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.

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,


Divorce heartbreak for tweens and teens

July 14, 2014

I just wish they'd stop screaming at each other!

I just wish they’d stop screaming at each other!

What can I say about parents divorcing that you don’t already know from personal experience or what you’ve observed? Probably nothing. For the couple involved, divorce is one of life’s major upheavals (second only to Death of a Spouse). The whole family feels the impact of divorce and its aftershocks, but adults and kids process it differently.

Young children are very egocentric. As long as their moment-to-moment needs continue to be met, they’re less aware of what’s going on in the family. They’re also not skilled at “covering up.” If they feel tension between Mom and Dad, they will let behave in ways that let everyone know “I’m not happy!” Parents will respond, as best as they can, by comforting the children and/or distracting them. It usually works pretty well.

Teens, on the other hand, are often more distressed by divorce than their younger siblings, and more likely to mask their emotions. Without letting on what’s going on, Mom and Dad might assume their teens are “OK”  when they are far from it. Why do teens hide their feelings? Because they don’t:

a) know how to express the intensity of their emotions (ager, sadness, confusion, guilt, fear, etc.)

b) want to add to their parents’ problems

c) want to get yelled at

d) want to choose sides

e) want to show that they’re not “mature enough” to handle what’s going on

f) all of the above

On this week’s Family Confidential video podcast, I talk with Wendy Young, child and adolescent therapist and founder of Kidlutions. We discuss pragmatic parenting tips for helping kids of all ages navigate the emotional challenges of divorce. – Listen here




I miss my mom

February 3, 2014

Change happens when you let possibility in

Change happens when you let possibility in

I could see her crying at her keyboard as she tried to shut out the laughter of Dad and Stepmom outside her closed bedroom door. She hates them for being happy. She hates herself for hating them. She’s so angry and resentful. So frustrated and confused. But mostly she’s a sad little girl missing her mom, dead four years. Through tear-blurred eyes she searches cyberspace, desperate for connection, hoping for help yet convinced it’s hopeless because the only way to ever make things right again is to bring back Mom.

How do you counsel a child who can’t have the only thing she says will make her whole again? Here’s what I told her:

What do you do when you want something that you can not have? You have options, you know. Do you…

a) Keep longing for the impossible?
b) Feel sorry for yourself and build a wall to keep out everyone who tries to help you?
c) Make your peace with the new reality while still holding your mom’s memory in your heart?
d) Open your mind and heart to the next chapter of your life and allow yourself to move forward?
She was too stuck in b to listen. What do you say to a child who won’t allow herself to be happy for her father or friendly to her stepmom because it feels disloyal to Mom? I told her:
When one partner in a loving marriage dies, it can, after a while, be a wonderful tribute to that marriage for the surviving partner to marry again. But if one partner in an unhealthy marriage dies, it is less likely for the other to remarry.
You seem to think it’s your job to stand up for your mother’s memory and to be unwelcoming to your stepmom even though you say she is nice to you. I wonder what your mom would say about it. What if she could whisper to you, “Sweetie, it’s a good thing that your dad has found a wonderful woman to share his life with again. I am truly happy for him. Please try to be happy for him. And please, open your heart to this good woman. She wants to be your friend. Let her in. That will make you happier and stronger as you grow up. And when you are happy, I am happy.”
So the girl she took in everything I said and slowly began to open her mind to the possibility that maybe she could enjoy a relationship with her stepmom, not as a substitute for Mom (of course not!) but as a caring, trusted woman who offers unconditional love and understanding, support and stability. But then her fear of loss brought a frightening thought and the girl wanted to know what might happen if she loved Stepmom and then they divorced or “something happens” and Stepmom wasn’t around any more.  “I can’t lose another mom. No way!” And I replied:
Every time we reach out to someone in friendship or love, we risk that “something might happen” and the relationship will be damaged or be lost. That’s the nature of life. We are human. Our feelings change and circumstances change. And even if feelings and circumstances remain constant, we don’t live forever. Not any of us. It’s a hard thing to accept, but we have to accept it because that’s the way it is… for everyone.

