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.

“I try to tell my best friend I don’t want her help, but she gets mad.”

January 5, 2018

Twenty years ago I set up shop as Hey Terra at TheInSite.org to help teens manage their emotions responsibly so they can develop self-respect and maintain healthier relationships. 50K teen emails later, the most common question I get is still about the challenges of dealing with feelings and speaking up for oneself in a friendship.

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I know exactly what you need!

Our kids don’t know how to  resolve peer conflicts non-violently. Retaliating with social garbage is a form of violence. Suffering silently is a form of self-inflicted violence. If teens can’t master interpersonal skills, it doesn’t matter how high their GPA is, they’re not going to be happy and successful in any measure that counts.

Teen email question #50,001:

Hey Terra,

I’ve never really trusted my best friend with my secrets because she always blurts them out even if she promises she won’t. Recently a boy has been messaging me and telling me that he likes me. Of course went to my best friend and told her. She asked if I liked him. I said I did. That was a mistake! She told my other friends who I really didn’t want to know because they gossip. Now my best friend is messaging the boy and telling him everything I’ve said about him.

“I’m not really one that stands up for myself cause I don’t want to make other people mad at me. So, sticking up for myself is not really an option here. I know I sound pathetic but I can’t help it.”

Anyways, she keeps saying, “He really likes you!” and it’s making me feel bad because I now realize now that I just want to be friends with him. I’ve told him I don’t want a relationship with him right now and that we are just friends. He’s okay with that but now that my best friend is messaging him he’s like “When will you be ready to date???” I know she is telling him to say this stuff.

I’ve tried to tell her that I’m not really into him any more but she gets mad and is like, “You are so annoying! If I had a chance like this I wouldn’t pass it up, so if you do we won’t be friends anymore.”

I know any person would stick up for themselves but I physically can’t. She will get mad at me and I really don’t want to lose her as a friend. She is my comfort zone we’ve been friends forever. I have other friends but if me and my best friend aren’t friends anymore she will turn them all against me and I’ll have nobody.

I guess what I’m really asking is: What should I say to my friend to make her not be mad if I “breakup” with this boy…? – Scared

Dear Scared,

I understand why you’re scared. Most people would be a little nervous to have a conversation like this. But I don’t buy that you can’t do it. You can. And you really ought to learn how. Slow deep breaths can help make you feel calmer and braver. So does practicing what you want to say before you’re standing in front of the person who needs to hear it.

As scary as talking to your friend may be, it’s important to do it any way. Why? Because if you don’t learn to how to tell people what is and is not okay with you, then you will continue to feel powerless. But if you speak up when someone’s not treating you well, you are much more likely to be respected. And for sure, you’ll have more respect for yourself.

Your friend may mean well or she may just like to be in charge… of everything. Either way, this is your life, not hers. You say if you stick up for yourself she will get mad at you and you’ll risk losing her as a friend. That’s a possibility. But before you decide that is not a risk you ever want to take, please answer this question: What is your definition of a friend?

In your mind, is a best friend someone:

  • I can’t trust with my secrets because she “always blurts them out even if she promises she won’t?”
  • who texts a guy and tells him “everything I’ve said about him?”
  • who blabs my business to other people?
  • who doesn’t seem to care what I want (in this case: no romantic relationship with this boy)
  • who keeps pushing forward as a matchmaker when I don’t want her to?
  • who doesn’t listen to what I say and tells me that I am “so annoying” for wanting to decide when I want to date someone or even if I want a boyfriend at this time in my life?

If your definition includes any or all of the above, you’ve got the perfect best friend. If not, maybe it’s time to reimagine what kind of friend would be a better fit for you.

I hope this helps!

In friendship,
Terra

P.S. Happy New Year. May 2018 bring you many opportunities to shine your light.

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Is she even my friend any more?

August 6, 2016

The pieces don't always go back together

The pieces don’t always go back together

In 1964 Bob Dylan wrote his classic I Shall Be Free No. 10. A line from that song has stuck with me:

Now I gotta friend who spends his life
Stabbing my picture with a bowie-knife
Dreams of strangling me with a scarf
When my name comes up he pretends to barf
I’ve got a million friends!

A million friends. Imagine. And that was way before social media. Guess it depends on how you define friend. That’s a much discussed topic in the email I get. Like this recent one:

Hey Terra,

Me and Serena have been besties since kindergarten. One day we got into a little fight and stopped talking to each other for a while and during that time she goes to her cousin’s birthday party and meets Katie. Suddenly Serena and Katie are really good friends.  They post selfies of them together all the time.

