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.

Parenting Question: Why Are Girls’ Friendships So Dramatic?

June 25, 2015

We’re up to Part 4 of this (mostly) parenting Q&A series. I’ll occasionally throw in a teen question because, hey, it’s always enlightening to hear kids talk about what we do that drives them nuts. Today’s question concerns the confusion of a parent whose daughter is having an emotionally difficult time (again) with a best friend.

Best friends forever, right?

Best friends forever, right?

Today’s Question: Why are girls’ friendships so dramatic? My daughter had a best friend from 2-5th grade. When that girl moved away, my daughter was distraught. Now she’s in 7th, with a new best friend who may be losing interest. My daughter is getting very worried and upset. What can I do to help her put this in perspective?

Since 1997, the #1 issue girls write to me about is betrayal or rejection by a friend. Specifically, “My bff has a new bff! What do I do?” The email writer goes on to describe how she’s crying herself to sleep, has lost her appetite and doesn’t want to go to school or anywhere! Parents are often confounded by the intensity of their daughter’s emotions in these situations. Moms and Dads want to know what they can do to help.

Here’s the way I see it: A girl’s dramatic response to a friendship that’s cooling off resembles how one might react to a romantic break-up. Some girls even refer to losing a friend as getting “dumped.” Girls’ attachment to other girls is a precursor to their search for the The One, aka the Soul Mate, if you believe in that kind of stuff. Even if you don’t, it represents a search for someone who “knows me” and “understands me.” Someone who will laugh at what I laugh at and be equally moved by the things that move me. Someone I feel so close to that I barely need to explain myself to them.

When a girl’s bestie loses interest, and, for whatever reason, wants to spend time with another friend, it’s a major loss. Girls often describe it in classic stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, until they can find their way to Acceptance. That’s where parents can help.

Tips for Helping Your Daughter Process the Loss of a Friend

1. Do not minimize your daughter’s angst. This “drama” she’s feeling and expressing is real. She needs your willingness to listen, without judgment. Dads, I know you want to help, and sometimes you may feel you have no idea where all these emotions are coming from. Moms, you’ve probably had some personal experience with friendship drama (past or present), so help your daughter’s father understand. Bottom line, the goal is not to commiserate with a sobbing girl, but to help her figure out a way through this.

2. Let your daughter talk about how she feels. Just listen with compassion and patience. When you do that, she will calm down because you are giving her an opportunity to express her feelings responsibly and appropriately.

3. Discourage her from getting on social media or her phone. Otherwise the whole thing will blow up like a conflagration, spreading like wild fire. Allies of both girls will feel pressure to take sides and rush onto the digital battlefield. That kind of drama is social garbage and no girl needs more of it in her life.

4. Work toward a reachable goal. After your daughter calms down, ask her “What is the best outcome you can imagine?” Likely she’ll say, “I want her to be my bff again!” Please gently remind her that she doesn’t have the power to control other people’s feelings or behavior, but she can help herself feel better about the situation. For example, instead of feeling sorry for herself, she could talk directly to her friend. This might result in a new awareness for your daughter in these areas:

a) what she needs in a friendship

b) where she draws the line in terms of how she lets people treat her

c) why it’s essential to have high standards for yourself and your friends

d) how important it is to be with someone who wants to be with you as much as you want to be with them

5. Encourage her to shop for a new best friend. Talk with your daughter about the qualities she deems important in a friend. Help her make a list (if she wants your help). Once she knows what she’s looking for she may decide that the “loss” she just experienced wasn’t so much of a loss at all. She may also be energized to go out and find a new best friend –one who provides more of what she needs.

I hope this helps you and your daughter. If you’ve got a question about parenting tweens and teens, email me.  If your 8-12 year old daughter could use some help navigating friendships, check out my latest book – The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship Without the Drama. 

 

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Tween asks, “Who was that guy my mom was with??”

