. I reached out to my wise friend and fellow educator, Iréné Celcer for added input on your dilemma. Here are her three tips and thoughts.

1) Engage her in a conversation vs a lecture. Find out her thoughts, feelings and ideas on the topic. (See the paragraph below for a way to start.)

2) This conversation is not a ONE TIME thing. It will develop ebb and turn and change. And it may be the one area that she choses to drive you crazy with. Be smart and chose your battles.

3) No matter how she looks on the outside, she is still only 12 years old. And you are and should be the one who approves the clothing. You hold that wallet.


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