Tori Spelling has been vocal about her children's experience with bullying in school. The former Beverly Hills, 90210 star shared that both her daughter Stella, 14, and son Liam, 15, dealt with "not nice" people last year and suffered from panic attacks, anxiety, and headaches because of the hurtful situations. And since the 49-year-old actress — who is also mom to Hattie and Finn, both 10, and Beau, 5 — has struggled with migraines her entire adult life, she doesn't want her kids to have to do the same. To ease even the smallest bit of their pain, Spelling tells Scary Mommy she talks her kids through scenarios to reassure them that they can always come back to "the known," aka the comfort of home.
With Stella recently beginning her high school journey and worried about all the unknowns of starting at a new school, Spelling made sure the teen learned to visualize her "happy place" for if and when the days got tough. Dreading the worst-case scenario, Spelling says, is "not healthy for any of us — mentally, emotionally. And then it wears on us physically; it manifests into ailments."
She likes her kids to talk about what could happen so they can alleviate the stress of the what-ifs. "I always tell [Stella], 'The unknown we can't control. We can't control what's going to happen tomorrow. We can't control what's going to happen the next minute. What we can control is when you get through that, you'll always go back to the known, that comfort.' I tell her to go to a comforting place."
For Stella, that place is in bed with a cozy blanket and her dogs, crocheting, or completing a DIY project. "I always say, 'It's OK, we're gonna get through it,'" Spelling reiterates.
When it comes to bullying, Spelling says she's had her fair share of criticism in the past, whether it was on blogs or in tabloids. But 30 years ago, social media didn't exist and kids didn't communicate via text or TikTok. "Now, bullying is even more intense because it's on our phones. It's prevalent so often," she says.
"You know, I always say I developed a really thick skin early on, but obviously, I'm human. I have ebbs and flows. I have days where someone will write something about me, and I'm like, 'OK, I'll let it go.' And I have days where I hold it with me. But where I really don't stand for it is when it affects my children or it's about my children. Then the mama bear comes out, and I'm like, 'No, that's just not acceptable," she adds. "Bullying children I just don't want to stand for."
Growing up, Spelling didn't talk about her feelings. Being esteemed producer Aaron Spelling's daughter and a star on one of the 1990s most successful TV shows, Tori pushed aside any discomfort to please people. But once she had children of her own, her mindset shifted — now she asks her family to check in with one another.
"It doesn't come naturally, but I'm gonna do it," she says. "Some of my kids will tell me, 'Oh my God, this happened!' Some are emotional. Some are like, 'Oh, no, I'm fine,' and I'm just like, 'Describe fine. What happened here?' Ask questions," Tori adds, "and just kind of manage it that way, so you can help them navigate and get their feelings out."
Tori says it hasn't been easy for young students who not only have to deal with the pressures of teenagehood and the allure of apps but must also face the effects of the social isolation inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic. Going back into the world as an adult was hard enough, she explains, let alone being a kid who was forced to quarantine from others during their formative years.
"The socialization has been tricky to navigate because the anxiety is through the roof going back [to school], whereas [they used to recognize] that each year they have summer, they go back to school, and they see their friends. We're trying to normalize that again," she says. "It's a new school, there are new people, there's a pandemic, masks, no masks, everything's changing."
She continues, "I feel, as parents, we kind of have to be on the ball. And it's super stressful, not only for kids but for us as parents. They can express their stress, but we almost feel like we have to be stoic and have a good poker face, and be like, 'OK, I'm freaking out inside.' But we've just got to be there for them."
Parenting five children with age gaps and different needs is a hard task, especially when a migraine kicks in. But Tori, who says Nurtec ODT has helped her live a more manageable lifestyle, nails it on the head when she says each stage in a child's life presents its own challenges.
"It's never easy," she says, admitting that the teenage years may be more challenging than the toddler phase. "I really try to be mindful of [the fact that] it's not the same thing for each child, not only age-wise, or grade-wise, or school-wise, but also, you know, personality-wise and emotion-wise. I really try, and it is difficult. I'm not gonna lie, like, it's really hard with five kids."
"But," Tori concludes, "just be able to read a room. Like, know your audience. Know your kids."