If you haven’t taken the time to watch 13 Reasons Why, I suggest you pull up a chair and turn on Netflix as soon as you have a chance. If you are the parent of a teenager, get them and spend some quality time together. 13 Reasons Why is a Netflix Original series produced by Selena Gomez. The show is based on the young adult novel by Jay Asher. The story is told through the narration from a set of cassette tapes left by a teen girl named Hannah Baker who recently committed suicide.
One of the best things about this show, is the fact that it can (and DOES) open the door to some very uncomfortable but necessary conversations. Do I believe that everything depicted on the screen is 100% accurate? No. But it touches on REAL life themes. These are not always pretty, and be warned, certain episodes are REALLY hard to watch. (Watch the show by yourself if you want to be prepared) But guess what is harder, YOUR child struggling with bullying, sexual predators, suicidal thoughts or feeling alone. What’s more uncomfortable than talking about these things? The potential consequences of not talking about them. I urge you, as always, TALK to your children: Words Can Save a Life.
13 REASONS WHY You Need to Talk to your Kids
- MAKING GOOD CHOICES– Teenagers can be impulsive. They may act before they have a chance to consider the consequences. We must teach them to consider their actions and know right from wrong, so they are more likely to make good/safe decisions.
- FRIENDSHIPS– Friends come and go. Despite the good times, throughout adolescence, friendships and people change. No matter how close they may be, it’s likely, over time, they will lose friends and be devastated. Be there for a shoulder to cry on.
- BODY IMAGE/SELF ESTEEM– Teach them to love their bodies and be comfortable in their skin. Discuss the value in everyone being unique and special. Help build confidence!
- REPUTATION/BULLYING/CYBER BULLYING– Growing up, I think we can all remember the popular kids and wanting to feel wanted/liked. Talk to your teens about the importance of being a good person and friend. Discuss bullying (in real life and on the internet), teach them to stand up for themselves and seek out help if they need it. And most importantly, warning your children to be careful with how much they trust other people with their heart and their bodies. Now a days, it’s far too easy for young people to be victimized by one picture that can lead to a lifetime of cyber bullying.
- DANGER– Talk to them about being aware of their surroundings, learning to trust their instincts. Explain if they are in a situation that feels wrong to quickly find a way out. Make sure they feel safe and trust authority figures.
- DRUGS/ALCOHOL– The teenage years are a time for experimenting and discovering who you are. Educate your kids on the risks of using substances and the dangers, etc. Also teach them about using appropriate coping skills rather than “drowning their sorrows.”
- GUILT/MAKING MISTAKES– I always try to teach my children that no one is perfect. We ALL make mistakes. It’s important that teenagers can learn from mistakes and figure out healthy ways to solve problems. Guilt is only useful if it motivates you to make positive changes.
- TRUST/BETRAYAL-Trust is a fragile thing. Remember the friend that lied to you, talked about you behind your back, or started dating the boy you liked? Betrayal is devastating. People will often put their feelings before others and you can take this opportunity to support.
- SEXUAL HARASSMENT/GENDER SHAMING– Explain what behaviors are harassment. Also, girls do not deserve negative sexual attention just because of their clothing, etc.
- SEX/RAPE– Despite your religious beliefs or thoughts on abstinence, etc.; teenagers will eventually start to explore their sexuality. Hormones are raging, and with that comes the risks of being in vulnerable situations. Discuss not only the dangers of physical contact, but also how relationships can affect our mental health, self esteem, etc. This is the last thing any parent wants to think about, but it is a necessary discussion. Explain what rape is, how NO means NO. Discuss how anytime someone is not able to make a choice for themselves, or give consent- it is rape.
- HONESTY– Be there for your children and listen to them, without judgement as much as possible. The more they feel that can come to you, the more likely they will trust you with their issues. Encourage them to come to you with questions about ANYTHING and be open and honest with your answers. (It’s awkward at first, but it gets easier I promise!). Would rather have them ask you- even the most personal and inappropriate questions or have them getting misinformation from someone else?
- ALWAYS ASK FOR HELP– Encourage your children and let them know that everyone needs help sometimes. Be sure they have multiple trusted adults they can turn to for support. If they don’t get what they need from one person, find someone else who can help. Seek out a licensed professional for help.
- SUICIDE– There is always tomorrow. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Talk about the consequences based on your belief systems and also be sure they are aware of how much you love them and how lost you would be without them. Life is not a television show, there is nothing glamorous about death.
PARENTING IS HARD! Adolescents are independent and moody, think they know everything and most days don’t want our help. But that doesn’t mean we let them push us away. You keep stepping in! Offer support and encouragement. Keep those lines of communication open and start early.
If anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, mental illness, or substance abuse, please encourage them to seek out help.