Do you consider yourself to be a good parent? Does parenting bring you joy? These days, societal pressure is enormous on everyone, but especially on parents.
Although it is often well-intentioned, parents are bombarded with recommendations of all kinds, sometimes from professionals, but usually from family, friends, neighbors, and even complete strangers. Sorting through all this information can be difficult and overwhelming. Social media then becomes the tool of choice for many parents who want to make informed decisions about the issues that affect them. Yes, quality content does exist if you know where to find it!
For better or worse, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok seem to be well entrenched in today's parental habits. Information accessibility, easy-to-understand concepts through short videos, the convenience of being able to come together with like-minded people, all make social media a welcoming and appealing place to be.
For a parent of a neuro-atypical teenager, for example, being able to meet virtually with other parents who share a similar reality is priceless! If there is a positive point to be made about social networks, it is that they have made it possible for people who previously had no voice, in society, to express their experiences.
However, this display of one's personal life, filtered and edited to be "Instagrammable," has a very insidious effect. When we look at a photo album, we expect a person to show us their best shots. But on Facebook or Instagram, it's more blurry.
We envy our cousin's perfect family photo, without seeing the 53 botched shots that led to this touching portrait. We daydream about the grandiose images of our childhood friend traveling the world, not knowing that she struggles with a profound affliction every day. We watch a conference on communication with teenagers, led by a psychologist who speaks to us from her living room, worthy of a TV decorating show.
So, how does one develop a sense of parenting competence? Unfortunately, you won't find it on social media!
Our sense of competency is also intimately connected to what the other parent and those around us say to us. We feel competent when those we love think we are doing good and tell us so!
In conclusion, is social networking an enemy to be put down? Of course not! You just have to find the right mix and know how to protect yourself from the risks involved. And the most important thing: build a real social network, even if the people who are part of it don't always have the same vision as us on all parenting issues.
Just like what you're probably asking your teen to do: limit your time on social networks. Choose the platform that works best for you and use it more for entertainment and not as a source of information.
Remember that what you see is only a tiny part of people's lives - think of the photo album principle!
It's commendable to want to improve as a parent, but it's important to focus on a few realistic goals and avoid getting lost in tips and advice found online.
Get out there and meet other parents. There's nothing like seeing the reality of others without a filter to take the pressure off! Community organizations such as les Maisons de la famille are great places to meet. They are usually open to everyone and offer free or low-cost services.
Find a location: https://fqocf.org/trouver-un-ocf/
Institut de la statistique du Québec, Mieux connaître la parentalité au Québec : un portrait à partir de l’Enquête québécoise sur l’expérience des parents d’enfants de 0 à 5 ans 2015
Naître et grandir, Le sentiment de compétence parentale