Your relationship with your mom ended in this life. Since her death you have created a new relationship with her.  She is always in your heart, loving you as much as you love her. That’s an everlasting gift and nothing will change that.  Another unopened gift is a dad and stepmom who are so ready and eager to love you. They’re waiting for you. When we hold ourselves back from getting close to others because we are afraid of what “might happen” someday, we shut ourselves off from the most important thing in life… love.

Is it time to open your door?


Guest blogger: When Kids Outgrow Visitation Schedules

May 13, 2013

by Scott Morgan

Scott Morgan is a board certified Texas family law attorney who regularly blogs on the subject of divorce and family law. Check out his blog on the Morgan Law Firm website.

Teens demand lots of space from parents, divorced or not

Parents want to see their children grow to become independent, freethinking individuals with the social skills needed to foster relationships independent of mom and dad. Rarely, though, are parents heard to rejoice as their teenagers assert their independence and develop relationships outside the home to the exclusion of time spent with mom and dad.

As an attorney whose practice focuses on divorce and family law, I go to court all the time to enforce child custody and visitation agreements and court orders, but sometimes the law does not provide a practical solution. Recently, a client came to me with a problem that the law and the courts could not resolve. The client was a noncustodial parent who had never had problems with his former spouse regarding visitation with the parties’ only child. Now, years after the divorce, my client could not arrange visits with the child.

I read the visitation agreement, and it was clear and specific as to days and times of visitation.
I would have suggested going back to court to enforce visitation, but my client was not having a problem with the former spouse. The obstacle standing in the way of my client’s visitation was the child or, more accurately, the child who had grown into a teenager.

A visitation schedule that specified that the child would visit with the client on alternating weekends, on specified holidays and for a month during the summer had worked well when the child was younger. As the child got older, something occurred that most non-custodial parents eventually discover about visitation schedules: children outgrow them.

Inflexible visitation schedules minimize conflicts and disagreements between the custodial and non-custodial parent following a divorce by eliminating the need for the parties to engage in discussions about the scheduling of visits. The rigid schedule lets each parent know what is expected and eliminates the potential for disputes.

Unfortunately, the strict schedule that worked so well when the young child did whatever mom and dad said to do became a problem as the child got older. Visitation then took a back seat to school athletics, social events or just hanging out with friends.

How can you as a noncustodial parent maneuver through the teen years and still maintain a solid and involved relationship with your child? Here are a few suggestions that have worked for well many of my clients in their post-divorce teen year struggles.

Forget About Enforcement and Punishment

Without proof that your former spouse is influencing your child’s conduct or otherwise preventing you from exercising your visitation rights there is not much that a judge can or will do about your situation. Unless you and your spouse can agree on a flexible schedule of visitation, the burden falls upon you to resolve your problems with your child.

Threats or punishment will not resolve a visitation problem, at least not in a way that is in the long-term best interest of the relationship with your child. Punishment or threats usually lead to hostility and resentment. Do you want to spend the weekend with a hostile, recalcitrant human being whose only desire is to get away from you?

Flexibility Has to Start With Someone

Show your child you can be flexible. Your visitation schedule may be inflexible, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be. When you are scheduled to visit, extend an invitation to your teenager. Give your child the opportunity to accept or decline. Do not be upset if your teen declines the invitation. After all, it was an invitation and not an order. Extend the invitation again the next time you are scheduled to visit. While at some point you may need to take a different approach, first try to let your child decide that they want to spend time with you. Once you give them the option and make it clear that you would like to spend time with them they may surprise you and agree to go.

Do Not Give Up

If an athletic or other public event in which your child is participating interferes with a scheduled visitation date, arrange to go see your teenager in the event. The message you will be sending is that you want to be involved in your teenager’s life and that you are willing to take the time to make that happen. Make it clear to them that because it is important to them, it is important to you.

Keep In Touch

We live in an age of cell phones, text messaging, emails and countless other ways to stay in touch with each other on a daily basis. Just because your teenager’s schedule does not allow time for you to visit, a text message lets your child see that you are making an effort to stay in touch and stay connected.

Remember, They Really Do Outgrow It

Being flexible, extending invitations and not orders, and staying in touch will help you to maintain a relationship with your child until the day comes that your child accepts your invitation to visit or responds to a text message. They all grow out of it eventually. The trick is not to react during the teen years in a way that harms your future relationship with your son or daughter.

Filed under: Parenting,Tips — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 1:28 pm
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