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.

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

_______

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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Believing Lies: A cautionary tale in 8 emails

March 5, 2014

Why don't they believe me?

Why don’t they believe me?

It ain’t easy being teen when the social stuff takes up so much time and emotional and mental real estate. A teen’s ability to resolve conflicts in multi-tiered relationships doesn’t match the challenges. We are communicating with more people than ever, but all our texting, chatting and tweeting only increases the chances of miscommunication.

Another problem, peer conflicts rarely involve only two people. Maybe it started with Isaac and Charlotte, but within minutes all their friends become combatants. Increase the number of fighters on any battlefield, real or virtual, and you increase the intensity of the fight and the number of casualties. For example:

Hey Terra, I am new this year and have worked hard to make friends. Now someone has been telling my close friends that I talk behind their back, which I never did! And they actually believe it! Now everyone hates me, even people I don’t know. They call me a FAT HIPPO! They even made a picture of me with Ho, Liar and Skank written on it.  No one wants to be my friend and the rumors keep building up. It’s like I’m being tortured for something I didn’t do! Honestly, I would rather die than be here! I’m innocent and no one believes me. –Feeling depressed!

Hi, Feeling depressed,  I’m sorry this awful stuff is happening to you. It’s so unfair when people refuse to listen to the truth and continue spreading lies. It’s hard enough moving to a new place and it doesn’t help having all this drama to deal with. Do you have a school counselor? If you haven’t yet talked to a caring, trusted adult, you should. Don’t feel powerless because you are not! –Terra

Hey Terra, I did talk to my counselor and he told me to ignore them and keep hanging in there. He called the girls in to “sit and talk” to me and IT GOT WORSE! They called me a baby and worse things! I hate it soo much and they still don’t believe me! I wish everything would just go away!  Your reply has actually made me feel better cuz I feel like someone finally cares! 🙂 thank you!  btw, my name is Kate.–Kate

Dear Kate: Glad you talked to the counselor. That took courage. He thought if you “ignored” the girls their mean behavior wouldn’t have the power to upset you as much. But it’s not working. Go back and tell him “It got worse!” He needs to make it clear to these girls that what they are doing is not acceptable and if it doesn’t stop then their parents will be called in. If this harassment continues, talk to your parents so they can let the principal know what’s going on.–Terra

Hey Terra,Umm, do you know how I can prove to the girls that I’m innocent? If you don’t then that’s fine. I will talk to my parents and counselor. – Kate

Dear Kate, I’m glad you’re going to talk with your parents and to the counselor again. Sorry, I don’t know how you can prove your innocence. If your word isn’t good enough, nothing will be. Stop trying to convince them of anything.  –Terra

Hey Terra! Guess what?! Yesterday everyone apologized to me! They really felt bad for believing those lies! I said it’s OK, but inside I know I need to watch who I trust and what I say around people! Everyone’s hanging out with me more. They said it’s cuz they think I’m a strong person! They said they’re proud of me 🙂 –Kate

Dear Kate, I’m proud of you, too. Sometimes, when we say: “It’s OK” what we mean is “I am letting go of the bad feelings I’ve been holding.” That’s called forgiveness and it’s wise. It’s also wise to carefully choose who to trust. Especially after trust has been broken. Take what you learned and move forward with confidence! –Terra

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Three things t(w)eens should stop doing in 2014

January 9, 2014

Earlier this week I gave parents three tips for making home a more peaceful place in the new year. Since kids are part of the equation, it’s only fair that you guys also get some pointers so you can do your part to make your family a happier one. Here goes:

In 2014 you should:

The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room

Errr… hi, Mom. How’s it going?

1. Stop Leaving your stuff all over the place: We  know you’re exhausted when you come home from school/practice and all that. And probably all you want to do is collapse, get something to eat, and veg out. But seriously, if you drop your backpack, shoes, jacket, books, etc. wherever you feel like it, you’re just asking for an argument. It’s not that parents are neat freaks, it’s just that a lot of us have had it with picking up after our kids, especially when you could totally take care of your own stuff and put it where it belongs.

