We believe in “Plan A” – telling kids what to do and getting angry when they don’t. “Plan B” is a different way of dealing with kids. How often do we ask kids why they are behaving the way they are? Why do we assume the worst of kids?
This is 13 reasons why adults should watch the new Netflix show “13 Reasons Why”. I wish you were hearing my slow deliberate voice through an old cassette player but it’s a blog…
(P.S. There are some spoilers ahead, although I think I warn just before I say them each time. But you’ve been warned!)
1. Your kid is watching it
First off, I’m not here to say if this show is appropriate for teenagers or not. I’m a Youth Minister and I decided to watch this show for the same reason I went to go see The Fault in Our Stars, because teenagers are going to watch it. You may not let them, but they may still watch it and you are going to want to have seen it if your kids start asking questions! I think as parents, teachers, youth ministers etc. we need to watch what they are watching, especially when it involves emotionally heavy content like this.
2. It’s actually good!
I am wrapped up in the characters of this show, I think it is well written and gripping television. Now it can be a little “teenagery” but I mean that is what the shows about! Like any good show though when that Netflix countdown starts it takes every ounce of me to turn it off at 2 am when I’ve already spent too much time watching it! I can’t stop watching it and I am emotionally involved with the characters, the sign of a good show!
3. It’s real
We can live in a fantasy world or we can admit this is basically what high school is like. I asked a high school student if the show was an accurate depiction of high school and she said it was dead on… be horrified! Now some things happen that are a little over the top but I think that is on purpose. When you are a teenager everything feels much more dramatic than it actually is, everything feels like it is life and death, and it is to a teenager. The difference is in this show it just is that dramatic. Ask your kids if they think this is an accurate depiction of high school, prepare for a yes!
4. It reminds you what it feels like to be 17
Oh the drama that was involved in being young, if you want to feel those dreaded feelings again watch the show. If not, well suck it up and watch it anyway! Watching this show is hard for me because I relate so much with Clay, the main character. High school was hard and awkward and I always felt so different from everyone and I’m sure that is true for many adults looking back. This show feels like your in high school all over again, I think that feeling helps us understand what its like to be 17 again. Your kids are probably dying to hear about what your high school experience was like, tell them about it even if you have to leave out some details…
In the show Clay judges everyone for the things they’ve done wrong and he tries to right everyone else’s wrongs. Until he gets to his tape and says “I’m just like everyone else.” I was writing this right before that episode and I was disappointed Clay came out as clean as he did. No one is innocent. What he does realize is that inaction can be just as bad as actions. This show made me think about who I was in high school, I was a good kid who didn’t party, but I judged everyone else. I only realized much later how arrogant and conceited I was being. I was hoping Clay would realize this too. The point though is to help us take a good long critical look at ourselves, a good message to reiterate to your kids.
6. Feeling Alone
There is a lot of loneliness going on in this show, Clay, Hannah, Jessica, Clay’s Mom, Hannah’s Mom, even Justin. A key reason people commit suicide and/or suffer from depression is loneliness. We should become more aware of our own loneliness and other people’s loneliness so we can talk about it. When people are lacking solid social supports it leads to addiction, depression and just bad decisions in general. It becomes harder in high school when you don’t know who you can trust and when you and everyone around you are trying to figure out who they are. We care about the kids we parent or work with but I know they don’t always feel like it, we need to continuously remind them that we are there for them.
I think this show is bringing to light how important good communication is between parents, kids, teachers, guidance counselors…etc. When I was a high schooler I had no secrets with my parents… mostly because I was a loser who didn’t drink or swear… This show reveals the importance of honest and open communication by showing the suffering that comes with keeping secrets. In the show the teenagers keep secrets from adults WAY too much! Use this as a teaching tool, as an opening into better communication between you and your kids. I think this is the most important thing to come out of this show.
Suicide is real. Depression is real. It is happening more and more in teenagers and we need to be more aware of it and talk about it openly. However this show isn’t really about suicide or mental illness, it’s more about how our actions can hurt others, how doing the right thing at the right time can help in ways we may never see. A good person is someone who does the right thing even when no one is watching. This show reveals the worst consequences possible for making a bad choice. Talk to your kids about how every choice matters no matter how small we may think it is.
The heart of this show is about doing the right thing no matter the consequences. It is also about the consequences of not doing the right thing. Some things are less serious than others but everything in the show has the cumulative consequence of Hannah killing herself (oh and spoiler alert: Jeff). Some things that happen make you wonder if any real wrong was actually done. Like when Zack doesn’t do anything after getting a note with a pretty deep confession from Hannah. Our actions matter and even our inaction can have huge consequences. 13 Reasons Why teaches us to say the things we need to say. Talk about consequences and about what “doing the right thing” means with your kids. I think they will surprise you with the depth of their thoughts on these big questions.
10. Sexual Assault
Spoiler Alert! A sexual assault takes place in the show. We hear increasing accounts of this exact thing happening in colleges and in adult life. We would be naive to think that this is not happening in high schools too. This is yet another issue that this show brings to the forefront and forces us to deal with whether we want to or not. Guys learn to be misogynists and, as a guy who was once in high school I can say, it starts in high school. Talk to teenage men about what kind of a man they want to be and what kind of man you expect them to be. Talk to teenage women about being safe and avoiding dangerous situations.
I hate the term “bullying” because it has become meaningless. When I was a kid a bully was the kid who wore dirty clothes and stole your lunch money. Now we use it to describe everything from teasing to joking to a look. The one truth about human beings is that people are often terrible to each other, it’s a fact of life. It doesn’t matter how old you get or where you are in life some people are going to be awful to you. Clay’s Mom asks him “Are you being bullied at school?” I just want to ask her if she has ever left the house? Ever met another human? Everyone has been both bully and bullied. We are all guilty at some point in our life. The key is, cut the people who consistently treat you bad out of your life and hold on to the ones who treat you well. It took me a long time to figure this one out and I still feel the effects from the “friends” who treated me terribly. Talk to your kids about how to deal with people who are mean to them and how to treat others with respect. If we leave out the latter then we act as if everyone is a victim but everyone acts as the victim sometimes and the bully at other times.
12. It’s important
The issues addressed in this show are so important and relevant to our society and we are talking about them in simplified and cliche ways. Having real, deep and honest discussion about these issues with your kids is as difficult as it is necessary. If we don’t talk about these things, they will get worse and then they will happen to more and more young people. This show is all about paradigm shift, changing the culture by going against the grain. Even if you never watch this show, talk about this stuff at home, in classrooms, in churches etc. The heart wrench you feel when watching this show is what your kids are dealing with every single day.
13. Your kid is watching it and it’s real!
In the last episode you watch Hannah Baker kill herself in the bathtub. It is devastating. I do not think it is a good idea to let a teenager deal with the gravity of this show on their own. That’s what this show is trying to say. You will probably say something stupid or wrong or insensitive… Talk anyway. Your kid probably won’t want to talk about rape, depression, suicide, loneliness… Talk about it anyway. Don’t look at this show as another thing you have to deal with. Look at this show as a fantastic opportunity to open some discussion about things that are real in your kids life. This is scary stuff but its a reality for them.
You’re not ready, I get it. You feel inadequate, I hear ya! You don’t know what to say, mhmm. 13 Reasons Why is a show about saying what needs to be said. It’s about doing what is right. It’s about not being a spectator. So parents, teachers, youth ministers, quit reading and go for it, and maybe say a prayer first!