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.

“I’m a good kid, so why do my parents suddenly not trust me?”

October 10, 2017

'Mo-om, can I have a little privacy please??"

‘Mo-om, can I have a little privacy please??”

The most effective tool in a parent’s arsenal just may be a clear memory of what it was like to be a kid. This is especially true if yours are 11-17. Most of what frustrates and infuriates our tweens and teens is probably the same stuff that drove us nuts when our parents did it. Like invading our privacy, for example.

A kid’s need for privacy grows with the child. When it comes to teens, privacy is essential. They equate it to becoming more independent, managing their relationships, and taking care of their own business as much as they can.

Self-respecting teens (ones who think for themselves and resist blind compliance) will push back hard against rules that infringe on their privacy and independence. I’m not implying that “good” parents must dispense with all rules for teens and let them do whatever. Hell no! I’m just pointing out a simple fact: If you want to raise kids who know how to problem-solve and use good judgment when you’re not around, then bring your teens into all discussions about rules. Shutting down their questions with “Because I said so” is likely to encourage kids to  break rules and lie about it.

Today’s email comes from a 15-year-old who is having a hard time understanding some recently imposed parental rules. She’s also having a hard time getting her parents to discuss it with her.

Hey Terra.

I’m 15 and I’m a good kid who gets good grades and doesn’t do drugs or alcohol. I swear! I don’t have friends who do that stuff either! I have always tried hard to protect my parents’ trust in me and do whatever they told me. We used to really be close and I could talk to them about all kinds of stuff, but now it seems they don’t trust me and they’re making all these rules, including using an app to track my phone all the time without notifying me. I asked them “Why?” and they just said they’re worried about me. Then they said, “Why should you care if we track you if you’re not doing anything wrong?” I want to explain my feelings to them, but it’s really hard to talk about this without getting emotional.

Now it seems like we’re fighting all the time and it’s really taken a toll on me and my grades. I feel like I need to keep everything to myself otherwise they’ll just find fault and get into another fight. I really miss talking to them. What I should do to get them to trust me again when I don’t even know why they stopped trusting me in the first place? – Tired and Confused

Hi Tired and Confused,

You don’t understand why, with your long track record of being a “good kid” who consistently makes good choices, your parents are suddenly keeping such close watch over you. Since they aren’t giving you any specific reasons you are confused, frustrated, and resentful. I’m confused, too.

Parents don’t change their behavior out of the blue for no reason. Something must have triggered this sudden and overwhelming fear/worry on their part. Of course they love you and it’s their job to keep you safe. But that’s been true from the moment you were born. It’s also their job to prepare you for living on your own and managing your own life. That includes knowing what it takes to keep yourself safe.

You’re intelligent, mature and responsible. When there are new family rules, teens deserve to know what triggered the change. If you’ve got questions you deserve straight answers.

I’d suggest you write a letter to your parents describing your thoughts and feelings as best as you can. Print it out and hand a copy to each of them. That will show them you’re serious and you want to talk. Remember, the goal of this “talk” is not to change their minds about the rules. That may not happen. Besides, they’ve got the right and the responsibility to make the rules for your family. The goal of the talk is for you to understand better where they’re coming from and for them to understand better where you are coming from.

For example, you might write something like this:

Dear Mom and Dad,

I have tried really hard to protect your trust in me and always respect your wishes, but it seems like all the sudden you don’t trust me. Our constant fighting has really taken its toll on my grades and I really want it to stop. I try to be a good kid. I get good grades, don’t do drugs/ alcohol and I am not friends with anyone involved in that. That’s why I’m so confused that you’ve started tracking my phone. Why don’t you trust me all of the sudden?

I really want to talk about it more but every time I say anything I feel like you’re not listening. You ask me, “Why do you care that we are tracking you if you’re not doing anything bad?” It’s hard for me to explain my feelings. Maybe you felt the same way when you were my age and your parents made some rule you had to follow even though you didn’t understand why the rule was there.

I really miss talking to you but I feel like you have lost confidence and trust in me (and I don’t know why). Because of that, I feel like I don’t want to open up to you.

Can we please talk about this so I can understand you better and you can understand me better?

–Love, “Your Daughter”

Hopefully, a letter like that (in your own words, of course) will lead to a good conversation with your parents.

Good luck and please let me know how it goes.

In friendship,
Terra

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I’m worried my mom will be disappointed I had sex with my boyfriend

May 28, 2016

Happy Saturday. Today we’re talking about teens and sex.

Hey Terra,

I’m worried about telling my mom about have sex with my boyfriend. I think she’ll be fine with it but I don’t want her to be disappointed because I’m young, what shall I do?

Freaking Out

It’s not a four letter word

Dear Freaking Out,

You’re not alone here. For the record, no matter how old we are, there’s always a part of us that craves Mom’s approval. Just saying.

Now let’s talk about  you. You say you think your mom will “be fine” with it, but you don’t want her to be “disappointed” in you because you are young. Without getting into a debate about “How young is too young to have sex?” I’ll say this: I hope you used protection, the sex was a positive experience, and you have no regrets about it. That’s the best anyone can expect.

You can’t change your age (obviously) and your mom is likely to find out about it anyway, so the question is: How important is it to tell her? If it is very important, then you might say something like this, “Mom, you know that ______ and I love each other.  He and I have had lots of serious conversations about sex and recently we decided that we were both ready to have sex. And we did. I just wanted you to know.”