June 10, 2015

As part of my ongoing series of Q&A from my email, today I’m bringing you a question from a 7th grader. Even if the situation he’s in is not something your child is dealing with, it’s helpful to be reminded how sensitive kids are. They notice everything and when they’re too scared to let us in on their worries, they suffer in silence. On the other hand, when we sharpen our radar we’re better able to notice when they might be upset. That’s when we need to step up and encourage them to open up.

I don't know who to talk to about this.

I don’t know who to talk to about this.

Today’s question: I’m 12 and my parents are divorced. Me and my little sister live with my mom. Today when I got home I saw this guy with his arm around my mom. I felt annoyed. I didn’t know what to say. When they left together my mom said she was going to work. I felt like a nobody. I wont tell her I know but, I wanna feel better.

–Lost and Confused

Dear Lost and Confused,

This is a tough one. It can be really awkward when you see one of your parents with someone else. I don’t know how long your parents have been divorced or if either Mom or Dad has dated before, but this is probably something you are going to have to get used to. Your Mom loves you and your sister very much. That hasn’t changed. But she is not married and she has the right to date. Please reconsider talking to her about it. It would be a smart move on your part. You might say something like this: “Mom, the other day when I saw you with that guy, I felt uncomfortable. “ Then ask her whatever is on your mind. For example, “Who is he?” “How long do you know him?” “Where did you meet him?” “Is he your boyfriend?” “Are you going to marry him?” Whatever you want to ask… ASK her. You will feel better knowing what’s going on. That is the best way to stop feeling “like a nobody.” You are NOT a “nobody” you are your mom’s child. And as a 12 year old, you have the right to know certain things. So… ask.
You can do this. Good luck! And let me know how it goes.

In friendship,
Terra

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Go on! Love yourself. There’s so much that’s ‘right’ with you.

February 8, 2015

Unchain my heart to love myself more

Unchain my heart to love myself more

We are so loving this current downpour in parched Marin. Feel like sending the rain gods a Valentine.

The big count down to V-Day has begun. Most of us have been brought up on the notion that Valentine’s Day is for lovers. And, yeah, it is. But here’s the thing, if you don’t love yourself, it’s gonna be hard to really love someone else. Also, if you don’t love yourself, you’re going to have trouble recognizing love coming at you… and an even tougher time accepting and savoring it.

That’s why I’m writing about self-love today. Specifically, how hard it can be for tweens and teens to get excited about being who they are when so many of their peers, family members and The Media conspire to convince them they aren’t “__________ enough.” (Not thin enough, smart enough, cool enough, hot enough… not GOOD enough!) That’s such monumental BS and yet, most middle and high school students buy it and dig right in with fork and spoon. Hell, most adults believe they’re not good enough. Good enough for what?! That’s what I’d like to know.

I got an email from a teen who was super upset because she isn’t “tall enough”. Read on…

I’m a 16 years old girl and only 5’1″ tall. People always make fun of me specially guys. I sometimes cry. Before, I was really confident and I didn’t mind being short, but now it really hurts me. My mother refused to take me to a doctor so he would give me some type of medicine to help with my shortness, although she knows how much I hate my height! What can I do? – Too Short

Dear Too Short,

I understand what it’s like to be short. I am 5’2” tall myself. Not a giant! You say that people “always” make fun of you. Really? Always? You say “before” you were really confident and “didn’t mind being short.” What changed your level of self-confidence? Was it going to a new school or was it one person who suddenly started giving you a hard time?

