I just finished watching the second season of “13 Reasons Why“. It was as disturbing and sad and painful and terrifying as season one. It left me feeling sad and anxious.

And if you are the parent of a teenager, you need to watch it, too.

When our kids are little, we know everything that is happening in their small lives. We find out about the missed assignments in school or the fight they had with their friend or when they don’t make a team.

A hug goes a long way or a trip for ice cream eases the pain.

Then, these sweet, little innocents grow, and as the saying goes, big kids start encountering big problems.

And just when you need to know more than ever what is happening in their lives, they start shutting down. The conversations dwindle and the words stop flowing.

It’s not that our kids are mean-spirited or spiteful or selfish. It’s not that they don’t care about anyone else or that they don’t need their parents anymore.

But, sometimes after a day of school they don’t want a lecture or platitudes filled with bane advice. Sometimes they are fearful of getting in trouble. Sometimes it is embarrassment or shame. And sometimes they are protecting us, the parents, from the horrors they experience.

As parents of teens, we are preoccupied with social media highlights of Tide Pod challenges and young girls flaunting themselves on social media, but we are unaware of what is happening—what is really happening—in our kids’ lives.

And we foolishly think if our children were in trouble—really in trouble—they will come to us.

While “13 Reasons Why” terrifies me as a parent, and it’s not something I want my young teens to watch, it’s also provided me with a new insight into how to look at the struggles my kids may face as they enter high school. It provided me with the “why” kids do some of these awful acts.

Season two delves into great detail regarding the dynamics of high school, including the pressures to fit in, the lack of control teens have over their reputation, and the constraints under which our administrators operate.

And, it shows how one mother—one mother who thought her daughter was OK—missed opportunities to help her child. When I asked a daughter of a friend, a senior in high school, who also finished watching season two, if it was an accurate representation of what it’s like, her response chilled me. “I didn’t experience or see all those awful things, but a lot of it was spot on. Maybe not as awful as they made it, but close.”

After watching the last episode, Netflix, knowing of the uproar the series has caused, hosted a roundtable discussion that explains how the writers and producers came up with specific storylines and scenes. I was impressed with how much research and data the creators of the show put in to make things as realistic as possible, and the thought and care the actors placed on each scene. 

And that includes highlighting some distinct ways parents of teens are failing our kids. “13 Reasons Why” shows the lack of supervision many parents give teens, thinking they are responsible enough to live independently and without much parental involvement. It delves into how good parents miss the signs of substance abuse, sexual assault or bullying merely because they think it couldn’t happen to their family. It demonstrates how we often brush off our teens’ worries as drama or overreactions.

It challenges us to start having more conversations, asking more questions, consider how we can support our teens more while still allowing them to take on life.

These are all good things.

It’s easy to say “13 Reasons Why” glorifies suicide or pushes the boundaries of current events or highlights graphic scenes of rape for shock value. I completely understand that many parents, like myself, do not want their kids to watch any show that glorifies suicide or shows despicable acts of violence. I get it.

But that doesn’t mean as parents you can’t look at the series as an opportunity to try to understand what some of our teens are going through right now in high schools across America.

I didn’t watch this show for entertainment value, as I went to bed each night tense and worried; but I do feel more prepared to tackle some of these issues with my kids, and for that I am thankful. It is also an in-your-face reminder to be grateful for any time you have with your son or daughter.

We can’t always protect our kids from the evils of the world, which there are many. But, we can prepare ourselves to help get them through it.

Just one mom’s two cents.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a freelance writer, and co-partner of the site parentingteensandtweens.com You can find her on Facebook at WhitneyFlemingWrites.

Dear Daughter as You Grow into Yourself

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Girl in hat and dress-up clothes, color photo

My daughter, I watched you stand in front of the mirror, turning your body left and right. Your skirt was too big and your top on backward. Your bright blue eyeshadow reached your eyebrows and bold red blush went up to your ears. You didn’t care. I watched you marvel at your body, feeling completely at ease in your skin. You turned and admired yourself with pride. You don’t see imperfections. You don’t see things you are lacking. You see goodness. You see strength. RELATED: Daughter, When You Look in the Mirror, This is What I Hope You See I’m...

