The other day I got sucked into the social media rabbit hole, yes, again. TikTok moms are taking over with well choreographed dance moves. They’re on Instagram making life look perfect with their perfect kids. Shantelle Bisson, actress, producer, parenting expert, and author tells us that raising teens is not always Pinterest worthy in her book entitled Parenting Your Teen Without Losing Your Cool. Part love letter and part survival guide, Bisson gives us her heartfelt, sassy and honest account of her experience of what it’s like to parent not one, not two, but three teens in today’s world, in hopes of raising them to become happy, stable and thriving adults.
We know it can be challenging at times. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard parents tell me it’s like aliens have come and taken over their children for a few years. And just as you think you’ve got them all figured out they slam the door in your face.
“There are no perfect parents, in the same way, there are no perfect children. The sooner you let go of the pressure of perfection you’ve placed on yourself thanks to the picture-perfect worlds of Instagram and Pinterest, the sooner you will be free to have an organic and real relationship with your child,”says Bisson. “Consider this question: Does following ‘picture-perfect’ Insta-parents, who you probably don’t even know, make you feel uplifted/supported/inspired/loved, or do they make you feel like you’re failing at your parenting game? If it’s the latter, then adjust who you follow, like yesterday. We become who and what we surround ourselves with, including our own social media feeds. How can we expect our children to stop the comparison and perfectionist game if we aren’t willing to have an organic, heartfelt, real relationship with ourselves and our kids?”
When Bisson was in the thick of the teen years, and when her daughters were struggling with eating disorders, and self harm, her girlfriends who were also parenting teens would talk about absolutely everything — including sex lives. However, she explains they did not talk about the very real struggles their teens were dealing with. “It was a dark, lonely and seemingly taboo time, and I didn’t want to leave any other parents out there blowing in the wind the way I felt like I was during those years.”
Bisson wrote this book to be THAT girlfriend and to let other parents know they aren’t alone — that she’s also been there, lived through it and they can come out the other side and be okay. “Another reason for my book was to also support parents who feel like they might want to throw it back and raise their kids a little bit old-fashioned, and to give them the road map for that style of parenting. A roadmap where there are expectations of behaviour, respect and consequence for inappropriate actions, decided on by the parents of the teen.”
Parenting Your Teen Without Losing Your Cool is meant to provide parents with no-nonsense nuggets of wisdom to help them raise good and kind citizens of the world, all while staying sane and keeping their own cool; and practical signs to look for to ensure your child isn’t falling prey to many of the emotional and societal pitfalls of being a teen in 2021.
We had a chance to check in with Bisson recently to find out more…
Parenting teens has its challenges but how have you been managing through these covid times on a daily basis?
I’ve been fortunate that my daughters are all past their teen years. Our youngest is twenty-four, and an actress who splits her time, like we do, between Toronto and LA. Our middle girl is thirty and lives full time in LA. She’s a stylist primarily to rappers, and since they haven’t been touring or releasing new music on a regular basis, she’s had to pivot her career for the time being. But it initially was a struggle for her at the start of the pandemic as her career came to a screeching halt, and one only has so much set aside for a rainy day; luckily she was able to move back in with us until she got another job happening. Our eldest girl resides full time in Toronto and is married, she is a makeup artist so she too suffered a loss of employment; fortunately her husband’s job was able to continue on.
Sure we haven’t been hands on, homeschooling and all those other challenges that so many parents have been faced with during this pandemic, but we’ve definitely had to help support our girls through different yet equally trying times during Covid.
Social media is part of life now and yes we know that comparisons happen but is there a positive side to it all?
In both my books, Raising Your Kids Without Losing Your Cool and Parenting Your Teen Without Losing Your Cool, I encourage parents to keep their kids off of social media for as long as possible. There’s a totally dark, seedy side to social media that too many parents aren’t privy to because their kids are too young for it. I’m mostly concerned for kids’ safety out there, and social media is a place where many kids are being assaulted now…best to keep them off it for this reason, and of course the mind games it plays on their already delicate egos and developing individuality. Before we used to know we had missed a party come Monday morning while standing at our lockers; now teens get to see all the stuff they’re being left out of in real time. I feel incredibly strongly about keeping this reality out of their day to day already upsetting/difficult teen years for as long as you can.
To be dead honest with you, there really is very little I like about social media; in my opinion it is a necessary evil to promote yourself as an independent author, or small business owner. I truly wish we didn’t need it, and I fantasize about a world where we all go back to hearing about things via word of mouth again, rather than believing something must be awesome due to “likes” a brand gets and blue check marks.
Kids aren’t the only ones who are comparing themselves on social media. How about us moms/parents?
Oh hell yeah! I’m so guilty of this. I truly have to monitor my time on social media, or I can easily spiral down with feelings of self-doubt, insecurity with regards to my successes, or lack of them. It’s a slippery slope for many, and I’m one of those people. This is one of the reasons why I wrote this book, so that parents could know that it’s totally cool if you’re kid wants purple hair and to wear skirts when they’re a boy, we don’t need to try and fit our kids into the molds that are being presented to us via other people’s social media highlight reels. I’m fond of saying, tend to your own garden, but with social media, I totally respect that this is very difficult to do, which is why I always recommend limiting your time on it. I mean remember, time is the one thing we can never get back, once it’s gone, it’s gone; do you really want to look back on your life and know that you’ve spent thousands of hours scrolling mindlessly when you could have been with your kid painting, dancing, laughing or being in nature with them instead?? Your answer when your teen is thirty years old is going to be no.
Any advice on how to start conversations around the dinner table about what we see on social media without our kids rolling their eyes?
For sure! For starters don’t allow devices at the dining table. We never allow them. That’s the best place to begin, to start the tradition of getting one on one time with your kids back. And the best way to ask your kids about social media is to follow some of the accounts that they follow. Find some common ground from which to start conversations from. For example, two of my girls love the Kardashian clan; I’m not a fan, but to have one more thing to chat with them about I’ve watched some seasons with them, and now when something pops up on my social media explore page I can say to them; “hey what do you think about ____”, and it gets a dialogue happening with them about something they’re switched on about.
Remember, our parents didn’t understand punk music, or why we put sugar water in our hair to make it stand up like Billy Idol’s hair either…or was that just me??? As parents it is our job to meet them where they are; being on some of their favourite social media personalities is one great way to get them to talk about it without rolling their eyes, and it also allows for an organic segue into more serious conversations about the platforms.
What do you keep in mind when posting onto your social media platforms?
When I post on social media my primary driver is that I ask myself these three questions:
1) am I being authentic to who I am as a person and if I were to meet somebody and talk to them would they feel like they recognize me from what they’ve seen of me on my social media.
2) will this post inspire people? The last thing I want to do when I post is to have people looking at my post and feeling less about themselves because of something I’ve posted online.
3) am I having fun right now, and does this post fulfill me? I try very hard to not post just to hit algorithm markers to grow my brand, I’m all about posting when it resonates with me to do so.
Speaking of social media where can we follow you?
I am on social media. I’m most active on Instagram as it’s the platform I’m most comfortable with, and I’m too busy building the brand of WLYC, while also running my marina Shantilly’s Place in the North Kawarthas to split my brain in too many directions. Anybody can follow me personally on @shantellebisson, and they can follow all things Without Losing Your Cool at the instagram by the same name; @withoutlosingyourcool. I have a Facebook page shantellebissonofficial.
*Okay, in case you were wondering. Yes, she’s married to Yannick Bisson (Murdoch Mysteries).