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: Shifting gears without too much grinding

July 29, 2013

Hey dude. Welcome back.

During the school year The Routine keeps the family on a short leash, jolting us into each day: “Get up or you’ll be late! Quit hogging the bathroom! Quit texting and finish your breakfast! Where’s your homework? Don’t forget your cleats! Get going!!”

Then summer comes. We exhale. We’re off leash. The voice inside our head takes a vacation and happily forgets to write. We feel free. And it dawns on us that, yes, we are human beings, not machines.

Hopefully every adult and child in your family had some special time during the break. Time together for fun and bonding. Time on alone for fun and self-discovery.

Now’s the time to get back in gear. It’s an adjustment for everyone. But for some kids going back to school is a real challenge, especially if last year wasn’t memorable in a good way. Maybe there was a personality clash with a “difficult” teacher. Or the (home)work repeatedly overwhelmed brain and emotions. Maybe there were issues with friends or ex-friends that made school a battlefield. If any of this happened to your kids, not surprising they don’t want to go back. But go they must.

So your job is to make it easier. Call a family meeting to debrief from last school year. Because let’s face it, not everything you and your kids did last term is worth replaying. It’s probably safe to say that a lot of what went down ought to be avoided. NOTE: I’m not implying that all the social garbage and arguments were intentional or avoidable, but I do know this:

1. It takes one person to start an argument. But it takes two people to keep it going.

2. Doing nothing in the face of a bad situation typically encourages more of the same.

3. People aren’t mind-readers. You’ve gotta tell them how you feel and actively teach them how to treat you.

4. Pain is part of life.

5. Suffering (blaming, feeling sorry for yourself, and/or rehashing) are optional.

So gather the troops for a safe and open conversation about what you each did (at home, at school, and online) that worked well last year and what didn’t. This may take 30 minutes, give or take, so schedule accordingly. If you blow off the family meeting rules (no interrupting, no invalidating, etc.)  it’ll take longer and accomplish much less. More tips for a successful family meeting:

  • Turn off all digital devices.
  • Insist on respectful listening. Model it too.
  • Bring snacks.
  • Appoint a “secretary” to record new family agreements and policy. That way later, no one can get away with “I/You never said that!”
  • Meet together regularly for progress reports. Celebrate what’s working. Tweak what isn’t.

Working together, as a family, you can contribute to a better school year for your kids and yourself. Good luck!

In friendship,


PS I’ll be writing more about Back-to-School challenges in the coming days. Stay tuned.

Filed under: Parenting,Tips — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 1:35 pm

Graduation: They’re moving toward independence… and so are we!

June 17, 2013

End of one chapter, start of the next

I’m wired to cry. So naturally I sobbed hysterically after dropping my 18-month-old daughter at preschool. (Hey, I got better by the second week!) And I bawled as I dropped her off at college. And when her little brother left for college six years later, the waterworks gushed again. Kids beginning a new chapter in life can do that to parents. It can also make us feel incredibly proud, especially if they (and we) worked hard to reach that point.

As graduation parties wind down and you begin thinking about the next round of challenges coming up in the fall, here are some tips to help you through this transition:

  • Let them have their summer: Kids need to relax and so do we. Yes things must get done before the new term, but unless your child won’t calm down until all school supplies and clothes are purchased, then save it for August and let them enjoy a balance of structured and unstructured time.
  • Step back so they can step up: From September to May kids use the “I’ve got homework” excuse to avoid lending a hand around the house. Tell them that pass has expired. Besides, summer is a great time to help kids to develop responsibility. They’ll need it because each new grade level requires kids to take more responsibility for their education. They’ll only meet upcoming challenges when we require more of them as members of Team Family. Be specific with your summer expectations and hold the kids accountable. NOTE: Do not load them down with home and garden projects all day every day. Remember, it’s summer! (See tip #1)
  • Create new goals for yourself: Our kids are moving toward independence – just as Nature intended. We’re moving in that direction too and eventually we’ll work our way out of this full-time parenting gig. That’s part of your job description. (Check the fine print on your kid’s birth certificate.) Even if your child is just starting first grade in the fall, the clock is running down on the “under the same roof” phase of parenting. Summer is a great time to remember that before you were a parent you were a person with unique interests and talents. What would you do with at least one extra hour a week just for yourself? Set a goal for yourself this summer and get started. Let your kids in on the goal and on your progress, too. (That’s great modeling!) If you chose well, working on your goal will sustain you on many levels when your child (eventually) leaves the nest.

Now go have some summer fun and pass me a tissue on the way out.

Filed under: Events,Parenting,Teens,Tips — Tags: , , — Annie @ 3:00 am
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