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.

Back-to-School Clothing Wars: “My 12yr old looks and dresses like she’s 18!”

August 26, 2016

What's wrong with it, Mom?

What’s wrong with it, Mom?

Back-to-school means new clothes. We’ve had previous conversations here and here about how the clothing and toy industries sexualize kids. It’s hard for parents to push back against billion dollar corporations who couldn’t care less about your standards for appropriate attire for your children.

But you have to shop, so you head to the store armed with your standards, but you can’t find anything you feel good about purchasing. To make things dicier, your child loves the clothes you despise.

That’s this mom’s problem:

Dear Annie:

How do I talk to my 12 year old daughter about how the way she dresses? She has a very “womanly” body and could easily pass for 18! She’s proud of the way she looks and I am delighted she is comfortable with her body. I don’t want to ruin that by saying the wrong thing, but I also do not want her to continue dressing in a way that seems to me to be provocative. She may be teased, she may get “hit-on” by a MAN! I want to protect her and at the same time, foster her confidence in herself.

Please help me with the right words.  Thanks! – In a bind

Dear In a bind,

It’s great your daughter feels so comfortable in her body. May her self-confidence continue throughout her lifetime!

I’ll assume you pay for her clothes. If you aren’t comfortable with her choices you have veto power. Avoid heated conversations in the store. Talk about it before your next shopping trip or before handing over money to her for purchasing clothes.

You might say something like this:

“Sweetheart, I love how confident you are about your body. Many girls don’t feel so comfortable in their own skin as you do. But you need a reality check. We live in a society where men and boys (and other girls and women) judge you based on how you dress.

It isn’t fair to make assumptions about people because of how they look or dress, but fair or unfair, it is part of the reality of growing up as a girl.

We also live in a society where some men and boys feel entitled to treat women as sexual objects not human beings with equal rights. Sexual harassment is unwanted attention (crude remarks, touching, etc.). It is never ok. And it is never a compliment. So don’t be confused.  Harassment makes girls feel uncomfortable and unsafe.  No one has the right to do that to anyone. And yet, too often, harassers take no responsibility and are not held responsible for their behavior. They simply shrug and say, “She brought it on because of the way she dresses.” She (who ever she is) did not “bring it on.” To say that is a lie. It is also disrespectful to girls and women.

As your mom it’s my job to keep you safe and to educate you about the messages your clothing choices might be sending, without your knowing it. Let’s talk about this.”

Stay calm and keep your voice neutral and respectful and you could open up a very positive ongoing conversation with your daughter.

I hope this helps.

Annie

P.S. I reached out to my wise friend and fellow educator, Iréné Celcer for added input on your dilemma. Here are her three tips and thoughts.

1) Engage her in a conversation vs a lecture. Find out her thoughts, feelings and ideas on the topic. (See the paragraph below for a way to start.)

2) This conversation is not a ONE TIME thing. It will develop ebb and turn and change. And it may be the one area that she choses to drive you crazy with. Be smart and chose your battles.

3) No matter how she looks on the outside, she is still only 12 years old. And you are and should be the one who approves the clothing. You hold that wallet.

 

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Parenting Question: How do you get kids to make their own school lunch?

August 4, 2015

Cooking and eating together. Family fun.

Cooking + eating together = family fun.

I watch a lot of competitive cooking shows (Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay, Next Food Network Star. And Top Chef (Which has been where?! Can anyone please tell me?) In between slicing, dicing and schvitzing, contestants often give loving shout-outs to Mom or Grandma for turning them on to cooking. Kids need to learn to feed themselves, so we’ve gotta teach them to cook. Where to start? How about something simple that doesn’t require sharp knives and fire?

Today’s question comes from a parent who is ready to hand over some kitchen duties to her children.

How can I get my kids to make their own school lunches?

It’s almost back-to-school time and lunches must be made, but not necessarily by you and you alone. So, how can parents effectively get kids to make their own lunch or at least start engaging them in the process? If you think about the developmental stages of childhood, there are many things we do for our kids before stepping back. I’m thinking… teaching kids to feed themselves, get their own drink of water, take themselves to the bathroom, tie own their shoes (Do kids’ shoes even have laces anymore?) We show kids how, we help them while they’re learning, then we sit back and let them do it. Or we should.

So what is the barrier to teaching kids to make their own school lunch?

Our attitude determines how comfortable our kids feel about working in the kitchen vs just showing up to be fed. Do you feel that food prep, cooking, etc. is something your kids should be doing for themselves? If not, then they probably won’t either. Kids are human. I have this on good authority. We tend to be lazy. If someone will do something for me, on a regular basis and to my satisfaction, then why the heck should I bother doing it myself? “I have enough to do,” thinks the child. “I have to wake up on time every morning and brush my teeth and get dressed for school. I have a backpack that needs to be packed and… ”

OK, lots for the tykes to master before they graduate from high school. But let’s not get overwhelmed here. Let’s refocus on the original question about school lunch.

