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.

We’ve all got special needs

July 21, 2014

The implication, when we speak of kids or adults with special needs, is that “they” are unlike “us.” But isn’t it true that we’ve all got special needs? Maybe the only difference is that some needs are more obvious than others. And some, obviously, require more day-to-day support. Other than that… everyone deserves to be noticed, respected, listened to, and understood. But what happens to a child with less obvious needs when Mom or Dad also have a kid with more obvious needs?

Rachel and Beth Simon

Beth and Rachel Simon

A while back I had the privilege of interviewing award-winning author Rachel Simon for my Family Confidential podcast. Rachel’s books include New York Times bestsellers The Story of Beautiful Girl and Riding the Bus With My Sister (which was adapted into a Hallmark Hall of Fame film starring Andie MacDowell and Rosie O’Donnell, and directed by Angelica Huston.)

Riding the Bus With My Sister, the film

Riding the Bus With My Sister, the film

Rachel’s younger sister, Beth, has an intellectual disability. Because of Rachel’s personal family history, her years of research into disability/sibling issues, and her connection to the Sibling Community, she speaks with a rare eloquence and sensitivity about the treatment of people with disabilities and how parents can do a better job of attending to the special needs of all their children.

Listen to my recent Family Confidential podcast interview with Rachel right here.

 

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To the parents of a rapist

March 11, 2014

Oh, hallowed halls of enlightened education

Oh, hallowed halls of enlightened education

I’ve been following the story out of Dartmouth about a female student who was raped shortly after her name appeared in a “Rape Guide” posted on an anonymous Dartmouth student blog. There is so much that’s vile about the particulars of this case and the overall campus (and national) culture that permits and promotes these attitudes and acts, I do not know where to begin. As a parent educator, this feels like a logical place:

Dear Mom and Dad,

By now you know that your son is a rapist. Of course you are shocked that the young man you raised with such love and care and attention, the one who succeeded so brilliantly throughout his school years that he ended up at Dartmouth, is now revealed to you, your family and all your friends as a violent, callous person. A rapist. Not a word anyone wants on their son’s resume. And not only is he a rapist, but he has been encouraging his classmates to be rapists.

How heart-sick you must be. Undoubtedly you remember how thrilled you were when the Dartmouth letter of acceptance arrived. You celebrated, as a family. You had such dreams for your son. And now, you find that he’s been spending time, in between classes and study sessions, writing a “Rape Guide,” using his considerable verbal skills (showcased in those outstanding SAT scores) to craft descriptive prose like this: “Increase the alcohol you give her each time. Then one such day, go for it. Preferably, invite her to your room. Get touchy with her, she likes that. As you guys get drunker… maybe spank her, you know, “jokingly” of course. She might be reluctant. Just tell her to relax.  Keep on going. Start groping her and stripping her down. Does this sound rapey? It really isn’t, trust me. She just likes playing hard to get. I know. I’ve been there.”

My heart goes out to you because you are suffering. You must be grieving for the loss of your “ideal” son. You must also be absolutely baffled that your boy could be such a calculatingly, cold-hearted misogynist. And through the blizzard of your emotions and disbelief, you are probably wracking your brains looking for answers to these questions: What did I do wrong? How could my son have thought that rape was OK? How is it possible that he could have such little regard for the feelings of another person? How could my child, who grew up in this family, believe that he and his fellow male classmates have the right to treat women with such contempt? Where did he get these values? What do I say to him now? How can I look at him without utter disgust? What can he say or do that will make this better?

I usually have lots of answers for parenting questions. I don’t have any answers for these.

Please get some family counseling. You’re going to need it.

I wish you strength during this terrible time. You’re going to need plenty of that too.

Filed under: Cruel's Not Cool,Parenting,Social Justice — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 1:13 pm
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Day 23: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Standing up for the underdog)

October 23, 2013

I seriously need a friend.

Kids and teens can view of themselves as powerless in a world where adults call all the shots. But that’s not the whole story. Kids have power. And every day, your children and mine get opportunities to use that power to do good or to do harm. Sometimes, turning a blind eye and choosing to do nothing results in more harm.

If we, truly value kindness and appreciate it when it comes our way, we can’t ignore suffering. We’ve got to do our part to keep kindness alive… every chance we get. And we’ve got to teach our kids to be kind. But how?

Child or adult, it takes extra social courage to exit our comfort zone and to help a vulnerable person. When kids ask me about standing up for someone who is being harassed, I tell them they should never put themselves directly in harm’s way. But I make it clear that there are many ways to help an underdog and let him or her know: “I’m not like the others who are giving you a hard time. I’m here to help.”

Fuel for Thought (for adults) —At different times we have all been underdog, top dog, and middle of the pack dog, so we know what it feels in each of those places. Being on the bottom, without support, can be terribly lonely. Think about a time when you felt like an underdog. Where did you turn for support? What response did you get?  Think of a time when you helped an underdog. What happened?

Conversations That Count (with kids)– Talk about the concept of a “pecking order” amongst animals and humans. Say this to your children: “Most of the time, when we’re not on the bottom, we don’t give much thought to those who are.” Now ask your kids what they think about that. True? Not true? How do you know? Talk about who is “on the bottom” in your child’s class. (Even kids as young as second or third grade have a keen awareness of social strata.) How do other people treat that child? How do you treat that child? What might happen if you stood up for the underdog?

Teach—Challenge your child to be a hero and shake up the social strata at school by standing up for someone who needs a friend. Follow up and find out from your child what happened with the challenge.

Please let me know how you teach your kids about the importance of standing up for the underdog.

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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,

Terra

See Day 21 of the Kindness and Respect Challenge

 

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