I was once doing a Parent-Teen Communication workshop and this girl raised her hand and said she wanted her mom to “yell less.”

So I asked her, “What does your mom mostly yell at you about?”

“The wet towels on the bathroom floor.”

“And you really don’t know how to get your mom to stop yelling about the towels on the floor?”

“No,” she said. And she really didn’t.

You do, don’t you? It’s easy. Hang up the wet towels without being asked and  fights about wet towels end there.

2. Stop taking out your bad mood on others. It’s tough being teen. Truly. If you asked your parents if they’d like to go back in time and be your age again, none of them would. They remember the stress, the confusion, the embarrassment, the longing, and the worry that no one you are crushing on will ever love you back.  On top of that, there’s the hormones, the zits, the homework, the social and academic pressure. Plus all the stuff that adults expect you to do and be. Oh, and you never get enough sleep! So, yes, there are plenty of things to make you crabby. However, it’s not fair for you to take your bad mood out on anyone else. Think about it this way, if your bad mood was a coal processing plant… you’re evil mood would be polluting your home and family. That’s unacceptable. Don’t do it any more. Instead, learn some awesome relaxation techniques and you’ll have some healthy ways to get yourself out of a bad mood. Your family will thank you and you’ll be happier too.

3. Stop making excuses. When you mess up (you’ve done it before, you’ll do it again… we all do. It’s called being human.) take responsibility. Parents and teachers really get their buttons pushed when kids make their mistakes someone else’s fault. You want to avoid arguments with the adults in your life? All you have to do is keep your agreements (Do what you say you’ll do, be where you say you’ll be and come home when you say you’ll come home.) And if something happens (stuff happens) that gets in the way of your following through on your word, than own it, no excuses. Your parents and teachers will respect you more when you take responsibility for your actions. You’ll respect yourself more too, provided that you a) apologize and mean it, b) make amends –fix what you “broke,”  c) actually learn something from the way things played out so that d) you are less likely to make the same mistake again. Or anything close to it.

That’s it. Are you OK with those three tips? I hope so. They’re yours now. Use them and you’re on your way to a happier new year.

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Teens: I’ve got a bf but he doesn’t act like one!

May 12, 2011

Didn't sign up for this!

It’s spring. Nature’s juices are flowing all around us… and inside us too. If you’re single and wish you weren’t and all that flowing juice isn’t enough to remind you how much you want a bf/gf, let’s add Prom to the mix!

If your top priority is getting a bf/gf , it may seem like your school is packed with lovey-dovey couples. The sight or the sound of them (talking endlessly about each other) may be enough to make you wanna scream, barf or cry.

If you have a bf/gf (w/the added status boost that comes with it) you probably don’t want to lose them. That’s why t(w)eens in relationships often try to ignore the bad stuff and convince themselves things are cool even when that little voice inside screams “I’m not happy!” Your Inner Voice knows you better than Mom. Ignoring its messages rarely helps a situation.

I just got this email from a girl who doesn’t seem to trust her Inner Voice, which is why she turned to me for a second opinion. What do you think of the opinion I gave her?

Hey Annie,

Me and this boy are together but he doesn’t call me and that makes me cry. I need help. What should I do?

Confused

______________________

Hi Confused,

It sounds like you and your bf have different ideas about what it means to be “together.” You’re unhappy because he’s not paying as much attention as you want. Have you talked to him about it? You might say something like, “I want you to call me every day.” (Or however often you think he should be calling.) Of course, telling him straight-up what you want is no guarantee that he’ll change his behavior.

The real question is: Does this guy want to be with you as much as you want to be with him? You deserve that level of interest from a boyfriend… but you can’t force someone to care about you. If he doesn’t want you, dry your tears, move on and find someone who treats you better. If you keep putting up with less than what you want, you’re sending him a message that says, “I don’t deserve any better than this from a boyfriend, so keep on ignoring me and I’ll keep putting up with it.”

If that’s not the message you want him to get, then tell him what you really mean.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,

Annie

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