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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 my 12-year-old daughter old enough to have a boyfriend?

June 23, 2016

What does she think it means to have a boyfriend?

What does she think it means to have a boyfriend?

Sometimes our kids say they’re ready for the next step toward independence and we totally agree. We celebrate the milestone, brief them on the house rules, making double sure we’re all on the same page, then we let them go and hold our breath. When they stumble, we listen with compassion and as much patience as we can muster. We help them evaluate their mistakes and we hold them accountable. And they do better next time.

That’s how we all learn.

But sometimes we’re just not convinced they’re ready, no matter how fiercely they lobby us. Then what? That’s where this mom finds herself…

Dear Annie: 

Is it okay for my 12-year-old to have a boyfriend if she seems emotionally ready? She seems pretty mature when it comes to situations like this, but is she too young? – Worried Mom

Important question. Glad she asked. Here’s my response…

Dear Worried Mom:

Is this an abstract question coming from your daughter or does she already have a boyfriend and is trying to back-date the permission slip?

You ask “Is it okay?” and you sign your letter Worried Mom. That tells me you don’t think it’s okay. It doesn’t matter what I think. She’s twelve. You’re her mom. You make the rules. But it’s not always that simple, is it? Twelve-year-olds can be super persistent. Maybe your “mature” daughter has been crying and screaming at you for a year that she’s the only one not allowed to date and that she hates how you still treat her like a baby!

That’s hard to take. But don’t let her bully you into saying “yes” to anything you’re not comfortable with. On the other hand, you shouldn’t automatically say “no” without digging deeper.

Be strategic.

You say she is “emotionally ready” and “pretty mature when it comes to situations like this.” Emotionally ready for what, exactly? What “situations” are we talking about?  What does your daughter mean when she talks about having a boyfriend? What does she believe is involved in being someone’s girlfriend? What does she think this kind of relationship means to the boy? Not sure? Ask her. Maybe not the easiest question for a 12-year-old to answer, but it’s important for her to think about it and share her thoughts with you. The way she thinks about it may determine how she behaves when you’re not around.

For example, does having a boyfriend mean that she and the boy text and snap chat and hang out together at lunch but never actually see each other outside of school? Or does it mean the two of them go to movies or the mall just the two of them… (public unsupervised time)? Does it mean they go to each other’s homes and hang out in each other’s bedrooms? (private unsupervised time)?

Lots to talk about. Her responses will give you insight into how “emotionally ready” and “mature” your daughter actually is when it comes to the Boyfriend/Girlfriend Zone.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,
Annie

P.S. You might want to check out Annie’s 10 Tips for Teaching Your Daughter Relationship Smarts.

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Mom, can you just be quiet and listen?!

May 3, 2016

You're not listening to me!!!

You’re not listening to me!!!

Somehow my mom and I just didn’t get along when I was in high school. (Hey, it happens.) I was an overweight, overachiever who believed nothing I did was good enough. It didn’t help that my dad, aka my #1 fan, died suddenly when I was fifteen. I was my mom’s youngest child, only daughter. After she lost my dad she couldn’t give an insecure teen the support and encouragement I craved. Conversely, she expected, no hoped, I’d provide her with support and comfort. That didn’t happen.

I remember her yelling: “You’re not listening to me!”

I was listening, I just didn’t like what I heard. I didn’t agree with her and I wasn’t going to do what she said. Even if she had a good idea, I’d reject it, on principle. What principle? That it was her idea.

Our relationship turned into a quagmire of hurt feelings, misunderstandings and miscommunications.  We both longed for a cease-fire, but didn’t how to call one.

When I moved across the country, distance made the heart grow fonder. And when I became a mom, my mom and I learned to appreciate each other a lot more.

Now you understand why an email from a teen with parent problems gets to me. And why I do understand.

Like this one:

Teen: I have this disorder where I feel like I’m suffocating in my own self but can’t die. My mom says she understands but I think she understands what she wants to believe and now she says she wants to send me away to foster care because she doesn’t want to deal with me anymore… what do I do??

Annie: Aside from your mom, who else have you talked to about your feelings of “suffocating in yourself?”

Teen: I have a counselor but whenever I try to talk to him it never comes out right.

Annie: How about writing out what you’d like to say… like in a letter? Take your time. Choose your words carefully. When your letter says what you want it to say, go to the counselor and hand him the letter. Sound like a plan?

Teen: yeah. Thank you, but what do I do about my mom??

