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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.

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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Bad friend vs. No friend

May 14, 2016

When I hear from smart, capable girls who continue to hang out with people who treat them badly, my brain itches. Why would a person with so much going for her put up with rudeness, contempt, and overall disrespect… from anyone? Especially from a so-called friend?! What’s up with that?

To all you parents and teachers who’ve wondered the same thing, this one’s for you:

 

Where do I fit in?

Where do I fit in?

Hey Terra,

I’ve always been nervous and anxious in social situations, so I’ve never had many friends. Each time I made one, I’d be so happy. Then, after a while, when those friends ignored me, it hurt, but I didn’t let it get to me.

This year I made a friend who let me open up and be less shy. Finally I had a best friend who thought of me as one as well. Everything was great until my best friend developed a crush on a boy. I’ll be talking to her and in the middle of whatever I’m saying she runs off looking for him.

It made me angry, but I thought I was being jealous or selfish. I did that to try to blame  myself because I didn’t want to lose my first best friend. Then she became friends with two other girls. She’d still talk to me, but after a while, she’d bail on me while walking to the lunch room because she wants to sit with her new friends. She doesn’t care if I come or not. Sometimes during lunch, out of loneliness, I sit with them even though they all ignore me. I just sit there.

Recently during recess me and my friend were having a great conversation, laughing and all, until one of her new friends interrupted us and my friend completely ignored me to talk to them for for the rest of the recess.

Please help me Terra. The way my friend treats me makes me not want to be her friend at all. I’d rather be alone then ignored…

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You’re a smart girl. You don’t need me to tell you your friend’s behavior is rude. You already know that. But do you need me to tell you that you deserve better? Do you need me to tell you that even “out of loneliness” it isn’t helpful (or healthy) for you to sit with them during lunch only to be “ignored?”

You think because you have, in the past, been “nervous and anxious” in social situations that you do not deserve to be appreciated and treasured by your friends? That’s ridiculous! Of course, you deserve it!! As you say, “I’d rather be alone than ignored…” I agree with that statement. 100%!

Being on your own at lunch (with a great book) would be a much better choice than hanging out with people who make you feel “less than.” Books are always good friends. So is a journal. (Something in the way you express yourself tells me you might be a writer.)

If reading or writing in a journal doesn’t sound like something you want to do at lunch, here’s another option: Look around the lunch room. Who is sitting alone? Who is being ignored? What would it take for you to walk away from rudeness and walk toward a potential new friendship?

Be smart. Be brave. Go for it! You deserve good friends and you can have them.

In friendship,
Terra

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Parenting Question: Why Are Girls’ Friendships So Dramatic?

June 25, 2015

We’re up to Part 4 of this (mostly) parenting Q&A series. I’ll occasionally throw in a teen question because, hey, it’s always enlightening to hear kids talk about what we do that drives them nuts. Today’s question concerns the confusion of a parent whose daughter is having an emotionally difficult time (again) with a best friend.

Best friends forever, right?

Best friends forever, right?

Today’s Question: Why are girls’ friendships so dramatic? My daughter had a best friend from 2-5th grade. When that girl moved away, my daughter was distraught. Now she’s in 7th, with a new best friend who may be losing interest. My daughter is getting very worried and upset. What can I do to help her put this in perspective?

Since 1997, the #1 issue girls write to me about is betrayal or rejection by a friend. Specifically, “My bff has a new bff! What do I do?” The email writer goes on to describe how she’s crying herself to sleep, has lost her appetite and doesn’t want to go to school or anywhere! Parents are often confounded by the intensity of their daughter’s emotions in these situations. Moms and Dads want to know what they can do to help.

Here’s the way I see it: A girl’s dramatic response to a friendship that’s cooling off resembles how one might react to a romantic break-up. Some girls even refer to losing a friend as getting “dumped.” Girls’ attachment to other girls is a precursor to their search for the The One, aka the Soul Mate, if you believe in that kind of stuff. Even if you don’t, it represents a search for someone who “knows me” and “understands me.” Someone who will laugh at what I laugh at and be equally moved by the things that move me. Someone I feel so close to that I barely need to explain myself to them.

When a girl’s bestie loses interest, and, for whatever reason, wants to spend time with another friend, it’s a major loss. Girls often describe it in classic stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, until they can find their way to Acceptance. That’s where parents can help.

Tips for Helping Your Daughter Process the Loss of a Friend

1. Do not minimize your daughter’s angst. This “drama” she’s feeling and expressing is real. She needs your willingness to listen, without judgment. Dads, I know you want to help, and sometimes you may feel you have no idea where all these emotions are coming from. Moms, you’ve probably had some personal experience with friendship drama (past or present), so help your daughter’s father understand. Bottom line, the goal is not to commiserate with a sobbing girl, but to help her figure out a way through this.

