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.

Back-to-School Clothing Wars: “My 12yr old looks and dresses like she’s 18!”

August 26, 2016

What's wrong with it, Mom?

What’s wrong with it, Mom?

Back-to-school means new clothes. We’ve had previous conversations here and here about how the clothing and toy industries sexualize kids. It’s hard for parents to push back against billion dollar corporations who couldn’t care less about your standards for appropriate attire for your children.

But you have to shop, so you head to the store armed with your standards, but you can’t find anything you feel good about purchasing. To make things dicier, your child loves the clothes you despise.

That’s this mom’s problem:

Dear Annie:

How do I talk to my 12 year old daughter about how the way she dresses? She has a very “womanly” body and could easily pass for 18! She’s proud of the way she looks and I am delighted she is comfortable with her body. I don’t want to ruin that by saying the wrong thing, but I also do not want her to continue dressing in a way that seems to me to be provocative. She may be teased, she may get “hit-on” by a MAN! I want to protect her and at the same time, foster her confidence in herself.

Please help me with the right words.  Thanks! – In a bind

Dear In a bind,

It’s great your daughter feels so comfortable in her body. May her self-confidence continue throughout her lifetime!

I’ll assume you pay for her clothes. If you aren’t comfortable with her choices you have veto power. Avoid heated conversations in the store. Talk about it before your next shopping trip or before handing over money to her for purchasing clothes.

You might say something like this:

“Sweetheart, I love how confident you are about your body. Many girls don’t feel so comfortable in their own skin as you do. But you need a reality check. We live in a society where men and boys (and other girls and women) judge you based on how you dress.

It isn’t fair to make assumptions about people because of how they look or dress, but fair or unfair, it is part of the reality of growing up as a girl.

We also live in a society where some men and boys feel entitled to treat women as sexual objects not human beings with equal rights. Sexual harassment is unwanted attention (crude remarks, touching, etc.). It is never ok. And it is never a compliment. So don’t be confused.  Harassment makes girls feel uncomfortable and unsafe.  No one has the right to do that to anyone. And yet, too often, harassers take no responsibility and are not held responsible for their behavior. They simply shrug and say, “She brought it on because of the way she dresses.” She (who ever she is) did not “bring it on.” To say that is a lie. It is also disrespectful to girls and women.

As your mom it’s my job to keep you safe and to educate you about the messages your clothing choices might be sending, without your knowing it. Let’s talk about this.”

Stay calm and keep your voice neutral and respectful and you could open up a very positive ongoing conversation with your daughter.

I hope this helps.

Annie

P.S. I reached out to my wise friend and fellow educator, Iréné Celcer for added input on your dilemma. Here are her three tips and thoughts.

1) Engage her in a conversation vs a lecture. Find out her thoughts, feelings and ideas on the topic. (See the paragraph below for a way to start.)

2) This conversation is not a ONE TIME thing. It will develop ebb and turn and change. And it may be the one area that she choses to drive you crazy with. Be smart and chose your battles.

3) No matter how she looks on the outside, she is still only 12 years old. And you are and should be the one who approves the clothing. You hold that wallet.

 

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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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What are Halloween’s teachable lessons for kids?

October 22, 2015

I'm a bad ass. Just for tonight.

I’m a bad ass. Just for tonight.

Around here we’re experiencing a black and orange explosion. Each year the Halloween house make-overs get more impressive.

We’ve still got nine days to go, so I thought I’d get ahead of the curve and write about Halloween’s teachable moments for kids. Non-spoiler alert: This is not a parent tip sheet on how to put reasonable restrictions on kids’ sugar consumption. (That’s not a bad idea, but I leave it to the nutritionists.) Instead, let’s talk about the “mask” kids put on for Halloween vs. the mask many of our tweens and teens wear every single day. Halloween is a time to pretend to be someone else. It can be great fun and I’m a huge fan. But what happens when your child wears a mask all the time, hiding who he or she really is because of fear of disapproval from peers or even from you?

I’ve been thinking about the fine art of faking it for a long time because I work with tweens and teens and, face it, they can be masters of deception. When I talk to kids about consciously putting on a “mask,” as we do  when we get up on stage to perform in a play or dress up to explore other identities, it fits right into the idea of figuring out who you are, which is the manifesto of adolescence. But when we get so attached to hiding behind the mask that we’re no longer conscious of wearing it then we are faking it without knowing it. That’s never a good place to be, especially at a time when our tweens and teens ought to be exploring what it means to be one’s authentic self.

I have asked kids: How do you know when you’re faking it? They’ve provided profound responses, like these:

I get a sinking feeling in my stomach.

I feel like what I’m doing is not really me, but I continue doing it anyway.

I feel like a fraud in my own body.

I feel like a jumble of very confused spaghetti.

We ought to encourage our kids to reflect deeply on who they are and who they are becoming. They need to think clearly, despite the cacophony of judgments and opinions happening around them and within them. The best way I know to do that is by telling them how much we appreciate who they are when they are being authentic. We need to also model authenticity in own our lives. That doesn’t mean that we are always a certain way. Our behavior and attitudes change depending on circumstance and setting, and that’s appropriate. But when it’s “just us,” in the family, we need to create opportunities to talk about what it means to be true to oneself and to have integrity. No faking it.

 

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Tween asks, “Who was that guy my mom was with??”

June 10, 2015

As part of my ongoing series of Q&A from my email, today I’m bringing you a question from a 7th grader. Even if the situation he’s in is not something your child is dealing with, it’s helpful to be reminded how sensitive kids are. They notice everything and when they’re too scared to let us in on their worries, they suffer in silence. On the other hand, when we sharpen our radar we’re better able to notice when they might be upset. That’s when we need to step up and encourage them to open up.

I don't know who to talk to about this.

I don’t know who to talk to about this.

Today’s question: I’m 12 and my parents are divorced. Me and my little sister live with my mom. Today when I got home I saw this guy with his arm around my mom. I felt annoyed. I didn’t know what to say. When they left together my mom said she was going to work. I felt like a nobody. I wont tell her I know but, I wanna feel better.

–Lost and Confused

Dear Lost and Confused,

This is a tough one. It can be really awkward when you see one of your parents with someone else. I don’t know how long your parents have been divorced or if either Mom or Dad has dated before, but this is probably something you are going to have to get used to. Your Mom loves you and your sister very much. That hasn’t changed. But she is not married and she has the right to date. Please reconsider talking to her about it. It would be a smart move on your part. You might say something like this: “Mom, the other day when I saw you with that guy, I felt uncomfortable. “ Then ask her whatever is on your mind. For example, “Who is he?” “How long do you know him?” “Where did you meet him?” “Is he your boyfriend?” “Are you going to marry him?” Whatever you want to ask… ASK her. You will feel better knowing what’s going on. That is the best way to stop feeling “like a nobody.” You are NOT a “nobody” you are your mom’s child. And as a 12 year old, you have the right to know certain things. So… ask.
You can do this. Good luck! And let me know how it goes.

In friendship,
Terra

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