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.

A question of broken trust

March 28, 2017

At 36% approval rating, Trump is at a historic low for a POTUS in office less than 100 days. People don’t trust the guy, for lots of good reasons. Consequently, I’ve been focused for months on what’s going on in our government. Blogging about anything but politics feels less important than being part of the resistance. Of course, I’m still responding daily to teen email from around the world, as I’ve done for the past 20 years. For teens, there are no political crises. What threatens a teen’s world is an upended peer relationship. Nothing catastrophic on a national or global scale, but still deserving of compassion and attention.

Like this one:

Without trust all sense of safety is gone.

Without trust all sense of safety is gone.

Teen: I used to be friends with these boys until I started bullying them. I’d make fun of them everyday, move their stuff, occasionally resort to violence. I did it to feel in control. I don’t do it any more and I want to be friends with them again. My best friend is now friends with them and I’m jealous. One of the boys ignores me and sometimes says rude things to me. On one hand I did the same sort of thing to him, but on the other hand, I hate it and I don’t want him to end up being mean to everybody, because of how I treated him.

I’m probably overthinking this because I always overthink everything. Can you give  me any advice?

Annie: You’re not “overthinking” it. This demands a lot of thinking, so I’m proud of you for putting in the time and for reaching out for advice. I’m also impressed that you stopped harassing these boys. What made you stop?

Teen: Because I lost my best friend. He was the only male friend I’ve ever had who really understood me, so when we stopped being friends I started to think about what I was doing and what I hoped to achieve through putting others down and bullying them.

Annie: Have you apologized to each of them?

Teen: Yes, except for the one who ignores me/is mean to me. I don’t really know what to say to him. I feel like even if I did apologize to him, it wouldn’t make a difference.

Annie: Here’s what I know about apologies: for the hurt person to truly let go of those hurt feelings, you (the hurter) need to dig deep. “I’m sorry” is a start, but maybe not enough, depending on what you did. The boy who “ignores” you does not trust you. And you can understand why. You can’t trust someone who bullies you, so you don’t feel safe around them. You don’t believe their words. You can’t count on them, as a real friend. Trust is the key to all healthy relationships (friendships and romantic relationships). The question is: How do you regain someone’s trust after you’ve betrayed him? Think about it this way, if the situation were reversed, what would you need in addition to an apology?

If a friend had been harassing you, what would you need in addition to “I’m sorry”? What would it take for you to trust him and feel 100% safe with him again?

Teen: I’m not sure to be honest. They’d need to prove they were trustworthy and weren’t just going to start the bullying again.

Annie: I agree. Someone who betrays a friend needs to “prove” they are trustworthy and not just apologizing only to start the harassment again.

Teen: But don’t boys think extremely differently? I don’t know if any of them think about when I bullied them. I don’t even know if any of them want to be friends again. What if they’ve just forgotten about it completely and I’m just overreacting?

Annie: I don’t believe that boys think “extremely differently” when it comes to friendship and trust. Some boys may show their feelings differently than some girls. Boys may not talk about the “bully” behind his/her back, the way girls tend to do. But when trust is broken, boys are not likely to “just forget.” Humans have very long memories, and for a good reason. If you are punched and kicked by a close friend and you “forget” and continue the friendship, it’s very likely you will be punched and kicked again… or worse. No, boys don’t “forget.” But they may pretend that it doesn’t bother them.

You said something important… a friend who bullies need to “prove” that it’s never going to happen again. Your goal, moving forward, is to figure out how to prove you’re truly sorry and that you are someone who can be trusted 100%. HINT: We prove things by our behavior.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.



When a BFF leaves you behind

January 26, 2013

I’ve been getting an awful lot of email lately from teens who feel abandoned by their bff. Usually the situation involves a “new girl” coming into the picture who is “stealing” a friend. If this has happened to you (or someone you know) maybe this teen’s email and my answer to it will be helpful. I hope so!

How come she doesn't want to be my friend anymore?

Hey Terra,

Me and “A” have been best friends since kindergarten and we are now in high school. In 7th grade, she started hanging out with this girl named “B.” Now “A” is with “B” all the time. “A” always has her FB status saying she’s “hanging out with my bestie” when she’s with “B.” I feel really jealous and sad. I feel like I shouldn’t be upset because she has the right to be friends with whoever she wants, but it still really hurts my feelings because I feel like she’s replaced me with someone who doesn’t like me. Any input to this would be great!


Dear Ex-BFF,

You are right when you say, “‘A’ has the right to be friends with whoever she wants.” And even though your head knows that this is true, your heart “still really hurts” because you miss the closeness you and “A” used to have. Because you don’t yet have another friend to share that same level of closeness with, you feel “jealous” and left-out. I understand.

Sometimes friends outgrow the friendship they have at the same time. Both friends, without saying as much, just start spending less and less time together. It doesn’t usually cause much hurt this way because both friends, for whatever reason, have turned their attention to other things and/or other people. But in this case, it sounds like “A” outgrew the friendship before you did. So you were left feeling “Hey! Come back! I don’t like being here without your friendship!”

My best advice is to try thinking of it this way: This wonderful, long-term friendship you had with “A” has given you many gifts. You two have had lots of great times. Laughed together. Shared secrets. Learned how to negotiate differences of opinions. Learned how to be honest with each other. Through your friendship with “A” you have learned so much about yourself. And one very important thing you’ve learned is what it means to be a great friend. You now have that skill and it’s yours, forever. Now’s the time to: a) Thank “A” for what she’s given you. b) Say goodbye to this phase of your friendship with “A.” You two may become close again in the future, but for now, this chapter has ended. And c) Take what you have learned about friendship and reach out to some new people. You have everything you need to create new friendships which will bring you more wonderful gifts.

Smile. It’s OK. I hope this helps you enjoy the rest of your weekend and the rest of the school year.

In friendship,

Hey Terra,

Thank you soo much for explaining it like that to me, it makes me feel much better about this situation.

Happier now

Dear Happier Now,

I’m so glad to have helped. Have fun.

In friendship,

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