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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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Moms helping daughters with friendship issues

November 7, 2015

We've got the tools and we're brave enough to use 'em!

We’ve got the tools and we’re brave enough to use ’em!

Last month I began partnering with the Girl Scouts of Northern California by presenting my  Girls Friendship without the Drama Workshops.  In the first hour I teach girls to navigate all kinds of sticky peer conflicts while the moms (and the few cool dads who’ve shown up) sit back, listen and observe. During the second hour the girls skedaddle into another room where they engage in more (supervised) friendship-building skills while the parents and I circle the wagons and get to the heart of what girls need from those of us who love them.

To date I’ve done nine of these workshops with another seven scheduled. Girls can’t wait to start using what they’ve learned. Moms are reminded how painful it can be feel “replaced” by a friend. Dads are stunned at how hard it is for girls to tell a friend, “Stop. I don’t like that.” Parents are thrilled to have new insight, language, and context to help their daughters do a better job navigating friendships.

Here are some tips to help you help your daughters and sons resolve the inevitable issues that come up between our kids and their peers.

Dealing with Friendship Challenges

  • Calm Down. No matter what awful thing some child has done to your daughter or son, calming down first makes it easier to get through the upset. So take some slow deep breaths and encourage your child to do the same.
  • Show that you get it. Acknowledge that it hurts when a friend turns against you. Reflect back what you hear, “You sound really hurt, angry, and confused.” Share one of your own “hurt by a friend” stories. Share what you learned and how you used it to become a more thoughtful person and a better friend. This models empathy and reassures your child that (s)he will survive.
  • What Can/Can’t You Control? Tell your child,You can’t control a friend’s behavior or feelings, but you can get a handle on your own.” When we try to control things we can’t control, it stresses us out and makes us feel powerless. Don’t let your kid go there!
  • You’ve got options! Even after a blow-up with a bff, your child is  far from powerless. She always has options. For example, your child might:
    • Never talk to that friend again
    • Get back at her by spreading gossip
    • Suppress the hurt and act like it didn’t bother you
    • Find new friends

Brainstorming should be open-ended. Encourage your child to freely explore ideas without your judging them. They’re just ideas and this is a clearing process. Even the worst, knee-jerk options offer great (and totally safe) learning opportunities. In addition, you’ll give your child a gift by talking about all of this. When s/he doesn’t have to worry about your rushing in to “fix” the problem, your child’s thinking process will be accelerated. Hopefully, she’ll move closer to the time when she no longer accepts disrespectful behavior from anyone, including herself!

At the end of the process your child may decide to take a vacation from the drama or to find the EXIT out of the friendship. That’s her choice. But just because she’s finished, doesn’t mean she has the right to make life unhappy for an ex-friend. I put it is this way: You have the right to choose your friends, but it’s NEVER okay to be cruel or disrespectful. Keep your distance if you choose, but always treat others the way you want to be treated. Old rule. Still applies.

 

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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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