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.