Food is wonderful. So is eating. You can engage kids in the process of making lunch by talking about what they like and don’t like to have for lunch and why. Talk about nutrition and why certain foods are going to help them do their job as a student better than others. Involving kids in the process of shopping for food, prepping food, and even growing food is a great way to start putting them in the driver’s seat. And who knows? They may want to start making their own breakfast soon, too. And after that? They’ll make meals for you!

Before you start, make sure hands are washed and that everything is accessible and at their level. Before they cut anything, make sure you teach your kids the safe way to use cutting tools in the kitchen. It goes without saying that all the utensils you give them are safe for their age-level. OK. I said it anyway.

And make sure you up the fun-ativity quotient from the start. Make food prep fun. (Being in the kitchen with a hypercritical parent is not fun.) Offer lots of praise for progress and back off little by little. You’ll soon hear your child crowing, “Hey, Mom! I made my own lunch!” At which point you offer high-fives all around and say, “Can I have a bite? Mmmm… delicious.”

Remember, we are here to teach our kids to become fully-functioning independent young adults and making your own food is definitely part of being independent. So… what’s for lunch tomorrow?

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New school year, new school… new friends (please!!)

August 29, 2014

When you’re all cozy in a friendship you can totally relax. Even going to school is more fun because your friend is there. But when you move to a school where you know no one, and your bff friend from your old school stops acting like a friend, then nothing feels right.

I recently got this email from a girl who is in that sad place:

Girls' Friendship Q&A Book, iIllustration by Erica DeChavez

Where do I fit it?!  (from The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship, by Annie Fox, illustrated by Erica De Chavez, © 2014 by Annie Fox and Erica De Chavez. Now available)

Hey Terra,

Last year I moved to a new place. Later I heard that my best friend was best friends with some new girl. That girl is apparently really popular and cool (and also kinda mean) and in one year’s time my bff has become friends with all the poplar kids at school. I know it’s wrong of me, but  I feel really sad and envious. I have seen posts of both of them saying how much fun they have together and how they love each other. (Come on! I knew her much longer than this new girl!) And the sucky part is that at my new school, my new friends keep ditching me. I feel so depressed. 🙁
–Sad and Jealous

Dear Sad and Jealous,

When you moved, what did you expect your best friend to do? Spend all day in her room feeling sad and lonely? Of course she missed you. She also wanted and needed new friends. I’m guessing that you are feeling “sad and envious” because you haven’t yet connected with real friends at your new school. HINT: Real friends do not “keep ditching” you.

A new school year just started. My best advice: stop checking your old friend’s FB page. It’s bringing you down! Don’t do it any more. Instead create a new goal for yourself… “I’m going to find a new best friend.”
Here’s how:

  • Grab a piece of paper and make a list (I love lists!)
  • Think long and deep about what’s really important to you in a friendship.
  • Write down all the traits you are looking for in a best friend. For example, you might write: Loyal, a sense of humor, intelligent, shares my interests… etc etc etc.
  • Use that list and go “shopping” for a new best friend. (Be on the lookout for the kind of people at school who’ve got what you want in a friend.)
  • When you find one, smile, say, “Hi,” and see what happens.

Go for it! Good luck! And please let me know how it goes.

Three weeks later…

Hey Terra,

I’M DOING GREAT 😀 I made a few more new friends who wont ditch me? and I think I have gotten over my old best friend. Though I think it would still take some time before I make a best friend.

Thank you so much, Terra!

I love happy beginnings. ;O)

If you could use some new friends this year (you can never have too many of the real kind) make a list and go shopping. It could work for you, too.

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We need uncomfortable schools

July 28, 2014

Feeling uncomfortable? Now use it for good.

Feeling uncomfortable? Now use it for good.

As we approach the beginning of the new school year, my heart goes out to the kids who are dreading it. They are usually the ones who had to wade through more than their share of social garbage last term. Hopefully they got a needed reprieve during the summer. But they’ve got to go back and most of them (and their parents and teachers) are probably not looking forward to the inevitable crapola (online and off).

Being in the prevention business, I’m always working on ways to make schools more compassionate. Here’s my latest contribution… just a reminder… adapted from the Charter for Compassion’s call to action for cities.

A compassionate school is an uncomfortable school!
Uncomfortable when anyone is threatened, harassed, or made to feel less than.
Uncomfortable when every child isn’t treated with respect by every teacher and every other student.
Uncomfortable when every student isn’t given rich opportunities to grow intellectually, creatively, and emotionally.
Uncomfortable when, as a school community, we don’t treat each other as we want to be treated.

A compassionate school knows uncomfortable feelings aren’t worth zippo, if they don’t trigger action. So a compassionate school recognizes the discomfort and immediately works for change with the full leadership and commitment of all administrators and teachers. With adult leadership, students learn how they too can become change agents. Because, whether students admit it or not, they desperately want their school to be a place where every kid is treated with respect. Every one.

Got it? Good. Now go make your kid’s school really uncomfortable. We’re in this together.

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