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.

Graduation: They’re moving toward independence… and so are we!

June 17, 2013

End of one chapter, start of the next

I’m wired to cry. So naturally I sobbed hysterically after dropping my 18-month-old daughter at preschool. (Hey, I got better by the second week!) And I bawled as I dropped her off at college. And when her little brother left for college six years later, the waterworks gushed again. Kids beginning a new chapter in life can do that to parents. It can also make us feel incredibly proud, especially if they (and we) worked hard to reach that point.

As graduation parties wind down and you begin thinking about the next round of challenges coming up in the fall, here are some tips to help you through this transition:

  • Let them have their summer: Kids need to relax and so do we. Yes things must get done before the new term, but unless your child won’t calm down until all school supplies and clothes are purchased, then save it for August and let them enjoy a balance of structured and unstructured time.
  • Step back so they can step up: From September to May kids use the “I’ve got homework” excuse to avoid lending a hand around the house. Tell them that pass has expired. Besides, summer is a great time to help kids to develop responsibility. They’ll need it because each new grade level requires kids to take more responsibility for their education. They’ll only meet upcoming challenges when we require more of them as members of Team Family. Be specific with your summer expectations and hold the kids accountable. NOTE: Do not load them down with home and garden projects all day every day. Remember, it’s summer! (See tip #1)
  • Create new goals for yourself: Our kids are moving toward independence – just as Nature intended. We’re moving in that direction too and eventually we’ll work our way out of this full-time parenting gig. That’s part of your job description. (Check the fine print on your kid’s birth certificate.) Even if your child is just starting first grade in the fall, the clock is running down on the “under the same roof” phase of parenting. Summer is a great time to remember that before you were a parent you were a person with unique interests and talents. What would you do with at least one extra hour a week just for yourself? Set a goal for yourself this summer and get started. Let your kids in on the goal and on your progress, too. (That’s great modeling!) If you chose well, working on your goal will sustain you on many levels when your child (eventually) leaves the nest.

Now go have some summer fun and pass me a tissue on the way out.

Filed under: Events,Parenting,Teens,Tips — Tags: , , — Annie @ 3:00 am

Raising kids who are at home with themselves

January 15, 2010

Life isn't always a bowl of cherries.

Life isn't always a bowl of cherries.

When I was 15 my father died suddenly. Though I continued living at the same address until I left for college, it never again felt like home. That’s probably when I began looking for something that couldn’t be lost or taken away – a feeling of home inside myself.

When you meet someone who is truly at home with herself, she put others at ease by osmosis. Her self-acceptance expands to include accepting you. We are instinctively drawn to such people.

Many of your children will be graduating this spring… from elementary school. From middle or high school. From college. Big changes in store that are best weathered by kids who are at home with themselves so they can be “at home” wherever they are. Accepting of others and new situations.

How well prepared are your children for the next chapter in their lives, whatever it might be? How confident are they in their ability to cope with and adapt to what’s ahead? And what can you do to help and support them throughout? Here are some tips:

How to raise young adults who are at home with themselves

1. Create a home base that’s a safety net and a launching pad. Home should support a child’s emotional development and nurture his spirit. With a stable, loving and accepting family to return to anything is possible… even venturing into the unknown. Kids who grow up with a strong foundation are like turtles, always carrying their sense of home along with them. Remind yourself often that your parenting goal is to prepare your children for life. That means helping them develop critical thinking skills. It also means acting with compassion, kindness, and generosity of spirit. Whenever you catch your teens doing or saying something that demonstrates these capacities, let them know you approve. It helps them develop a positive self-image, essential for feeling at home with themselves.

2. Uncertainty is not a dirty word. When you know absolutely what you stand for then you should absolutely take a stand. A great message for adolescents who often let their addiction to peer approval prevent them from doing what’s right. But uncertainty is part of life. Kids brought up to believe that doubt isn’t an acceptable emotion are reluctant to try new things. How can they be at home with themselves if they’re unwilling to experience confusion? How can they be at home in the world if they’re not open to new things that they may not immediately understand?

If you truly want them to become self-confident adults who move through life with grace and courage then let them know that it’s okay not to know. Sometimes things become clear after we’ve had the courage to venture forth armed only with uncertainty and a willingness to accept what crosses our path, take it in and learn from it.

3. Model adaptability and an open attitude. If you tend to be anxious your attitude may be making it more difficult for your kids to feel at home anywhere. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I like surprises?
  • Do I enjoy: Meeting new people? Eating new foods? Listening to new music? Going to places and doing things I’ve never done before?
  • Do I take time to notice my surroundings?
  • Am I critical or suspicious of things/people that are different?
  • When I’m feeling “out of my element” do I usually: Shut down and withdraw? Become combative and defensive? Have a drink? Crank up the volume of my social self? Acknowledge my discomfort and try to relax and become more open?

If you always need to feel in control then challenge yourself to become a bit more flexible. The more open you are to change the more adaptable your kids will be.

4. Travel, as a family. Use a family vacation as an opportunity to step back a bit and let your kids show what they’ve already learned about being at home in the world. Notice their competencies and acknowledge them. And if you’re traveling to a new place, you might take the point of view that you are strangers in a strange land together. As “strangers”, your family has a chance to observe, learn and push the edges of your collective comfort zones. Share your feelings. Yes, being in a strange new place can be scary, but it can also reinforce how strong and capable each of you are.

5. Encourage independence. As the parent of a tween or teen now is the time for you to be stepping back from center stage where you’ve managed your child’s life for years. It’s your daughter’s or your son’s turn to take over as their own manager. They’ll need that experience when they actually leave home. They’ll also need to know that “home” (including their growing self-confidence, plus your love and everything you’ve taught them) is always right there in their heart, nurturing their spirit.

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