2. Let your daughter talk about how she feels. Just listen with compassion and patience. When you do that, she will calm down because you are giving her an opportunity to express her feelings responsibly and appropriately.

3. Discourage her from getting on social media or her phone. Otherwise the whole thing will blow up like a conflagration, spreading like wild fire. Allies of both girls will feel pressure to take sides and rush onto the digital battlefield. That kind of drama is social garbage and no girl needs more of it in her life.

4. Work toward a reachable goal. After your daughter calms down, ask her “What is the best outcome you can imagine?” Likely she’ll say, “I want her to be my bff again!” Please gently remind her that she doesn’t have the power to control other people’s feelings or behavior, but she can help herself feel better about the situation. For example, instead of feeling sorry for herself, she could talk directly to her friend. This might result in a new awareness for your daughter in these areas:

a) what she needs in a friendship

b) where she draws the line in terms of how she lets people treat her

c) why it’s essential to have high standards for yourself and your friends

d) how important it is to be with someone who wants to be with you as much as you want to be with them

5. Encourage her to shop for a new best friend. Talk with your daughter about the qualities she deems important in a friend. Help her make a list (if she wants your help). Once she knows what she’s looking for she may decide that the “loss” she just experienced wasn’t so much of a loss at all. She may also be energized to go out and find a new best friend –one who provides more of what she needs.

I hope this helps you and your daughter. If you’ve got a question about parenting tweens and teens, email me.  If your 8-12 year old daughter could use some help navigating friendships, check out my latest book – The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship Without the Drama. 

 

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Friendship issues from the 8th grade Part 2

May 21, 2014

Let's figure out this friendship stuff together

Let’s figure out this friendship stuff together

This is part 2 of the very cool Skype in the Classroom session I had Monday with a class of Philadelphia 8th graders. (Here’s Part 1) I’m all about giving students ongoing, safe places to get real about the challenges of friendships. It’s important to their personal well-being and to a positive school climate.

Student: Annie, what if you have friends who act cool when they’re with you but other times, when they’re with other people, they act really different with you?

What have you tried so far?

Student: I ask them, “Why do you act different with your friends than when you’re with me?” And they said, “I don’t know what you mean!”

All of that “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” is B.S. What you’re describing is The Switcheroo. When it’s just you and your friend, things are cool. Then you add one or two other people and suddenly you’ve switched channels and I don’t even know this person who is supposed to be my best friend. I’m wondering, “Why are you treating me this way?!”

Props to you for asking him what was going on. That was very brave. Most people would feel bad about the way they were being treated in, but they aren’t likely to talk about it. You took the extra step and I have a lot of respect for you.

So you asked your friend about it and he said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” That wasn’t true. He knew exactly what you’re talking about. But he didn’t feel proud of the way he’s been treating you, so he wouldn’t admit it.

If that happens again, I suggest you find the EXIT. You may not have ever thought of this, but there is an exit for every friendship. And sometime you just have to give yourself permission to walk through it. You can leave without making a big announcement. You can just say, “I’ll catch you later.” And you leave and spend time on your own doing thing or you hang out with other friends who treat you with more respect, or you take your dog for a walk. Whatever it is, just leave. Because there is no reason to stay with people who are not treating you well. Zero reason. Don’t do that.

Exactly how long do you stay away from this friend or friends? That depends. You could take a short vacation and the next day your friend may ask why you left. Be honest. You can say, “When you’re with other people you don’t treat me very well, so I left.” That gives him something to think about. And maybe the next time he’s with you and other people, he’ll treat you better. Or he won’t.

Sometimes, though, you go through the exit and you never come back to the friendship. And that’s ok too. Sometimes you end a friendship because you’ve outgrown it or because you get a new idea about how you want to be treated. It’s all ok. Just don’t talk about the person after you’ve gone through the exit. That’s not cool. It’s just gossip. Not important.

Before we ran out of time I asked the students what they usually learned in this class with this teacher. And they told me they learned math and science. This wasn’t the answer I expected, so I asked the teacher why he wanted his students to get a Skype lesson on Real Friends vs the Other Kind.

Teacher: We meet once a week, on Monday mornings, and have open discussions where people talk about their lives and share. And friendship is an important topic for us to talk about.

You guys are very lucky to have a teacher who prioritizes this stuff. Someone who says, “This may not be math or science, but it’s important. And I want to give you a platform to talk about it.” That’s awesome. There are not enough teachers like this one. You’re very lucky.

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