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 part of friendship gives girls the most problems?

October 25, 2014

This question was asked of me on my current Girls’ Q&A Book blog tour, by Deborah McNelis, educator and founder of Brain InSights.

Deborah: Is there an aspect of friendships that you find to be most common from girls?

Annie: Yes! A common thread weaves its way through most girl friendship conflicts and makes girls feel trapped in uncomfortable peer relationships. It’s a misconception many girls have about their role in a friendship– a bizarre assumption that: “If I speak up for myself in a friendship, I am not being a good friend.” This creates huge problems for girls because when they are upset, they need to express themselves effectively and appropriately to their friend. (Talking behind her back doesn’t count as effective communication!)

Because girls are often unwilling and/or unable to initiate those necessary conversations, they feel miserable and complete stuck in their misery. They believe a “good friend” should never tell a friend something negative because then she will hurt the friend’s feelings. And that’s mean. So, if I, Annie, am hurt by something my bff Deborah did, I can not tell her, otherwise I will not be a good friend. But Deborah is not a mind reader. If I stay silent, Deborah has no way of knowing how I feel. My silence will, in fact, send the message that it is OK for her to continue treating me badly, even though it is not OK! My silence also leaves me feeling upset and powerless, not realizing that I do have power to change my response to this situation.

There is no girls’ friendship drama that can’t be made WORSE… through staying silent, venting behind a friend’s back, or pretending things are just peachy. Since we’re here to help girls make things better, one way is to give them opportunities to talk things through with us parents and teachers. Another is to do actual role play with them to boost their confidence in having these honest conversations. And finally, it’s our job to help them realize that they are never without options for feeling better about themselves in any relationship.

Every Friday at #GirlDramaChat we discuss girls’ friendship challenges and smart strategies for teaching them compassion, respect, and social courage. Follow me @GirlDramaChat for updates.

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA

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Eye and mind-opening event at the Microsoft Store

October 6, 2014

Let's learn about this together, kid!

Let’s learn about this together, kid!

Last Thursday’s Talk n Tech event at the MicrosoftStore in The Village (Corte Madera, CA) was a real eye-opener for me. And judging by the expressions and comments of the parents who came by to meet me and see what’s going, the same was true for them. I love technology. Especially for the ease with which it connects us and equalizes our access to information.

That said, I’m not a techie. I’m a people person. And visiting the tech stores I’ve been to in the past hasn’t been all that much fun.  But I’ve got to say that it felt really good to be in the Microsoft Store, and it wasn’t because I received compensation related to the event and to this post. Nope. I felt comfortable in the space because the folks who work at the store were so welcoming. Tea was offered! Along with nice wooden stools to sit on. One of my biggest surprises was learning how a Microsoft Store can be used by community groups for meetings and presentations at no charge! More than a store this felt like a 21st century community learning environment.

Beyond the latest in technology, what else could be learned in this space? After a tour of the store and an impressive demo of Surface Pro 3, five people and I were treated to lunch at The Cheesecake Factory, and we tackled that question. The conversation around the table was so dynamic and insightful, I wish we had recorded it for posterity!  We parents talked openly about the benefits of technology in the lives of our kids and families. We also shared our genuine concerns about content, access, balance, and guidelines for helping kids develop personal standards for their online behavior.

Big questions came up around the table, without concrete answers… yet. But the questions themselves are instructive, and they spotlight areas that most parents can relate to. For example:

1. How do I keep my kid safe(r) online? Kids are wired to push boundaries and take risks. Parents are wired to keep kids safe and to help them learn to keep themselves safe. “Spyware” doesn’t help kids develop good judgement. And “just say no” isn’t effective parenting. Our job must include helping them identify what it means to be a responsible digital citizen and why their choices matter, online and off.

2. How do I teach my kids to self-monitor and self-regulate without my having to play “Computer Cop” 24/7? Social media is the vortex where Character Development battles with Peer Approval Addiction. Social media is often a highly emotionally charged environment with no boundaries. What’s a parent’s role in preparing our kids to inhabit this digital landscape?

