Communicating through the Teen Years and my thoughts on 13 Reasons Why #StreamTeam

I’m going to start by stating the obvious…I’m not a mental health expert! Therefore, I am not going to discuss the controversy surrounding Netflix’s new show, 13 Reasons Why, and whether or not I believe it “glamourizes” suicide.

Instead, I’m a mom of three kids who has seen and heard a lot while raising these young people through rather tough times. Many shows, including 13 Reasons Why, have provided an opportunity for me to peer inside the lives of this generation…to be able to have open, frank and often difficult conversations with my children. 

Canadian parents (82%) admit they are already watching shows like Supernatural, Pretty Little Liars and Stranger Things to feel closer to their teenager. And teens around the world (74%) are on board, saying they’d be interested in talking to parents about the shows they watch, with both sides (89% of parents and 70% of teens) seeing it as a strong way to bond.

Over the last number of years I’ve had to have very serious discussions with my son a few times about rape culture from things we’ve seen in the news particularly with the Rehtaeh Parsons case. I wrote the #IBelieveHer post for my daughter during the Jian Ghomeshi trials. And sadly and tragically, our lives have been touched by the suicide of one friend as well as the drug overdose of another.

And I’m just ONE Mom trying to stay on top of what my kids are seeing and hearing and feeling…while trying to be there to communicate and offer my words of wisdom…when I often feel incredibly useless and fear my words fall very flat on ears that need so many more answers.

It’s HARD to be a teen…we’ve all been there, it’s no surprise to any of us.

Recently, Netflix brought teens and parents together in this powerful video…and here’s what they had to say:

In many ways, life is still the exact same as it’s been for generations. Teens face challenges with peer pressure and bullying…drinking and drugs…sex, pregnancy, violence, suicide and rape. Every single one of these events have touched my children’s lives in one way or another NOT from the TV shows they watch…NOT from the news they hear…but IN REALITY.

They’ve told me stories…I’ve shared stories of my own. We’ve talked about what they can do if ever in a similar situation. We’ve talked about how their words and actions impact other people…especially those going through a tough time.

What’s different for this generation is the public forum in which many of these events play out and none of us understand how hard that can be as we’ve not lived through it. Mental health experts are wading though brand new territory. While the subjects are the same as they’ve always been…adding social media throws an entirely new set of rules and difficulties into an already difficult time.

The teen years can be HORRIBLE!

Surviving them for some…is an absolute miracle.

My children had already watched 13 Reasons Why by the time I got around to watching it but it’s not the first show that brought up topics that are difficult to discuss. It reminded me, once again, to check in with what’s going on in their lives…to discuss the characters and get their opinions…to see if there’s something more I can learn or more I need to be watching out for. It reminded me that my children and their friends are facing crisis in their lives every single day…it’s not “teen drama”…it’s real life. We might perceive it differently than they do as we’ve experience behind us…but their perception is their reality and as parents, we can use shows like this to open communications.

While I found the show a bit difficult to watch at times (and personally wouldn’t recommend it for students younger than high school)…while I squirmed in my seat and even hid behind my hands a few times…I also enjoyed the show and the depth of many of the characters. Plus, it’s given me a reminder to check back in with my kids, to have a few conversations and see what’s going on in their lives.

Bottom line for me is this…I much prefer the ability to have these conversations with my children over PRETEND HOLLYWOOD rather than the very real and horrible circumstances I’ve had to have the conversations in the past. Believe me…when it’s in the news and hits close to home, it’s so much worse than watching it on TV.

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Have you or your kids watched the show?

I had a quick chat with the folks at Netflix to get their views on the show and here’s what they said…

Netflix knew the material covered sensitive topics, as the book did when it was published in 2007. They worked with mental health experts to show how these issues impact teens in real and dramatic ways.

The series was given a TV-MA rating and there are explicit warnings on the three most graphic episodes. Netflix also produced an after show, “Beyond the Reasons,” that delves deeper into some of the tougher topics portrayed, as well as created a global website to help people find local mental health resources.

Disclaimer: I’m a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam and receive special perks, however, all opinions are my own. 

4 Replies to “Communicating through the Teen Years and my thoughts on 13 Reasons Why #StreamTeam”

  1. Excellent post. My daughter is almost 13 and I’m thankful the lines of communication have always been open between her and I. We have had some deep discussions about issues ourselves; I haven’t watched 13 Reasons yet but I agree keeping on the same page or rather series as your teen can help have that common conversation ground which can lead up to the more serious chats. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I agree that parents need to watch what their kids are watching. 13 Reasons Why opens up a whole dialogue for girls and boys….as parents we need boys to understand what is consent and what isn’t. With girls we need to let them know they can tell us anything that is bothering them, be it about themselves, their friends or just something they saw or heard. This generation is the first to have it all out the via the internet…it is such a tough time to be a teen. But as parents we can’t turn a blind eye, we have to dive in, eyes wide open …in order to provide our kids the help they need…be it a hug, or a listen, or an extra I love you.

  3. I think this show was heavy and ugly but rightfully so I think it’s so important to put it all out there, so we can actually broach these conversations in real life. It was hard to watch, but I can only imagine its even harder for those who actually have to experience these things.

    If I was still teaching HS I would use it as a teaching tool, and a conversation starter for sure.

  4. Great post Colleen, I also love how you touched on the relevance of Rehtaeh Parsons and the issues surrounding today’s life of teens. It’s a hard go and unfortunately getting worse. Unless we talk about it, how will it ever change!