Then close your mouth and listen to what she has to say. She may be upset or disappointed. She may be happy for you. She may have already assumed you two were having sex so your news won’t be a big deal. Her reaction is not the key factor here. The most important thing is whether you feel good about your decision. It’s not your job in life to make sure everyone around you is happy with everything you do. That would be living your life for them. This is your life. Live it in a way that makes you proud of who you are.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,
Terra

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“How can I get my kids to turn off the TV, phone, etc.??”

February 24, 2016

Coincidence that I got this email and tonight I’m speaking at Pleasanton Library about Connecting for Family Time in the Digital Age? Maybe not so much. Parents feel frustrated by the amount of time their kids spend on their devices. The more kids connect to their friends on one device or another, the less they connect with their school work and their parents. So what can we parents do to help them succeed in school and bring the family closer?

by Jason Love JasonLove.com

by Jason Love JasonLove.com

Read what this mom is dealing with:

Dear Annie,

How can I get my teenagers to shut off the TV, social media, their phones, etc. and get their homework done? There are too many mornings when they are not prepared for school because they didn’t finish an assignment or they’re not ready for a test. Yet, they spent a lot to time the previous day(s) on their screens!
—Frustrated Mom

Annie: What have you tried, aside from yelling?

Mom: Telling them to set a timer for 10-15 minutes and do nothing else but schoolwork. They don’t comply.

Annie: Think about the addictive nature of screens and you’ll get a better idea of how hard it can be to drag yourself away. I’m not just talking about teens. Ever said to yourself or a family member, “I’m just checking my email. I’ll be there in a minute.”? Next thing you know, you’ve been swallowed and chewed up by the Space-Time Continuum. Yeah, it’s an actual thing.

Call a family meeting to discuss the problem as it relates to school performance. Your job is to open the conversation, not to lay down the law. Come on too strong and they will fight you. Simply tell them their job is to be good students. (Don’t even mention the TV and tech stuff.) Instead, ask them how they feel about how their school progress. Got evidence of grades? Bring it to the meeting.

Your long-term goal is to help your kids become fully responsible for their own school work and their lives. If your kids admit they could be doing better in school, simply say, “I agree. So what do you think is in the way of better grades?” Let them do most of the talking. Help them to connect the dots between their school progress and their screen time.

The best outcome is acknowledging how hard it is (for all of us) to get away from the screen… even when the timer goes off and we know we should stop now. By the way, if anyone in the family uses technology during family meals, that needs to stop. Tonight.

Part of the solution here is an open conversation where everyone has an opportunity to talk about the pluses and minuses of technology. Part of the solution is modeling and reclaiming unplugged time, for focused work and for play, as a family. And part of the solution is accessibility. If the technology isn’t at hand, then it’s easier to resist the urge to pick it up. (Of course this works best when the homework does not require technology!)

Mom: I will have the family meeting and discuss this with them. I was thinking they just didn’t want to do their homework and they were putting it off — which I totally understand.

Annie: Who likes homework?! So, sure, they’d rather do something more “engaging.” But it’s also very true that they don’t have the brain development to resist the lure of screen time. That’s where you can help, and having their buy-in makes you more of a coach and less of a prison warden. Good luck!

Watch my three minute video on Vidoyen about How to Reclaim Family Time in the Digital Age.

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“My daughter is so dramatic. Is this normal?!”

January 25, 2016

Yes it is the end of the world and don’t tell me it’s not!

If you’ve got a tween at home you’ve probably dealt with an emotional outburst once or twice. Depending on frequency and duration, you may have wondered, “This can’t be normal!” Read on…

Dear Annie,

My 11 year old daughter is VERY dramatic.  Every situation seems like “the end of the world.” She yells, cries, and shuts down. Last night, she was having a meltdown and I grabbed her by the arm and firmly directed her to her room and she flopped on the ground as if I seriously pushed her! This is not the first time this has happened.  

I am usually very good about keeping my cool, but in her moments of complete breakdown I lose my cool, too.  She has a breakdown at least once a month. I need coping skills and I need coping skills to teach her.  (Her meltdown was over having a very small mustache and said she would be teased. This is understandable, but I feel like I could have handled it better and she could have too.) Please help! –Melting Down Mama

Dear Mama,

Whatever’s going on with your daughter is going on with most tweens. Not sure if that’s a comforting fact, but it ought to be. Your daughter is normal and so are her meltdowns. On top of that, anything having to do with her personal appearance is likely to make her feel insecure and highly volatile. OMG!

Every day her hormones challenge her ability to manage her emotions responsibly because the part of her brain that helps her regulate moods is still “under construction” and will be for at least another ten years. Seriously.

I admire your recognizing you could have handled it better. You know it’s not ok to let out your frustration by grabbing your daughter’s arm or getting physical with her in any way. You need to figure out how to calm down (fast) when she’s in one of her moods otherwise you’ll make the situation worse and alienate your daughter. I know you don’t want to do either.

When it comes to dealing with emotional tweens I’m a fan of preventative medicine. Please have a look at this stress-busting technique developed by Dr. Herbert Benson, M.D. (associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School). It is a simple method for achieving a Relaxation Response (vs a Stress response). Read through the steps and try them. This really works and yes, it takes practice.

I hope this helps you and your daughter. And remember, no one stays a tween forever. No one stays the parents of one, either!

In friendship,
Annie

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