One day I call I ask if she would like to meet and she says: “Umm I don’t think I can because I’m with Katie” and I get kinda hurt because it kinda sounded like she didn’t want me around. Since then she hasn’t called me or respond to any of my texts. The other day I called her and asked if she would like to have a sleepover and she says “Not really.” and hangs up.  She doesn’t really talk to me anymore. I don’t understand. What did I ever do to her? I really would like to have an answer please!! Are we even best friends anymore? – So Confused

Dear So Confused,

I understand why you’re confused. I don’t know why Serena’s acting this way either. It sounds like your “little fight” meant more to her than it did to you. She’s still upset and unless you two talk about it, you might spend a long while wondering what’s going on.

A “best friend” for all these years is definitely worth keeping, Of course, you can only maintain a friendship if both people are invested in it. It’s not going to work if you’re the only one who cares. While it’s worth trying to get to the bottom of this, it might not be so easy to have that honest, heart-to-heart conversation. Especially if she keeps hanging up on you and refuses your invitations to hang out.

You can send her an “I need to talk to you” message. If she doesn’t respond or she says “I don’t want to talk to you.” then you have to let it go for now. Please try to turn down the volume on the worrying. You can do that by trying my Breathing Challenge. You can also reach out to other people you enjoy being with. Make some plans. Enjoy what’s left of the summer. Getting closer to other people now will give you some new friends to start off the new school year. One more thing: If looking at her posted pictures makes you feel bad,  don’t look. That’s going to help, too.

Good luck!

In friendship,
Terra

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From today’s IN BOX: Getting dumped by a BFF hurts so bad!

October 28, 2015

Forever may be shorter than you think

Forever may be shorter than you think

The emails from girls who have been “dumped” by a BFF and “replaced” by their ex-BFF’s new BFF continue to pile up. I get several every day. And while it’s normal to feel upset when the person you’ve been closest to no longer gives a fig for your friendship and it’s helpful to reach out to someone you can trust, you’ve got to ask yourself: what can I do besides feeling like crap?

If you’re a teen, this one’s is for you. I’m going to tell you how to use your power in ways that will make you feel good about yourself… not like the “thrown out pickle on a hamburger” (as one 13 year old so eloquently put it.)

If you’re the parent of a teen, this one’s for you too because even when your girl feels “helpless” there are ways you can help her through this rejection.

Hey Terra – My BFF and I have been really close for 3 years. Last year I became close with another friend. I treated them both like my best friends and I had no idea my first BFF was kinda jealous of the other, she never told me. I felt her drifting away. Then she started getting close to a newcomer and calling her her best friend! I felt replaced. I am getting jealous and I really wish I can have my best friend back. It hurts everytime I see their pictures together. They are always hugging each other and holding hands, which I dislike because she never did that with me. It really hurts at the moment because I can feel my friend ignoring me. I feel so lost Terra, please help me. – Lost and Hurting

Dear Lost and Hurting,

It’s not easy to feel “replaced” in the heart of someone you really care about. I’m sorry you’re hurting. Maybe I can help.

I think it’s interesting that the first half of your email describes the feelings of jealousy your friend experienced when you got close to the other girl. You are intelligent and you’ve probably already noticed the situation has flippednow you’re feeling the same way she did!

The question to be answered is: What can you do about this?

You cannot control your friend’s feelings or thoughts or behavior. If she wants to spend more time with the other girl and if she wants to call the other girl her best friend, you have no control over that. But you do have control over how you respond from this moment on.

If it hurts or makes you jealous to look at their pictures then don’t look. Stop hurting yourself this way. Choose to stay away from her FB page or Instagram or whatever. Likewise, if you feel jealous when you see them hugging each other then stop following them with your eyes. And if you see them, by chance, look away. These choices are within your power.

You don’t say how long this has been bringing you down. I hope not too long. You can choose to continue feeling sad, jealous and rejected if you want to. I wouldn’t recommend that! Instead, I’d recommend that you think about new friends. Start with a list where you fill in the blank to complete this sentence: “I want a best friend who is—————.” Think about all the qualities you are looking for in a close friend. Are you looking for friend who is as intelligent as you are? A friend who shares your values and interests and sense of humor? A friend who wants to be with you as much as you want to be with her? Make a list and then go shopping for a new friend. And be patient. Sometimes it takes a while to find a quality friend.

I hope this helps.
In friendship,
Terra

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