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.

10 Tips for after school fun

September 8, 2014

Yes! Now we're cooking'

Yes! Now we’re cooking’

It’s Monday… again, back on the hamster wheel. Wasn’t it just Friday afternoon? What happened to those weekend plans to relax? Maybe go for a family bike ride? Or out for some food and a movie? And then, on late Sunday afternoon, you planned to tune into Spa Radio and fall asleep on the couch. But someone took your nap, didn’t they?  ‘Cause you sure never got it. None of the rest of those plans materialized either.

And what the hell was going on this morning? Why were the kids so slow you had to threaten them with “Do you wanna walk to school?!” three times? On top of that, the international news is… scareee.

21st century. Not easy. You’ve got stress and so do your kids.  So how about when you and the kids reconnect later today, you have some serious fun together?

First, when you lay eyes on them, make sure you avoid these joy-busters:

1. “How was school?”

2. “Did you remember to bring home your jacket?”

3. “Did you tell the teacher that you need to sit closer to the board?”

4. “Did you finish your lunch?”

5.  “How did you do on your _____ test?”

6. “Did people like your _________?”

7. “Who did you play with at recess?”

8. “Do you have a lot of homework?”


Instead, cheerfully announce that homework will be delayed today (Fun first – Work later.)

Then try some of these together

1. Take a neighborhood walk searching for “wildlife” (Yes, caterpillars count.)

2. Take photos of those critters and post them on FB with silly captions.

3. Find a shedding tree, then stomp on, kick, toss or roll around in its leaves.

4. Bring home some red, yellow, orange leaves and tape them to a window. (Instant stained-glass!)

5. Make popcorn. (For extra fun, try it without a lid. Go on, live a little.)

6. Tell each other something funny, surprising, or lucky that happened today.

7. Make/bake something for tonight’s dessert. (Leave some for tonight’s dessert.)

8. Read a story, then re-write the ending. Wacky is good!

9. Plan Halloween costumes. (Search for images or better yet, draw what you’re imagining.)

10. Make fun plans for next weekend. (And make them happen!)


Love to hear some fun ways you reconnect with your kids after school.


What’s Up With My Family?

August 14, 2014

Your Mom sees one dirty spoon on the sink counter and starts yelling. You politely ask Dad for movie money and he walks past you muttering something about “…growing on trees.” You excitedly tell your daughter, “Keep Saturday open, sweetie, we’re going…” but before you finish, she bursts into tears. Your son is nothing but rude to his little brother and when you try to reason with him he loudly accuses you of not loving him.

What's up with my family? There's an app for that!

What’s up with my family? There’s an app for that!

Later you sit at the dinner table. No one talks or even looks at each other. Yet you’re all connected by a silent question: “What’s up with my family?!”

What’s that you say? Never wondered about that? Bolderdash! For centuries parents and kids have asked themselves “What’s up with my family?” Now, finally, here in the glorious Digital Age, there comes an app with some answers!! I know it’s good, because I wrote it. But don’t just take my word for it, here’s what Carisa Kluver of Digital Storytime has to say:

Fox covers issues that range from over-protective parents to abandonment and loss deftly in this graphic novel for readers 10 and up. What’s Up with My Family? is a book app with brilliant storytelling, movie-quality sound effects and seamlessly integrated features. Electric Eggplant has set the gold standard for presenting graphic novels in the digital realm. My highest recommendation!

Bolderdash aside, when it comes right down to it, we love our family. We really do! And sometimes they drive us nuts. Without doubt, we sometimes do our part to drive them nuts too. Even though all families are different, they all have ups and downs.

This is an app for every kid (and parent) who’s ever wondered, “What’s Up With My Family?” It may help you understand the people in your family better. It may also help you use your power to improve things at home. Sometimes you can do that by talking about how you feel. Sometimes, change happens when you shift your attitude and decide to be more cooperative.

Get it now, for your family and you might start talking and laughing at dinner again.