In friendship,
Terra

Hey Terra,

I always get teased when someone asks me about my height, not always whenever they see me. What changed my self-confidence was one boy who gave me a hard time, but I started to ignore him and not care at all. – Too Short

Dear Too Short,

Smart move to ignore that boy. By doing that you took away his power to upset you. Whenever anyone asks you about your height in a rude way, as in “How come you are so short?” (People can be unbelievably insensitive!) consider answering with the plain and simple truth… “Genetics.” Then on to something else. A person’s height is a fairly boring topic of conversation, isn’t it? If that’s all someone can manage to talk about, well, he or she is probably not a very inspiring companion! ;O)

btw, I’ve got a friend whose daughter is also 16 and not quite 5 feet tall. I reached out to them to see if they had some advice for you. Here’s what they wrote:

From the mom:

We realized very early that Angela was smaller than everyone else. People would look disturbed because she was tiny but had an incredible vocabulary. Our doctor assured us everything was fine and to let her grow at her own pace. When she was eight a doctor friend suggested we just check because certain medical conditions are identified because of short stature. One test lead to hundreds of doctor appointments and she does have a medical condition. This year our daughter argued that the benefits of staying on the medication outweighed the risks – she wants to be 5’3″ and is barely five feet. It took a few weeks, X-rays, and the doctor delving deeper into the risks associated with growth hormones for my daughter to concede and accept she’s hit her maximum height potential. It does make her sad sometimes, but the fact that she could have only been 3’9″ if we hadn’t taken action makes us (and her) embrace her height.

If you can discuss how you feel, your parents need to listen. It is worth the visit to the doctor cross off any other issues that could be behind the height deficiency.

Angela always thought the other kids were foolish because they teased her about something she knew she couldn’t help. For every negative remark she has heard people say about her, she immediately called out something good about herself …even if she fell back on “being nice” over and over. To this day – at 16, she still says this. Angela has some advice for you. She says you should “focus on the strength and beauty then write it down and keep it in a place you can refer to.” Angela did this at age 8 and she still has it today. Angela learned to own the beauty in her petiteness:

– I can climb a tree higher than anyone else and see where the birds live
– I’m petite like Mary Lou Retton and other gymnasts
– I have ADHD like Michael Phelps and look what he did!
– I can curl up easily in airplane seats!
– Not many boys want a girl taller than them, so I’ll always have that

Thinking positively can take practice, but once the feelings become familiar, you can embrace and celebrate your good!

I hope this advice from Angela and her mom helps.

In friendship,
Terra

Hey Terra,

My mom finally agreed to let me see a doctor, although she’s so scared from the side effects, but at the same time, she wants me to feel good about myself. After I read Angela’s mom’s message I felt so much better and I think that Angela is such a strong girl. I wish her good luck in reaching her goals. She’s such an inspiration. And I seriously should start thinking more positively and focus on what’s beautiful in me.

I will do what you told me to do, and of course it is a boring topic. People should care about the personality more than anything else. Again thank you, and Angela, and her mom for giving me such great advice when I needed help. You made me feel much better. –Just Right the Way I Am

Dear Just Right,

We are very glad to have helped you. Any time!

In friendship,
Terra

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As we come up on the Day of Love, here’s a delicious truth for you and your children to enjoy: You already are more than good enough for everything that matters. As for the stuff that doesn’t really matter, let it go. Then make yourself a Valentine.

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Blogging for Huffington Post

December 22, 2014

Just started blogging for Huffington Post. Long time goal on my bucket list… check! I haven’t been at it for long, so you haven’t missed much. If you’d like to catch up, here’s where you can subscribe to my RSS feed and/or read the three articles I’ve posted so far.

Since I’m starting this gig during the holiday season, I’m seasoning my posts with holiday spirit. Like this one, from today: This Holiday Season Have Compassion for Relatives Who Drive You Nuts.

It’s a little funny and a little serious. Bottom line, we’ve all got folks in our extended family who can push our buttons like all get-out.  (Not sure where that expression comes from but I’ve always liked the sound of it.) Don’t know about you, but when I get my chain yanked I’m at least as unpleasant as the aforementioned button-pushers. No fun for me or anyone else. So in this post I give tips for turning irritation into compassion. Why? So you (and I) can spread a little love in Aunt Gertrude’s direction while teaching our kids that there are times when we all need to put on our ‘company manners’ and be pleasant to everyone.

Time to get together with the family...

Time to get together with the family…

Go ahead, read it and you just might have a happier holiday. I hope so!

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