Keep Reading

My Child with Special Needs Made His Own Way in His Own Time

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding child's hand walking across street

I want to tell you the story of a little boy who came to live with me when he was three years old. Some of you may find this story familiar in your own life. Your little boy or girl may have grown inside you and shares your DNA or maybe they came into your life much older than three. This little boy, this special child, my precious gift has special needs. Just five short years ago, he was a bit mean and angry, he said few understandable words, and there was a lot about this world he didn’t understand. Unless...

Keep Reading

Organized Sports Aren’t Everything

In: Kids, Motherhood
Young girl with Alpaca, color photo

Today I watched my little girl walk an alpaca. His name is Captain. Captain is her favorite. He’s my favorite too. I met his owner on Instagram of all places. She thought I was in college; I thought she was a middle-aged woman. Turns out, she is in high school, and I am a middle-aged woman. This random meeting led to a blessing. We call it “llama lessons.” We take llama lessons every other week. It’s an hour away on the cutest hobby farm. Our “teacher” is Flora, who boards her llamas at the alpaca farm. She wants to teach...

Keep Reading

I Had to Learn to Say “I’m Sorry” to My Kids

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Mom hugs tween daughter

My two oldest kiddos are at the front end of their teen years. I remember that time in my own life. I was loud, somewhat dramatic, I let my hormones control me, and I never—ever—apologized. This last part was because no one ever really taught me the value of apology or relationship repair. Now, I could do some parent blaming here but let’s be real, if you were a kid whose formative years were scattered between the late ’80s and early ’90s, did you get apologies from your parents? If so, count that blessing! Most parents were still living with...

Keep Reading

5 Things Your Child’s Kindergarten Teacher Wants You To Know

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child raising hand in kindergarten class

I am a teacher. I have committed my life to teaching children. Of course, before I began this career, I had visions of standing in front of a group of eager-eyed children and elaborating on history, science, and math lessons. I couldn’t wait to see the “lightbulb” moments when students finally understood a reading passage or wrote their first paper. And then I had my first day. Children are not cut out of a textbook (shocking, I know) but as a young 23-year-old, it knocked me right off my feet. I was thrown into the lion’s den, better known as...

Keep Reading

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

You’re Almost Grown, But You’re Always Welcome Back Home

In: Kids, Motherhood
Teen in room studying with computer and smartphone

Dear child, In the days before you could walk or talk, there were times when you would wail—when my rocking and shushing and bouncing were seemingly futile—but it didn’t matter. Each day and night, multiple times, I always picked you up and welcomed you back into my arms. As a toddler and a preschooler, you had some pretty epic meltdowns. There were times when you would thrash and scream, and all I could do was stand by and wait for the storm to blow over. Eventually, you would run to me, and I would welcome you back with a warm embrace....

Keep Reading

No One Warned Me About the Last Baby

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn baby, black-and-white photo

No one warned me about the last baby. When I had my first, my second, and my third, those first years were blurry from sleep deprivation and chaos from juggling multiple itty-bitties. But the last baby? There’s a desperation in that newborn fog to soak it up because there won’t be another. No one warned me about the last baby. Selling the baby swing and donating old toys because we wouldn’t need them crushed me. I cried selling our double jogger and thought my heart would split in two when I dropped off newborn clothes. Throwing out pacifiers and bottles...

Keep Reading

Parents Are Terrible Salespeople for Parenting

In: Kids, Motherhood
Tired mother with coffee cup on table, child sitting next to her

As the years of fertility start to wane, many of my childless peers are confronted with the question, “Should I have kids?” With hesitation, they turn to us parents who, frankly, seem overwhelmingly unhappy. They ask sheepishly, “Is it worth it?” We lift our heads up, bedraggled, bags under our eyes, covered in boogers and sweat and spit up, we mutter, “Of course! It’s so fulfilling!” It’s like asking a hostage if they like their captor. Sure, it’s great. We love them. But our eyes are begging for liberation. Save me, please. I haven’t slept through the night in years....

Keep Reading

Soak in the Moments because Babies Don’t Keep

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Roller coaster photo, color photo

I love marking the moments, the ones that count—making a note and storing them for memory. But I often miss out on them when it comes to our oldest. ⁣ ⁣The day he wanted to be baptized, I was at home with another kiddo who was sick. He called me from church excitedly, emphasizing he was ready and didn’t want to wait. I couldn’t argue with that, so I watched him go underwater through videos my husband and sweet friends in the congregation took. ⁣ ⁣On the day of his fifth-grade graduation, we found ourselves at the pediatrician’s office. Instead...

Keep Reading