(Press release can be viewed here.)


Don’t fill your emptier nest with tears

June 11, 2014

I originally wrote this article for my pre-blog parenting newsletter. I could lie and say I’m reposting it by popular demand but the truth is: I wanted a graduation themed post and this one, 6 years later, is still spot on. Ask Gayle.

Prepare for take-off

Prepare for take-off

“I’ve been hugging her a lot,” my friend Gayle said when I asked how she was dealing with her college-bound daughter’s imminent departure.

“Savoring the moments,” I nodded. “Nice.”

“I wouldn’t put it that way.” Gayle cut to the chase. “After dinner she said she was taking a shower and I just couldn’t control myself.”

“Did you follow her into the bathroom?”

“Worse. I threw my arms around her and held on so tight she couldn’t move. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Pathetic, huh?”

“Not so much,” I reassured her. “She’s your only child. She’s been your focus for 18 years. What you’re feeling is totally understandable. She’s leaving home.”

At the “L” word, Gayle winced, but I plunged ahead. “You and Ben have done an incredible job raising her. She’s intelligent. Kind. And if she wasn’t self-confident she wouldn’t want to go to college 3,000 miles away.”

Mentioning the distance caused Gayle’s face to contort.

“Sweetie, you’ve got to refocus some of this energy into something new, because if you don’t, you’re both going to be really unhappy during your last summer together.”

Oops. That did it. Gayle eyes welled up. Sigh. Kids grow up. And if that’s not one of the toughest facts of life, what is?

Gayle knows I understand. After all, I’m a mom, though the genetic evidence is far away at the moment. Our daughter’s trekking around Cambodia and our son is teaching in Malaysia. But even when they complete their adventures they’re not coming home due to the simple fact that they don’t live here anymore. No, we didn’t kick them out. Nor did they leave in a huff. They just went ahead, thumbed their noses at Peter Pan, and grew up.

Did you catch the fine print on your child’s birth certificate? It read: “You’ve got just 18 years to prepare this child to become a fully-functioning independent adult who can make their own lunch and have their own life. Good luck. Time starts… NOW!”

That’s the mission we signed up for. And no amount of nostalgia for bedtime snuggles or Saturday morning soccer games will bring back those fun times. Did we love being the center of their Universe and the source of their comfort and encouragement? Absolutely! Do I sometimes miss it when I see a mom or dad walking hand in hand with a toddler? Yep! I’m also unashamed to admit that I sobbed like a deranged woman after dropping off each of our kids as a college freshman. But I pulled it together quickly because I’d already opened a window in my life while they were growing up. So when they started their new chapters… I had more time for mine. While everyone’s new chapter is completely and wondrously different, I can happily report that as our nest has gotten emptier… my life has become fuller.

In case you’re wondering, our loving, smart, and spirited little girl and her equally awesome little brother, are still all that. They’re out in the world, living their lives. And they check in with us regularly for a sweet taste of “home” which is always right here for them in large helpings.

If your teen is leaving for college this fall, congratulations for the support you’ve provided toward her reaching this milestone. As an acknowledgement gift, here are some tips for your next chapter. If you’re not there yet, these tips will help you continue preparing for your emptier nest.

