My daughter’s insights into what our adolescents desperately need to hear from us.
Chances are if you have an adolescent, you’ve heard all the buzz around the recent, controversial and most tweeted NETFLIX drama, 13 Reasons Why.
And, despite my reluctance, as a parent coach and mother of a teenager, I felt a responsibility to watch it.
As you probably know, this show deals with our worst fears as parents – bullying, shame, sex, substance abuse, loneliness, depression, isolation, rape, and suicide.
Regardless of the many issues I have about the messages conveyed in the show, I want to take a different approach than the other articles you may have read.
I asked my 17 year old daughter to speak to us. How would she suggest parents talk to their kids about it?
My daughter helped me come up with these 13 messages our adolescents desperately need to hear from us.
1. You can express your negative feelings with me.
You can be sad, angry, and disappointed. I don’t ever want you to feel like you have to stuff your emotions down. Hannah talked very little about her feelings. When you stuff your feelings, they become like a cancer – they grow bigger and take over. When you express them they become manageable.
2. I will listen to you without judgement.
I will be a safe place for you to come and share your feelings, concerns, and problems. I will always seek to listen and understand because you matter to me. If I’m not doing a good job I want you to let me know.
3. I will strive to stay calm when you share something hard to hear.
I promise I will continue to work on being a calm mom and not freaking out. I don’t want you to suffer with something because you felt like you couldn’t tell me or believed I couldn’t handle it. That would break my heart.
4. There is always hope and help to feel better.
You never need to be stuck in a bubble of despair. There are healthy ways to cope with the topics covered in 13 Reasons Why. Most people who have gone through what Hannah did, reach out, get help and go on to lead normal lives. There is always someone who will listen and understand. If you need support or someone to talk to I want you to know it is okay to say, “I need help.” We will figure it out together. There are many treatment options for depression and mental illness.
5. Suicide is never glamorous or effective.
Suicide is a tragedy. It affects everyone. Suicide is not a common response to life’s challenges and never the fault of anyone.
In 13 Reasons Why, Hannah wasn’t there to see the after effects of her death. She didn’t see the devastation she left in her wake or experience the heartbreak of her parents who had so many unanswered questions.
And, the saddest tragedy of all is Hannah didn’t get to experience the healing that was available to her. She missed out on all her life could have been.
Suicide did nothing but destroy a precious life and forever alter the lives of others.
6. You deserve to be treated with respect.
I want you to be empowered and to respect yourself – to know your infinite value and worth. Don’t worry about being liked at the expense of losing yourself. Never tolerate being mistreated. Pay attention to what doesn’t feel good to you and say no. Don’t put yourself in situations that are uncomfortable. Call me and I will come get you or help a friend with no questions asked.
7. It’s okay to disagree with me.
I know that it’s important for you to develop your own sense of self apart from me. You have permission to disagree and share your own thoughts without being criticized. This will help you to stand strong and have confidence in the face of adversity.
8. There are always others you can go to when you don’t want to talk to me.
There are many people who care about you. I understand that there will be times you may not want to come to me when you’re struggling with something. I want you to think about a few other people you trust that you could go to if you don’t want to talk to me. (Take some time to encourage them to think about who this might be – a coach, mentor, youth group, teacher, counselor, or a family member).
9. I want you to know that the truth will always set you free.
I understand that sometimes it’s not cool to come forward when you experience or witness bullying or something else that’s distressing. But, secrets will suck the life out of you.
Your life will not be ruined if you tell the truth and stand up for what’s right. In fact, when you tell the truth you ultimately help yourself and others.
10. There is nothing you could ever do that would make me love you any less or love you anymore.
I can never fully understand the amount of pressure you feel.
I don’t love you because of how successful you are in school, or sports, or any extra curricular activities. I want you to be free to be your own person. I want you to be who you want to be. I will love you no matter what.
11. You are responsible for your own life.
Hannah had horrible, tragic things happen to her no doubt, but no matter how horrible they were, she was ultimately the one responsible for taking her life. No one else.
Hannah had choices every step of the way. No matter how tough things get, we ultimately have the choice how we are going to handle bad things when they happen in our life. And bad things will happen.
Don’t live life as a victim blaming others. This will render you powerless.
The painful, difficult things that happen to you don’t have to define you for the rest of your life. That’s why in the movies we love the underdog that overcomes adversity.
You can choose to write the parts in your story where you overcome and help and inspire others to do the same.You can choose to write the parts in your story where you overcome and inspire others to do the same.Click To Tweet
12. There are always others who have gone through similar things.
There is nothing you will ever go through that someone else hasn’t experienced or gone through too. I know you will feel like you’re the only one sometimes, because I sometimes feel like that too, but it’s not true. There are always others who understand and will help you to get through whatever it is.
13. Educate yourself about depression and the signs of suicidal thoughts.
If you suspect your teen might be thinking about suicide, talk to him or her immediately. Don’t be afraid to use the word “suicide.” Talking about suicide won’t plant ideas in your teen’s head. Ask your teen to talk about his or her feelings and listen. Don’t dismiss his or her problems. Instead, reassure your teen of your love. Remind your teen that he or she can work through whatever is going on. Most importantly, take it seriously. Take them to the closest hospital to have them evaluated or call your doctor immediately. Don’t wait.
I know that it can be difficult to talk to our adolescent’s about these difficult subjects, but talk we must. And even more important is that underneath all of these tragic and difficult subjects lies a tween or teen that is desperately needing to know we care about them and that no matter what, they will get through whatever it is with the love and support of us and others.
I feel compelled to include these resources:
If you think your child is suicidal and in immediate danger call 911, or a suicide hotline number—such as:
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
- Use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat – http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/gethelp/lifelinechat.aspx
- Both are free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.
- For more information, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/