13 Reasons Why: A Message to Parents

by Kelly Cave, LPC, LMFT

Have you heard about it? It’s all the hype right now. I have teenage clients coming in right and left telling me they and all their friends are watching it. Yet, I have some, but very few, adults coming in reporting the same.

Is this show okay for our teenagers to watch?

This is a great question. Let’s first start with a little recap of the show. The main character commits suicide and leaves behind a series of tapes detailing why she did it. Each side of the tape is directed toward a different person and what that person did or didn’t do that contributed to her taking her own life. It also shows in detail how each of those individuals is affected by the tapes and how much they, in turn, struggle with that shame and guilt. Many critics say that it glorifies revenge suicide and teaches students that they can get the impact they want by killing themselves and leaving behind tapes, videos, or letters to make those that bullied them pay. However, this isn’t reality and this isn’t the message we are wanting our teens to be hearing, is it?

I’ve read review after review suggesting that if you are going to let your teen watch this, you should at least watch it with them. I am going to take it one step further by saying that you should watch it before them. Why? If you watch it before them, you know what they are about to see. You may not fully know how it will affect them but you can at least be partially ready for how they might relate and react to the story line. And you’ll be prepared to have or to start conversation with them about it.

This show may not be good in terms of communicating a good message to our teenagers but I do think it is somewhere to start for parents who are feeling out of touch with their teens. Is this happening to every single one of them? No. But much of what this program shows is happening in every high school these days. There is physical violence and sexual harassment. The show opens up with a sexual photo being sent all around school, which is something I hear about daily. The things that the show is depicting may not be something you want to hear or see. All the reviews say, is this really what we want our children to be watching? But I want to challenge you to assume that your children are already seeing or experiencing these things at school. No, this show is not the best in terms of uplifting messages. But it does provide a platform of communication for you and your teen if you allow it to. Try not to miss out on this opportunity, even if you’re late to the game like I was. Watch it, anyway, so that you can go back and talk to your teen about it.

Each and every generation is being faced with new challenges. The generation currently in high school has it more difficult than any generation prior to them. In a world of social media and digital images, their most embarrassing moments or poor decisions can be captured on film and blasted around the school in the matter of seconds. They are dealing with the constant pressure of fitting in by sending “nudes” or attending this or that party. They are constantly connected on their phones but not connected at all emotionally. We’ve always had loneliness and depression, and I think that we always will. But this generation seems to be struggling with it much more. There are resources available for you and your children. Here at Foundation Counseling we long to connect with you and your teens and help create understanding for what they are dealing with. My personal goal is to help bridge the gap between the generations to create deeper, more meaningful relationships for the teenagers of today.

Kelly is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marrige and Family Therapist at Foundation Counseling. She enjoys working with individuals and families in the Marietta & Kennesaw area. Learn more about her and other therapists at Foundation Counseling here.

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