Let me start by saying that 13 Reasons Why from Netflix is a very graphic, impactful, raw and hard to watch at times TV series. What you are about to read is based solely in my opinion, I am no specialist, just a mom of 3 who happened to watch the series. First opinion that I am going to share is , that if you have a teenager or even a curious middle schooler that has heard and wants to watch the series, you must watch it with them! This series gets deep into bullying, sexual assault, substance abuse, suicide and other complicated situations and because it is a tv series it can leave a lot of open loops and doubts.
Now that we are clear! I must say, 13 Reasons Why is a must see for every parent but why?
1) Opens up the conversation about suicide
In season 1 we face the suicide of a teenager and how she came up to the conclusion that there was no other choice, that her life had ended long before she took hers. This comes with an array of “small” situations or “life changing” ones that sent her on a rollercoaster of feelings and finally feeling defeated.
As a mom it was hard to watch because you think you know your children and that they trust you. Trust you enough to come to you with any problem or situation, and that is not always the case. Sadly a lot of the times kids tell you their fine and we don’t ask anything more. I am a mom of three and they are still young but I am learning that communication is a very important key to their emotional development. I am starting early, I don’t want my kids to be high schoolers to start the conversation so I have incorporated these techniques to encourage a healthy communication.
I also try very hard to watch their whole body language, it might let you know something is wrong without the words. Look for help, there is no shame, it is important. We all cope with emotions in very different ways and what for you might be a trivial thing for them might signify much more. Even mental health could play a part and by looking the other way we are not helping them.
2) Bullying, Shaming, etc…..
Season 1 left me wanting to homeschool my kids but season 2 just took it to another level! I really needed to read more about it and found that recent US statistics show higher % of kids who bullied others and who knew about others been bullied but did nothing. This is even far more scarier. We always think on how to protect our kids from being bullied, what tools should they have, take special defense classes (like martial arts). But what happens when your child is on the other side, the side we don’t want to accept because our kids are good kids, right?
It is hard to think that your kids can bully and let’s not forget for once that it is not just a push or hitting, it is also the cyber bullying, the continuous shaming, the emotional damage that slowly eats away anyone’s self esteem. And yes some might say, “You need to be strong”, “don’t listen to them”, “they are just being silly”, “they are just teenagers”.
Let’s not forget that if you are a parent now you probably did not have social media. When you went home you had your space to unwind. Now a days it is a 24/7 thing were one person on a phone or computer is constantly “trolling” others because it is “funny”.
I understand parents play a huge part on this topic. It is my opinion that bullying starts at a very young age and sometimes it comes out of no malicious intentions but we as parents let it go by without explaining to them that what they say might be hurtful. I have to admit my eldest when he was 5 commented on things that he noticed like difference in skin color, hair, how people dressed, smelled and other things. I froze on occasions because I didn’t know what to say at the moment but eventually I sat with him and explained that his observations were true but they didn’t mean anything, that those differences made them special and on the inside we are the same. Of corse he is 5, but the thing is I didn’t let my kid continue without me explaining the consequences of pointing out differences and ultimately ignoring him until his innocent observations become a source of bully.
You can find out more here about bullying.
3) Parent Supervision
On season 2 parent supervision played a big role! Different situations showed us how impactful the structure of your home, the warmth and support that children receive is directly proportional to their behavior. These where some of the parent types:
a- Drug addict mother
b- Affluent absent parents
c- Hard working loving parents
I believe, as stated on reason 2, that yes us parents have a great impact on our kids but not necessarily they will become you, because not always will it be the case.
Saying that, the series shows how teenagers where affected by these types of parent supervision and how they became drug addicts, sexual offenders (to girls and boys), bullies, bullied. We need to acknowledge that sometimes we are so focused on the fast paced society that we live today that we don’t get to really pay attention to what is affecting them, in a positive or negative way.
4) Sexual Violence and Harassment
Now, on season 1 two sexual assaults were shown in a very graphic way but they truly depicted the reality of the encounters. It showed us how easily our daughters or sons can be in a terrible situation.
This brings the topic of sexual education, sexual assault is a crime and everyone needs to understand it and called it out if they are a witness. And let it be clear that by sexual assault and harassment we need to understand:
a- unwanted touching
b- unwanted grabbing
c- unwanted intercourse
d- demeaning comments
I have two boys and I will make sure that they understand and learn that consent, respect, empathy, personal boundaries are things to live by. Very important that consent needs to be given explicitly and alcohol or drugs can affect the consent of the other person and they should respect it.
Season 2 just shocked me by showing us a sexual assault to a boy, but this assault I feel was more about the control and hatred for one person than any other reason. It for sure opened up a canned of worms that a lot of us parents don’t want to acknowledge. It opened up the conversation that boys are also victims of sexual assault and in their case the shame prevents them to come forward and speak out.
This conversation needs to start early and start by teaching them to respect themselves and their bodies and that no means no and that some secrets need to be told. I have already started with my kids and feel it is a daily struggle because you don’t know other kids at school and sometimes they trust their peers and would not see them as being malicious.
5) School Supervision and Counceling
13 Reasons why debated how much responsibility the schools have over children when they are in school and how accountable they are when something happens like bullying, sexual assaults, suicide.
Schools should not be allowed to look the other way because it is their best interest. They should be held accountable when they had knowledge of any of these situations. How many times have we heard or read about a school covering or brushing under the rug a situation and just passing it to another school… too many freaking times!!!
And don’t get me wrong I don’t think they are 100% accountable because they are just one part of our kids day but they get a big chunck.
On another hand I don’t think just one counselor is enough to be able to determine or help every single child and schools need to start putting money towards this department so it is a strong one, one that can actually help our kids.