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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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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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Parenting Question: How do I keep my child away from a bad friend?

June 6, 2015

For the next few months my blog will focus on answering your parenting questions about raising tweens and teens as well as letting you in on some of the letters I get from tweens and teens. So if you’ve got something on your mind that you could use help with, send it to AskAnnie. (Of course it will be posted without any names, so no worries there.)

Today’s question: How do I keep my 11 yr old away from a bad friend?

And you still think she's your friend?!

And you still think she’s your friend?!

First you’ve got to realize that your definition of a “bad” friend might not be the same as your child’s. In fact, if your child has a history with this friend and is very attached, trying to pry her away will most likely land you smack in the middle of an ugly, pointless power struggle in which you will become the bad guy.

The most effective way to handle something like this is to help your child develop standards for what constitutes a good friend vs. the other kind. You can do it by making observations about what you see. For example, you might say, in a neutral voice, “You know, honey, I’ve noticed, when you come home from Jack’s house you’re usually in a bad mood. Sometimes you take it out on your sister. Sometimes you’re rude to me. I’m wondering what’s going on here?” Right then and there, you create a safe environment for your child to think about what you’ve observed and to let you in on where this chronic “bad mood after being with Jack” might be coming from.

Another approach is to share what you see when the two kids are together. You might say something like this, “I notice when Jack comes over, he seems to be bossing you around. Sometimes I hear bad language and I’m not happy with that. It seems like you two spend more time fighting than getting along. What’s up with that?” After an observational statement like this, simply close your mouth and listen to what your son or daughter has to say.

These techniques let you inside the mind of your child more effectively than provocative statements. (“You don’t actually like that awful boy, do you?!!”) Loaded questions like that don’t go over well with tweens and teens.

If you have good reasons, you are also perfectly within your rights to say, “Your friend is no longer welcome in our home and here’s why…” That conversation can be an eye-opener for your child and provide lots of food for thought.

Bottom line, the best way to influence tweens and teens in the direction of more positive friendships is to make neutral observations so the conversation can open up rather than shut down. That’s how to infuse your child with essential information about what it means to be a real friend.

I hope this helps. And until next time, happy parenting.

 

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Why do I have to be just like you?

March 6, 2015

When girls email me about the mean things their so-called friends say and do, it’s often about rocking the boat. You know, Friend A is expressing her individuality and Friend B is, well, uncomfortable. After a bit she can’t stand it and jumps all over Friend A to CUT IT OUT!

Here’s an excerpt from The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship that illustrates the problem and the solution for any girl who is tired of playing by someone else’s rules.

Q: “When my friend does weird things I don’t say anything. But when I do something (like a funny dance) she yells at me. I want to tell her I don’t like that, but I don’t want to be mean, like her.”

21AshamedFriendFIN

Illustration © Erica De Chavez, 2014 from The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship, written by Annie Fox

A: I think it’s awesome that you accept your friend for who she is and do not put her down when she does any of her “weird” things. You deserve the same respect from her. She shouldn’t yell at you when you dance, especially since you’re not trying to hurt or embarrass her. You’re just feeling free and joyful, and that’s good.

I don’t know for certain, but maybe your friend gets upset because she’s worried that other girls will tease you about your dancing. Or maybe she’s scared that someone will tease her for being your friend! When we are scared or worried, we aren’t always as kind as we should be. But that’s never an excuse for being rude.

When you feel like dancing, go ahead and dance. If your friend has a problem with that, then talk to her about it. Maybe you can help her lighten up. But whatever you do, please, do not stop being yourself. It’s absolutely the best thing about you.

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Check out other 49 Questions in The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship Without the DRAMA.

 

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA

 

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