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.

Dealing with feelings so no one (else) gets hurt

November 12, 2015

I'm so MAD I could... ?

I’m so MAD I could… !

From the moment we learn a baby is coming we begin a life-long journey to understand this new person. At first it’s a clear-cut mission. I am key to my child’s survival. I must understand what the child needs and provide it. Sure there may have been lovers who proclaimed, “You are my life.” “I’d be lost without.” “I would die without you.” That is fantasy. But our baby’s need for us doesn’t get any realer. Without our love and protection… the child would die.

As kids grow they learn to take care of their own physical needs. Feeding. Toileting. Bathing. And they learn to decode the world by exploring its textures, tastes and sounds.

How about learning to take care of their emotional needs? Little children have big emotions. Tweens and teens often experience off-the-chart emotions. We parents need to hang in there, continually trying to understand what’s going on. We often do it by asking:

How do you feel?

What scared you?

Why are you crying?

This line of questioning helps kids tune in to their emotions and learn about what sets them off.

She was mean to me!

He hurt my feelings!

These conversations are important and helpful, but that’s not the end of the story. If we make it the end kids can get stuck believing: My feelings are most important of all. That mindset just isn’t very helpful for raising kind, respectful and socially courageous kids who do the right thing, online and off.

After your children have talked about their emotions and had a chance to calm down, it’s time for the rest of the story. Ask: “What can you do about this situation? What would be helpful? What would not be helpful?”

Encourage your children to explore their options, aka their next best move because, even though our feelings matter, ultimately, our behavior matters more.

So… how do you feel about that perspective? What do you think about? And what are you going to do with it?

I look forward to hearing from you.

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Parenting Question: What’s the most important thing I should teach my child?

July 13, 2015

That was challenging, but you did it!

That was challenging, but you did it!

Here’s Part 5 of my parenting Q&A series. Today’s question may be one of the most fundamental I’ve received in my 18 years at this online parent education gig. Here goes…

What is the most important thing I should teach my child?

Obviously an essential part of every parent’s job is teaching your children to survive, to keep themselves safe. But I’m going to take a different tack here. My answer to your question is: Teach them to handle their distressing emotions, i.e., the emotions that throw us off-center, muck with our moral compass and interfere with clearly thinking. I’m talking about anger, jealousy, resentment, etc. Oh and let’s not forget frustration and rejection! These emotions can very easily push us over the edge. And when we go over we are much less likely to treat others with respect and sensitivity. This is the why people become violent. Why we so often hurt each other.

When we teach kids to manage their distressing emotions they are in a much better place to deal with life’s challenges. And you don’t need me to tell you there are plenty of challenges to be dealt with… at least a dozen turn up in your path every day. Emotions are like solar flares.  We need the tools to regulate and rein them in.

I’m not suggesting that we teach kids to try to rush ahead of our children and clear their path of all possible obstacles. Nor should we teach them to take everything as it comes with a cheery smile, pretending everything is OK when it isn’t. No way! A more realistic and valuable approach is helping kids understand that they will be pushed to the edge at times. They can count on feeling frustrated, hurt, and angry at times. Our feelings are important, but our behavior is even more important. Our behavior in the face of really strong emotions is something we need to master. Mastery comes from practice.

So let’s give our kids lots of practice in calming down. Lots of practice in finding the words when they feel out of control. Words are very important. We need to help our kids understand that even when we feel we’re about to lose it, it is never OK, to be cruel or disrespectful to anyone. The best way to do this is to model it. Our kids give us plenty of opportunities to show what it’s like to get one’s buttons pushed. They do that to us every day! We need to show them that we know how to control ourselves so that they can learn to do it too.

I hope this helps.

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50 Lessons of Love for Valentine’s Day and Beyond

February 14, 2013

Love is all around. Take what you need. Give what you can.

David and I have celebrated a lot of Valentine’s Days together… so much chocolate! I appreciate how our partnership contributes to my health and well being. It makes so much of what I do possible. I also especially appreciate how our relationship continues to get better. How can that be? We work at it. A lot. We’re not aiming for perfect, only progress in the direction of more kindness, compassion and fun.

And so, on this Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about love after 38 years of marriage. Take what makes sense to you. Leave the rest. I hope it helps in whatever ways you need.