Annie: Hopefully, after you talk to the counselor, he will have a conversation with your mom and help her understanding your feelings better. You need her help but she can’t give you what you need until she understands what’s going on. It’s going to take both of you working together to make this better.

Teen: Hey, so I talked to my mom myself and explained everything and it helped sorta. We still have a lot of work to do.

Annie: I’m proud of you for talking to your mom. That took courage and you did it! I’m glad it helped. Keep talking and listening to each other.

I hope you and your mom have a Happy Mothers Day.

In friendship,

Annie

 

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“My mom is neglecting her role as a parent!”

April 6, 2016

Attention must be paid

Attention must be paid… when they’re little and when they’re teens.

From today’s IN BOX, a letter from a teen who blames her mom for her falling grades and friendship issues. Fair or unfair? Read on…

Hey Annie,

My mom is incredibly busy at work and she just remarried. I’m 17 years old, but I still need her support and attention. If I try to ask her to listen to me for a minute or if I ask her for anything at all, she gets angry and annoyed, and I get a lecture and punishment. 

My grades are going down, I’m losing my friends, people have started rumors about me, and I feel incredibly depressed. All these are consequences of my mom neglecting her role as a parent. 

How can I get her attention without her getting agitated? – Neglected Teen

Dear Neglected Teen,

I’m sorry you are feeling so neglected at home. You know what you need and it sounds like you are not getting it from your mom. That happens. Sometimes kids (of all ages) wish they could get more attention, more understanding, more acceptance from their parents. On the flip side, some kids want less of certain behaviors from their parents (less criticism, less anger, less annoyance, fewer lectures.)

You say your mom gets “angry and annoyed” when you try to talk to her about this. Maybe she lashes out because she feels like you’re attacking her for not being a good mom. I’m not saying it is okay for her to treat you this way. It’s definitely not. I am simply offering a possible explanation to help you understand what might be going on with her, so you do not take it personally.

I am sure you are an awesome girl. And I understand that it hurts you when your mom acts too “busy” to give you what you need. I understand that it can cause you to doubt yourself. But here’s something to think about: You are 17 years old. At some point in everyone’s life we stop waiting for our parents to do things for us. At some point we must take care of ourselves and create close relationships with other people who can give us the support and understanding we need.

Maybe now is the beginning of that time for you. Instead of continuing to let your mother’s “neglect” upset you and bring you down, how about looking elsewhere for the support and positive attention you need? You deserve it. You might start by talking with your school counselor about what’s going on inside. You will find support there.

In friendship,
Annie

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 6:48 pm
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“My parents are racist!”

February 7, 2016

Hey Terra!

I’ve been experiencing some moral differences with my parents. I’ve always idolized my them, but recently, I’ve realized I simply can’t agree with some of their ideas.

On a recent trip we took public transportation and most of the people riding with us were African Americans. My mom kept whispering derogatory racist remarks to me and my sister. And just a few days ago, my mom argued that a person’s skin color and other aspects of appearance are a direct link to the quality of the person.

I love my parents, but it makes me confused when I disagree so vehemently with people I care about. Racism is a big issue and I hate to see my parents contribute to it.

How should I respond when they  bring up or argue this topic again? Is debating with them a viable solution? – Confused

Talk to the hand.

Talk to the hand.

I am very proud of you for recognizing racist remarks when you hear them and knowing it’s not ok to talk like that. Even if these remarks come from someone you love and idolize (like your parents) a racist comment is still a racist comment! You’re right. Racism is a big issue and you have chosen to be part of the solution, not the problem. I admire you for taking that role.

So how should you respond when parents try to argue their ignorant perspective? Great question! To discover the answer you first need to examine the answer to this question: “When it comes to other people’s attitudes, opinions, feelings, thoughts and behavior what power do I have?” You sound like an extremely intelligent individual so you probably don’t need me to tell you that you have no power over what others think or feel or do. Zero. But you do have 100% control over your own behavior.

Because you are uncomfortable with hate speech, you can simply hold up your hand and say to your parents, “Stop. I don’t want to hear this kind of talk.” You can do that with conviction, but without rudeness or anger. You have the right to respectfully set boundaries for their hate speech in your space. Will this change your parents’ attitudes about people who are different from themselves? Not likely, but at least they will know it is not OK with you to speak this way in front of you.

Your thoughts?

In friendship,
Terra

Hi Terra,

I’m so grateful to know there is a reasonable way to stop these conversations when they start without adding fuel to the fire. Thanks again! – Less Confused

Glad to help.

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