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 try to tell my best friend I don’t want her help, but she gets mad.”

January 5, 2018

Twenty years ago I set up shop as Hey Terra at TheInSite.org to help teens manage their emotions responsibly so they can develop self-respect and maintain healthier relationships. 50K teen emails later, the most common question I get is still about the challenges of dealing with feelings and speaking up for oneself in a friendship.

Unknown

I know exactly what you need!

Our kids don’t know how to  resolve peer conflicts non-violently. Retaliating with social garbage is a form of violence. Suffering silently is a form of self-inflicted violence. If teens can’t master interpersonal skills, it doesn’t matter how high their GPA is, they’re not going to be happy and successful in any measure that counts.

Teen email question #50,001:

Hey Terra,

I’ve never really trusted my best friend with my secrets because she always blurts them out even if she promises she won’t. Recently a boy has been messaging me and telling me that he likes me. Of course went to my best friend and told her. She asked if I liked him. I said I did. That was a mistake! She told my other friends who I really didn’t want to know because they gossip. Now my best friend is messaging the boy and telling him everything I’ve said about him.

“I’m not really one that stands up for myself cause I don’t want to make other people mad at me. So, sticking up for myself is not really an option here. I know I sound pathetic but I can’t help it.”

Anyways, she keeps saying, “He really likes you!” and it’s making me feel bad because I now realize now that I just want to be friends with him. I’ve told him I don’t want a relationship with him right now and that we are just friends. He’s okay with that but now that my best friend is messaging him he’s like “When will you be ready to date???” I know she is telling him to say this stuff.

I’ve tried to tell her that I’m not really into him any more but she gets mad and is like, “You are so annoying! If I had a chance like this I wouldn’t pass it up, so if you do we won’t be friends anymore.”

I know any person would stick up for themselves but I physically can’t. She will get mad at me and I really don’t want to lose her as a friend. She is my comfort zone we’ve been friends forever. I have other friends but if me and my best friend aren’t friends anymore she will turn them all against me and I’ll have nobody.

I guess what I’m really asking is: What should I say to my friend to make her not be mad if I “breakup” with this boy…? – Scared

Dear Scared,

I understand why you’re scared. Most people would be a little nervous to have a conversation like this. But I don’t buy that you can’t do it. You can. And you really ought to learn how. Slow deep breaths can help make you feel calmer and braver. So does practicing what you want to say before you’re standing in front of the person who needs to hear it.

As scary as talking to your friend may be, it’s important to do it any way. Why? Because if you don’t learn to how to tell people what is and is not okay with you, then you will continue to feel powerless. But if you speak up when someone’s not treating you well, you are much more likely to be respected. And for sure, you’ll have more respect for yourself.

Your friend may mean well or she may just like to be in charge… of everything. Either way, this is your life, not hers. You say if you stick up for yourself she will get mad at you and you’ll risk losing her as a friend. That’s a possibility. But before you decide that is not a risk you ever want to take, please answer this question: What is your definition of a friend?

In your mind, is a best friend someone:

  • I can’t trust with my secrets because she “always blurts them out even if she promises she won’t?”
  • who texts a guy and tells him “everything I’ve said about him?”
  • who blabs my business to other people?
  • who doesn’t seem to care what I want (in this case: no romantic relationship with this boy)
  • who keeps pushing forward as a matchmaker when I don’t want her to?
  • who doesn’t listen to what I say and tells me that I am “so annoying” for wanting to decide when I want to date someone or even if I want a boyfriend at this time in my life?

If your definition includes any or all of the above, you’ve got the perfect best friend. If not, maybe it’s time to reimagine what kind of friend would be a better fit for you.

I hope this helps!

In friendship,
Terra

P.S. Happy New Year. May 2018 bring you many opportunities to shine your light.

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No confidence and no boyfriend. Is there a connection?

May 25, 2017

Must be spring because my teen email is all about crushes. Most from middle schoolers. I won’t bore you my history, but…  occasionally I dream about my 7th grade crush. So believe me, I get romantic insanity. Either you’re out-of-mind euphoric or in a hopeless funk. Sometimes feeling both within five minutes.

No one but you can un-do this negative self-talk, sister

No one but you can un-do this negative self-talk, sister

This 7th grader is crushing hard. Slight problem: the guy is dating her best friend.

Hey Terra,
My best friend’s new boyfriend happens to be my childhood crush. He and I were very close throughout elementary school. We even liked each other in the third grade. So her being with him doesn’t feel right to me. I should have been his first kiss and his first girlfriend. Last year, in 6th grade, I liked him a lot but I got over him. Then this year I found out him and my bff liked each other the whole time! Most of my friends have boyfriends. I should have one too! I am very insecure and I need a boyfriend to feel confident about myself. What do I do to feel confident? Please Help.
-Insecure Girl

Dear Insecure Girl,

You say you got over this guy and maybe you did. But emotional attachments are tricky and sometimes you believe you’re “over it” then, suddenly, your ex is in your face and in your heart again. Seeing your crush with your bff isn’t easy. It’s also not easy to see a bunch of your other friends coupled up when you’re not.

You can’t control other people’s feelings (obviously). But you can stop making things harder for yourself. For example, you’ve been thinking you need a boyfriend to be less insecure. That a boyfriend would solve all your self-confidence issues. That’s just not true.

I understand you want a boy to like you the way your crush likes your bestie. That’s fine. Everyone wants to be loved and admired. But when you try to convince yourself what happened in 3rd grade ought to put you first in line to be his girlfriend, that’s wrong-thinking. You don’t get to decide who becomes this guy’s first kiss or girlfriend. That’s his decision. You’re a smart girl. You don’t need me to tell you that.

You asked my advice. Here it is: Stop feeling sorry for yourself. It will only bring you down. So will all the “I need a boyfriend” thoughts. That’s a form of self-bullying. Not helpful. Instead, focus on what you love to do and do more of it. Art, writing, sports, dance or music, theatre or science, photography, technology, entrepreneurship, cooking, or a zillion other things the world has to offer.

Focus on being the unique and awesome girl you already are. You have everything you need. Nothing is missing from this equation. No boyfriend required. Use your interests to guide you, create short-term and long goals and achieve them. That’s what makes a person confident in herself.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,
Terra

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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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