Tips — Preparing for an Emptier Nest

  • Create some new goals — What would you do with at least one extra hour a week just for yourself? Learn something new? Tackle a creative project? Set a professional goal? Make the goal important (to you) and get started now. If you chose well, working on your goal will sustain you on many levels when your child leaves the nest.
  • Make some new friends — The friends of most parents are the parents of their kids’ friends. But looking ahead as a parent with grown-up kids, it makes sense to nurture some “non-kid-centered” friendships. Following your own interests (see above) can connect you with new friends who share those interests.
  • Revitalize your relationship — If you’re lucky enough to have a significant other, talk to him/her about “Our life as a couple, post-kids.” Support each other’s feelings about the inevitable changes. Discuss ways you can improve communication. Schedule fun time together. Hopefully you’ll rediscover what’s at the core of your relationship and create a healthy new chapter.
  • Re-focus on your social life — If you’re single and interested in dating, but haven’t as yet because of parenting obligations, now may be the time to start letting friends know that you’re “looking” again.
  • Call a family meeting — Do it before graduation and give everyone an opportunity to talk honestly about this big change. How does each family member feel about “Josh” going away? Talk about opportunities for everyone in the family to stay connected to the new college student and to each other.
  • Avoid over-parenting your younger children — It won’t make you miss “Josh” less and it’s very likely to cause push-back from your at-home child. Of course you need to continue parenting, but redirecting all of your energy toward your younger kid(s) spells trouble.
  • Be aware of the emotional impact on siblings — Without the older one as a parental buffer and confidante, younger one(s) may feel off-balance and too much on their parent’s radar screen (see above). Encourage siblings to talk about their relationship before graduation and what the separation is going to mean and how they can stay updated on each other’s lives.

I checked in with Gayle yesterday to find out how she was feeling after our talk. Here’s what she had to say:

“Right now I’m really excited—for her and us. Obviously, that fluctuates day-by-day, moment-by-moment. She’s a great kid and I’m very lucky to have her in my life. I’ll continue to have her in my life, but in a very different way. I do my best to celebrate that.”

Gayle rocks!

In friendship,

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 4:52 pm

Three things parents should stop doing in 2014

January 5, 2014

Self-improvment New Year’s resolutions usually fade after Week 2 because they require us to do things we’re not used to. Most people aren’t wired that way. So I’m thinking it might be easier to stop doing something unhealthy rather than to start a whole new regime. So here’s my list of three common things parents should stop doing this year.

That's it! I've had it!!!!

That’s it! I’ve had it!

1. Yelling. Parenting is messy and stressful. With everything that’s expected of you it’s easy to get frustrated or overwhelmed. If yelling has become your go-to place, you need to stop. When you lash out at your kids, your spouse, or your dog, you are polluting your home and hurting your family. If you don’t have at least one stress-management tool in your toolkit (alcohol and tobacco do not count), you aren’t fully equipped for your parenting job so you’ll be less effective. I recommend breathing. It will help you learn the relaxation response. Breathing requires no gym membership or special shoes. It’s free and always available. Yes, it’s habit-forming, but in a very good way. Stop yelling and start breathing and your kids will give you less to yell about. Guaranteed.

2. Tuning out. Parents, teachers, coaches… adults in general are always telling kids what to do, how to act, and what to believe. When kids take the bold step of opening up to us (because they need to be heard), we often aren’t listening… not one hundred percent. And if we are listening, as soon as we hear something that indicates a “problem” we may well jump to invalidate it (“You don’t really feel that way.”) And yet, we want our kids to stand up for themselves amongst their peers – whether they’re being overpowered in the kindergarten playground or in a teen relationship. But how are they going to learn to be speak up if we don’t give them practice by respectfully listening to what they have to say? Stop tuning out and start listening with a more open heart and mind and your kids will feel more confident in themselves.

 3. Rushing around. Every family needs down time, and hopefully you all got some during the holidays. But most of us need and deserve daily down time… together… as a family. If your kids are still young enough for story time, what a great chance to cuddle and reconnect each evening. If your children are past being read to you can still make it a nightly ritual to check in with them for a quiet talk about how the day went for each of you. (This is a great way to teach kids that conversations are a two-way street. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you’re always the one asking “How’s it going?”) And let’s not forget meal time. Maybe you’ve heard this before but the research findings are so amazing they’re worth repeating: Kids whose families sit down and eat dinner together at least three times a week get all kinds of benefits. Have dinner together and your kids are more likely to do better in school, less likely to use alcohol or illegal drugs, and less likely to be overweight. They’re even less likely to have friends who do drugs! Don’t you love it?

Happy New Year from my family to yours.

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