  1. It’s not about who you love, it’s about how.
  2. If it’s getting in the way of being together, as friends and lovers, talk about it.
  3. Be totally trustworthy and require the same from your partner.
  4. Look for opportunities to ease your partner’s mind and tight shoulder muscles.
  5. Turn off the Opinionator and listen with an open heart and mind.
  6. From time to time, just clean up someone else’s mess without expecting an Academy Award.
  7. Don’t cheat… ever.
  8. If you or your partner has created a break in trust, do what makes sense to learn from it and move on… if you can.
  9. Be a safe person for your partner to show his/her vulnerability and strength.
  10. Show that you know and understand who s/he really is.
  11. “Let’s go for a walk” is a lovely thing to say.
  12. Do the dishes, even if it’s not your turn.
  13. Nurture the romance and the friendship because the kids will grow up and leave.
  14. Make food together and enjoy what you’ve dished up.
  15. Don’t look for perfection only progress… in yourself and your partner.
  16. Find at least one thing, outside of the house, that you enjoy doing together and do it… regularly.
  17. Put down the damn phone iPad, Kindle, laptop and hold each other close.
  18. Bring home an occasional surprise treat as a “just because” gift of love.
  19. Anger comes in two varieties… the clean kind (I’m upset & here’s why) and the dirty kind (You ALWAYS do this!) Keep it clean.
  20. Use your love for your partner to give your best self. It’ll become ingrained and then you can give it to everyone.
  21. Be nice. Save the contempt for… actually, don’t save if for anyone.
  22. Share that last chocolate chip cookie.
  23. When your lover wants to talk about something that’s important to him/her (but not to you), stop and LISTEN with genuine interest.
  24. When a hug is given, hug back, no matter how crappy a mood you’re in. It’ll make you feel better.
  25. Show appreciation. Even after years of being together, “Please” and “Thank you” are signs of caring.
  26. Unplug when you’re with your sweetie and be where you are. It shows “You matter to me more than checking FB.”
  27. Fill up the gas tank because you know your partner needs the car tomorrow.
  28. Making your honey a snack is an act of love.
  29. Make eye contact and a smile when s/he walks into the room.
  30. Dark chocolate. Lots of it to share.
  31. When your lover is out in public playing a sport, performing, presenting, be front & center, cheering him/her on!
  32. Let there be togetherness in your chores. Cleaning up, doing laundry, shopping is sweeter when you’re doing it together.
  33. When your lover looks great, tell him/her. When s/he has had better days, do NOT say a word!
  34. If your lover is under the weather (or on a work deadline) do more than your share around the house with a smile.
  35. If you notice your honey has spinach bits between teeth or (horrors!) a booger… speak up (discreetly, of course!)
  36. Foot rubs are such a gift!(if you like having your feet touched) Otherwise… ask what else would feel better.
  37. Be helpful, without being asked.
  38. Listening with an open heart and an open mind leads to understanding. Understanding increases love.
  39. Say the words “I love you” like you really mean it. Yes, from time to time, we all need to hear the words.
  40. A gift is most appreciated when it reflects how well you know and understand your sweetie.
  41. Flirting with anyone other than your sweetie is disrespectful to your lover and your relationship. Just don’t. If you find your affections wandering, take it as an opportunity to make the relationship stronger. Say, “Honey, I need more _____ from you.”
  42. Dark chocolate… wrapped or unwrapped. Lots of it. Frequently. Share.
  43. Forgiveness is a gift to you, your partner, and the relationship. Let go of resentment or it will poison everything.
  44. Be the kind of partner you’d like your partner to be.
  45. Show how much you appreciate having him/her in your life. Not just on Valentine’s, but every day
  46. Your kids learn about love and loving by the way you treat them and by the way you and your partner treat each other.
  47. When your partner is worried don’t say, “That’s ridiculous!” (even if it is.) Just be there with support and encouragement.
  48. Look for opportunities to be helpful. Don’t wait to be asked.
  49. Smile at your sweetie. It sends a great message and you always cuter when you’re happy.
  50. Do something special together today to celebrate your love. We all need that from time to time.  This would be a good time. Enjoy.

Happy Valentine’s Day from our hearts to yours!

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When a BFF leaves you behind

January 26, 2013

I’ve been getting an awful lot of email lately from teens who feel abandoned by their bff. Usually the situation involves a “new girl” coming into the picture who is “stealing” a friend. If this has happened to you (or someone you know) maybe this teen’s email and my answer to it will be helpful. I hope so!

How come she doesn't want to be my friend anymore?

Hey Terra,

Me and “A” have been best friends since kindergarten and we are now in high school. In 7th grade, she started hanging out with this girl named “B.” Now “A” is with “B” all the time. “A” always has her FB status saying she’s “hanging out with my bestie” when she’s with “B.” I feel really jealous and sad. I feel like I shouldn’t be upset because she has the right to be friends with whoever she wants, but it still really hurts my feelings because I feel like she’s replaced me with someone who doesn’t like me. Any input to this would be great!

Ex-BFF

Dear Ex-BFF,

You are right when you say, “‘A’ has the right to be friends with whoever she wants.” And even though your head knows that this is true, your heart “still really hurts” because you miss the closeness you and “A” used to have. Because you don’t yet have another friend to share that same level of closeness with, you feel “jealous” and left-out. I understand.

Sometimes friends outgrow the friendship they have at the same time. Both friends, without saying as much, just start spending less and less time together. It doesn’t usually cause much hurt this way because both friends, for whatever reason, have turned their attention to other things and/or other people. But in this case, it sounds like “A” outgrew the friendship before you did. So you were left feeling “Hey! Come back! I don’t like being here without your friendship!”

My best advice is to try thinking of it this way: This wonderful, long-term friendship you had with “A” has given you many gifts. You two have had lots of great times. Laughed together. Shared secrets. Learned how to negotiate differences of opinions. Learned how to be honest with each other. Through your friendship with “A” you have learned so much about yourself. And one very important thing you’ve learned is what it means to be a great friend. You now have that skill and it’s yours, forever. Now’s the time to: a) Thank “A” for what she’s given you. b) Say goodbye to this phase of your friendship with “A.” You two may become close again in the future, but for now, this chapter has ended. And c) Take what you have learned about friendship and reach out to some new people. You have everything you need to create new friendships which will bring you more wonderful gifts.

Smile. It’s OK. I hope this helps you enjoy the rest of your weekend and the rest of the school year.

In friendship,
Terra

Hey Terra,

Thank you soo much for explaining it like that to me, it makes me feel much better about this situation.

Happier now

Dear Happier Now,

I’m so glad to have helped. Have fun.

In friendship,
Terra

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