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.

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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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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Guest blogger: It’s Probably Not Hormones

April 16, 2015

by Jeannie Burlowski

Jeannie Burlowski is a full time author, consultant, and conference speaker.  Learn more about her services at JeannieBurlowski.com.

I can't do this anymore!

I can’t do this anymore!

15-year-old Luke had been in a dark, angry mood, starting from the moment his mother wished him a cheerful “Good morning!” and set hot scrambled eggs in front of him. Luke ate in broody silence and his mother felt momentarily thankful for the quiet. If Luke could just get off to school without his typical screaming and door slamming, it would be a good day.  “It’s probably just hormones,” she rationalized after her sulky son left for school. “There’s nothing I can do about that.”

Actually, Mom, it’s probably not “just hormones.” Your teen’s dark moods, depression symptoms, mood swings, blunted, flat emotional responses, and hair-trigger anger are more likely to be linked to a psychological condition called “launch anxiety.”  That’s good news since there’s a lot parents can do to help teens feel better.

Psychologists Laura Kastner, Ph.D. and Jennifer Wyatt, Ph.D. have defined launch anxiety as: “The near constant feeling of indecision, doubt, uncertainty, insecurity, and fretting that accompanies the transitioning of teens in late high school, and extending through college. It’s experienced by teens, but it’s also experienced by parents, who feel tied in knots by uncertainty, doubt, insecurity, worry, and fretting about this next step in their children’s lives.”

Recent research finds a near epidemic of anxiety among 21st century high school and college age students. Is your child one of them?

5 Action Items for Combatting Launch Anxiety

1.  Take this short quiz.  

To gauge whether your son or daughter might be experiencing launch anxiety, take a look at the symptom list below, excerpted from www.anxietycentre.com. Do these symptoms sound familiar?

____Continual feelings of anger, impatience                            ____Feeling “down in the dumps”

____Depression                                                                               ____Emotionally blunted, flat, or numb

____Emotional “flipping” (dramatic mood swings)                 ____Everything seems scary, frightening

____Frequently being on edge or ‘grouchy’                               ____Feeling like crying for no apparent reason

____Not feeling like yourself, emotionally numb                    ____Feeling anxious, apprehensive, or fearful

____Feeling you are under constant pressure                         ____Feeling detached from loved ones

If these symptoms sound familiar there’s a good chance your child has some form of anxiety.  Next steps…

2.  Quit telling your child that if s/he “doesn’t get into a good school, s/he won’t be able to get a good job after college.”  This is patently untrue, and the message is harmful.

3.  Ease up on your kids’ schedules. Exhausted students who’ve been run ragged by every club, extracurricular activity, and sport can build up layers of anxiety, making them less attractive to colleges. Don’t believe it?  Read this New York Times article where a Harvard admissions officer laments that student applicants “seem like dazed survivors of some bewildering lifelong boot camp.”  Ease up.  Please.

4.  Spend at least one hour per week with your child outside the house doing an activity you both enjoy. No nagging allowed.  No anxious questions about homework, grades, college applications, etc.  One of the greatest antidotes to anxiety is caring, face-to-face, human connection. So schedule time to simply enjoy your child for who s/he is, not for how he or she is currently performing in school, sports, extracurricular activities, or college preparation.

5.  If the anxiety becomes severe, seek professional help. Are feelings of anxiety just part of growing up?  Should we just stand back and let our kids deal with it?  Not if anxiety symptoms are constant and debilitating. If that’s the case, please seek help from a school psychologist or other licensed professional who specializes is working with teens.

Have you seen any anxiety symptoms in your teens or college students?  What remedies have you seen work?

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It’s Not Easy Being Teen

March 30, 2015

Yes, I am!

Yes, I am!

I answer lots of email from tweens and teens. From time to time I share letters here to gently remind parents, teachers, coaches, and counselors what it’s like to be a teenager. With that in mind, you’ll be better at helping the kids in your life. Of course, there isn’t one “right” way to ease a young person through an emotionally confusing time. I offer my advice to them (and to you), as one of the possible ways to proceed. You might use it as a suggestion if you ever find yourself in a position to mentor a child (your own or someone else’s).

Teen: I’m a 14 year old ignorant child who has a problem.(Obviously) I’ve been feeling like my life isn’t going great and that I’m already wasting it. Before you say “Oh, you’re only 14. Don’t worry about that! You have so much time” I just want to say I’ve seen plenty of kids do something with their lives at my age. I’m honestly scared to dream big. I’ve been doing theater for nearly 5 years and I’ve sometimes done public performances and feel like I can take it somewhere. I’m just not supported for it. No matter what my ambitions are my mom ignores it, or no one seems to take me seriously. I wanna follow my dream but I feel like my life doesn’t call for it. It makes me depressed and even now, writing this, there’s tears in my eyes because I feel so doubtful. I get jealous of people my age doing great things and I feel I’m nothing compared to them. I don’t even know were to start to make anything happen. What should I do?

Annie: Of course, it helps, if you are supported in your dreams by parents and other family members. I won’t lie to you and say that it doesn’t matter. But just because you don’t get support, doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your dreams, whatever they are. You love theatre. That’s awesome. (Many 14 year olds haven’t a clue what they are interested in. So you are already ahead of those kids!) Ultimately, if you want something in life, you are the one who must figure out how to make it happen. So let me ask you this: What is in the way of your doing more theatre and getting better and better at it? What is your biggest obstacle? (HINT: The answer is not “Lack of support from my mom.”) Think about it and write back. We’ll talk some more.

Teen: Hey, thank you for taking the time to reply 🙂 Appreciate it. I guess what’s been stopping me is usually when I think about my future and what I can do, I can’t help but feel like nothing good is going to come out of the future and that I might not even be alive honestly. I feel limited, which I know I am, but when I see some girls at my school presue things such as modeling or acting or art-related, the first thing that comes to me is “My life doesn’t call for it.” Well not now, obviously, but I was thinking later in the future. I know it’s negative, but if I’m not very lucid and realistic with my life I won’t know what to do later if or when I experience disappointment. I’m a little scared for that. So it’s myself that’s been holding back.

Annie: Yes. It’s you, who’s been holding you back. 50 points for that right answer. Just to let you know, “the future” doesn’t exist. We create our path in life right here… in the present moment… and in the next moment… and the next. It’s all about the choices we make. The choice to have a positive vs a negative attitude is a key factor in success. Comparing yourself to others only works if it inspires you to do your best. Comparing yourself to others with an attitude of “They’re so much better than me, why should I even bother?” is unhelpful. So… quit sabotaging yourself and get on your own team! Yes, there will be set-backs and disappointments along the way. That’s to be expected, not feared. Think about it this way, for each disappointment, there will be something useful for you to take and move forward with. You can make the life you want. A positive attitude, hard work, and belief in yourself are the keys.

Teen: I know this is late but thank you so much 🙂

Annie: Sounds like you found my advice helpful. I’m glad! Be well, my friend.


 

Sometimes the best support we can give teens is to listen as they share their self-doubts, let them know we believe in them, and assure them they have what it takes to succeed.

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , , , , — Annie @ 7:54 pm
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