Netflix’s ’13 Reasons Why’: A Great Family Discussion Starter

The new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why is sparking conversation and controversy in homes and schools across the nation. That’s because the series, based on a novel of the same name, tells the story of a teenager who commits suicide and traces her “13 reasons” for doing so, which include bullying, date rape, malicious behavior and more.

These are tough subjects, of course. But they are real parts of life, especially for young adults. For parents of teenagers, a program such as this can be difficult and scary to watch. Precisely because teens are striving for independence, they’re often not very forthcoming sources of information about their own lives. Watching 13 Reasons Why will naturally cause many parents to wonder: Is this what my own teenager’s life is like day-to-day?

That’s why I think parents may want to consider viewing it with their kids as a way of starting a conversation about the issues raised in each episode. The program is quite popular so I am sure it is already a topic of conversation at their school and within their social network, and if it isn’t it will be.

  • Show your child you aren’t afraid to learn about these issues and to be educated together so that if any of them ever impacts your child they know you are on the same page.
  • Show them that you as their parent are always there and willing to listen, even when no one else will.
  • As you watch each episode, ask what they think and feel about it. Ask them if they or someone they know have ever felt like this before or had this happen to them.
  • Let them know what you will do if they did say they felt like this. You should let them tell their story, and tell them they are allowed to feel however they want and that not feeling good isn’t ok. You should tell them that you are there to help them feel better.
  • Showing children you are open to the conversation demonstrates that you won’t be scared if they feel like this— that you have a plan, and know what to do. It brings comfort to children to know that someone else can help them.
  • As a parent use this series as a platform to take the time to understand your local resources for all of these issues. Also, learn your child’s school policy around bullying and how it is handled.

Just as we want our children to be informed about topics they hear about on the media, it is our responsibility as parents to be informed about resources available to help when this may impact our own family. It is our responsibility to not shy away from it.

We’re here to help. Feel free to get in touch for a deeper conversation.

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Senior Clinical Liaison

Meghan Stokes is an experienced licensed clinical social worker. A native of Washington County, MD, Meghan graduated from Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) and earned a master’s degree from the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Employee Assistance Programs. In addition to holding the highest social work licensure, Meghan is also certified as a Clinical Supervisor and Field Instructor for undergraduate and graduate programs and has a certification in Critical Incident Stress Management.