3. How do I personally fight my own connection addiction so I can model what I preach and my family can establish a healthier balance between screen-time and unplugged time? What do I do when my kids push back… hard?

4. After I’ve ’snooped’ and discovered my child has crossed the line… how do I have conversations that will help him/her a) manage those knee-jerk destructive emotional responses and b) get my voice inside his/her head to help my child to think more clearly when I’m not around.

Hopefully, what was begun will spark more discussion. The Microsoft Store and the technology there will definitely make having those conversation a lot easier.

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Divorce heartbreak for tweens and teens

July 14, 2014

I just wish they'd stop screaming at each other!

I just wish they’d stop screaming at each other!

What can I say about parents divorcing that you don’t already know from personal experience or what you’ve observed? Probably nothing. For the couple involved, divorce is one of life’s major upheavals (second only to Death of a Spouse). The whole family feels the impact of divorce and its aftershocks, but adults and kids process it differently.

Young children are very egocentric. As long as their moment-to-moment needs continue to be met, they’re less aware of what’s going on in the family. They’re also not skilled at “covering up.” If they feel tension between Mom and Dad, they will let behave in ways that let everyone know “I’m not happy!” Parents will respond, as best as they can, by comforting the children and/or distracting them. It usually works pretty well.

Teens, on the other hand, are often more distressed by divorce than their younger siblings, and more likely to mask their emotions. Without letting on what’s going on, Mom and Dad might assume their teens are “OK”  when they are far from it. Why do teens hide their feelings? Because they don’t:

a) know how to express the intensity of their emotions (ager, sadness, confusion, guilt, fear, etc.)

b) want to add to their parents’ problems

c) want to get yelled at

d) want to choose sides

e) want to show that they’re not “mature enough” to handle what’s going on

f) all of the above

On this week’s Family Confidential video podcast, I talk with Wendy Young, child and adolescent therapist and founder of Kidlutions. We discuss pragmatic parenting tips for helping kids of all ages navigate the emotional challenges of divorce. - Listen here

 

 

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Making peace this summer with your teens

June 30, 2014

Give peace a chance

Give peace a chance

In addition to raising young adults who chew with mouth closed, pick up after themselves, and return library books on time, the gold ring of this parenting gig (after the “under the same roof” phase ends) is a healthy relationship with your adult kids. I’ve been a mom for 34 years and believe me, that’s what you’re after. But how do you get there from here? It can be a hard slog. Especially if you’re currently the parent of a tween or teen and already clocking in way too much time yelling and mis-communicating. It’s stressful enough when they’re in school most of the day, but now it’s summer and said t(w)een may be hanging out under said roof. Result? More time for fault-finding on both sides. yippee. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can be the change-agent your parent-teen dynamic needs. Here’s how…

Parenting plan for getting along better with your t(w)een

1. Sit down and ask your child: What would you like me to do less of this summer? Make the question sincere and make it safe for your child to answer honestly. Whatever he or she says, stay calm and do not get defensive. This conversation has the potential of greatly improving your relationship.

2. Take what you’ve heard to heart. If you want to teach your kids to be respectful of others you must treat their feelings and thoughts with respect. If you need a clarification, ask for it. “You say you want me to nag less? Gee, I don’t think I nag at all. Please give me an example of what you mean, sweetie.”

3. Work together to address the request. After you understand your child’s request, see what new ways you can come up with to lessen the unwanted behavior (e.g.. nagging). Relationships are a two-way street. If there is a ‘nagger’ there must also be a “nagging-inducer.” Explore both sides of all issues.

4. Monitor your progress. Once you’ve identified a problem and strategized a solution check in with each other periodically to see how you’re feeling about the changes. Praise where praise is due. Make modifications when needed.

5. Reverse the flow. It’s a two-way street, remember? So give yourself a chance to tell your t(w)een something you’d like less of from him or her. Follow the rest of the steps and see how it goes.

Good luck! I hope this helps you and your family this summer.

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