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 are Halloween’s teachable lessons for kids?

October 22, 2015

I'm a bad ass. Just for tonight.

I’m a bad ass. Just for tonight.

Around here we’re experiencing a black and orange explosion. Each year the Halloween house make-overs get more impressive.

We’ve still got nine days to go, so I thought I’d get ahead of the curve and write about Halloween’s teachable moments for kids. Non-spoiler alert: This is not a parent tip sheet on how to put reasonable restrictions on kids’ sugar consumption. (That’s not a bad idea, but I leave it to the nutritionists.) Instead, let’s talk about the “mask” kids put on for Halloween vs. the mask many of our tweens and teens wear every single day. Halloween is a time to pretend to be someone else. It can be great fun and I’m a huge fan. But what happens when your child wears a mask all the time, hiding who he or she really is because of fear of disapproval from peers or even from you?

I’ve been thinking about the fine art of faking it for a long time because I work with tweens and teens and, face it, they can be masters of deception. When I talk to kids about consciously putting on a “mask,” as we do  when we get up on stage to perform in a play or dress up to explore other identities, it fits right into the idea of figuring out who you are, which is the manifesto of adolescence. But when we get so attached to hiding behind the mask that we’re no longer conscious of wearing it then we are faking it without knowing it. That’s never a good place to be, especially at a time when our tweens and teens ought to be exploring what it means to be one’s authentic self.

I have asked kids: How do you know when you’re faking it? They’ve provided profound responses, like these:

I get a sinking feeling in my stomach.

I feel like what I’m doing is not really me, but I continue doing it anyway.

I feel like a fraud in my own body.

I feel like a jumble of very confused spaghetti.

We ought to encourage our kids to reflect deeply on who they are and who they are becoming. They need to think clearly, despite the cacophony of judgments and opinions happening around them and within them. The best way I know to do that is by telling them how much we appreciate who they are when they are being authentic. We need to also model authenticity in own our lives. That doesn’t mean that we are always a certain way. Our behavior and attitudes change depending on circumstance and setting, and that’s appropriate. But when it’s “just us,” in the family, we need to create opportunities to talk about what it means to be true to oneself and to have integrity. No faking it.



Podcast For Parents: Want to be yourself? Go for it!

May 25, 2009

Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken

"Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken" by Mike Robbins

When my son was in grade school he never wore bright colors but he liked all kinds of t-shirts. When he started 6th grade the only tees he’d ever wear were blank white ones (the kind Haines sells in packages of three). When  I asked him about it he launched into a detailed description of the school’s social hierarchy and where he fit in. (A notch above the  losers.) Losers wore whatever they wanted because they were invisible and lacked social aspirations. Popular kids wore whatever they wanted and instantly spawned new trends.  The rest of the kids (95% of the class) were very cautious with their wardrobe choices. From my son’s perspective, wearing a plain white tee was a low risk move. All he could afford to make. As he patiently explained, “I’m not cool enough to be different.” In other words, he wasn’t confident enough to be himself.

You expect insecurity from tweens and teens. “Do I look OK?” “When am I going to learn to keep my big mouth shut?” “Did anyone just notice what I did?” But many adults still work overtime keeping our ‘unacceptable’ selves in check. We wait at the corner forever looking both ways before we make an assertive move.  In doing so, not only are we holding ourselves back from truly enjoying our lives and relationships, we’re also missing in action when it comes to showing our kids how a self-assured authentic adult operates.

I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time. That’s why I was drawn to Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken: Transform Your Life with the Power of Authenticity by Mike Robbins. In this week’s  Family Confidential podcast, Mike and I talk about removing the barriers to being ourselves so we can be better people and better parents.

Have a listen here:

If you have iTunes, you can subscribe to this podcast in the iTunes Store.

Or, you can download an MP3 version here.

Upcoming guest authors include:

Subscribe to Family Confidential and tune in each time!

*What’s a podcast? “A podcast is a series of digital media files, usually either digital audio or video, that is made available for download via web syndication.” — Wikipedia… So, in this case, there’s an audio file for you to listen to (in addition to reading the above).

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