13 Reasons Why We Need to Have Conversations With Our Kids

Our family recently watched Season Two of 13 Reasons Why. Many scenes were hard to watch, but I believe we as parents must enter in to where our teens are. This doesn’t require watching 13 Reasons Why, but it does require paying attention.

To that end, the re-engagement of parent characters in Season Two of 13 Reasons Why is a welcome change from the first season where their authority and voices were noticeably missing. As one father/son relationship grows stronger, the father asks his son Clay why kids don’t talk to their parents. Citing shame and fear, Clay suggests that kids want to protect their parents from all the bad stuff.

Isn’t it ironic that our teens stay quiet to shield us from reality, while we stay quiet only to leave them exposed!

Our teens need us to speak into the issues of our culture to help them think biblically about it. So from 13 Reasons Why Season Two, thirteen topics to talk about with your teen:

1. Sin
We tend to talk about sin in broad terms, failing to see how sin-sick we really are. But sin infects every part of us and the broken world we live in. Sin is not just bad behavior. It is the turning away from God and toward something else. At the core of all sin is idolatry. This is foundational to understanding our hearts, motives, desires, and behavior. Identifying idols and seeing sin for what it really is reveals our deep need for Jesus.

2. Shame
According to shame researcher Brene Brown, while guilt stems from doing something bad, shame says, “I am bad.” But like Jessica, a character in the show who is raped, our teens may experience the effects of shame because of someone else’s sinful actions. However, we also see through Jessica that shame loses its hold once it is spoken. Encourage your teen to talk about what makes them feel shame.

3. Identity
Even as believers we seek our worth in things that can never fill us. In the show, teens turn to sex, drugs, sports, popularity, love, acceptance, affirmation, and more in search of security. Talk to your teen about what they see teens turning to for identity and why our true identity is found in Jesus’ work and worth.

4. Fear of Man
Fear of man and its power over us, is a constant theme in the show. Ask your teen how things could have been different if the characters had spoken up with the truth instead of being ruled by what others might think or say. Tell them about when you have bowed to the opinions of man.

5. Bullying
Bullying persists because of the fear of man. In the show bullying comes in the form of anonymous photos used to intimidate those students called as witnesses in the trial. Until the end, bullying works to force kids to keep quiet about certain details. Ask your teen what would keep him/her from reporting bullying, and talk about their fears of backlash.

6. Entitlement
In the show Bryce Walker is an entitled bully who uses money, popularity, and power to manipulate other characters. In what ways do we act as if we are better than others? Go to God’s word with your teen to see that Jesus stooped beneath us in order to bring us up. We need to help our kids humbly serve and love others, rather than hindering them by catering to their every whim.

7. Sex
Promiscuity, premarital sex, and cohabitation among young adults have become normative in our culture. While our kids should not be shamed for their God-given sexual desires, God’s good design for sex within the context of heterosexual marriage calls us to abstain until then. Discuss the long-term emotional, spiritual and physical consequences of sex outside of marriage, and how you can come alongside them to help avert temptation.

8. Homosexuality
In a #LoveWins culture, denying anyone love and happiness is an unpopular stance. But God’s Word is clear about his design for marriage, and clear on sin. To dismiss sin (any sin) as not a big deal is unloving. Examine with your teen what it looks like to love sinners well without compromising the truth.

9. Sexual Assault
Joining in the national #MeToo conversation, Season 2 addresses sexual assault as a major theme. In one episode we learn of more teenage victims and some of their moms who had quietly carried their own stories of shame and assault. Statistics are high and many assaults never get reported. As parents this is an important conversation to have with our girls and BOYS.

10. Addiction
When emotions leave us empty, sad, angry, or just plain bored, we try to self medicate through shopping, gambling, pornography, or drugs. Because this is true of us, we see how the law of diminishing returns can lead down a slippery slope to addiction, as it did for Justin Foley in the show. Ask your kids what they turn to for escape. Identifying idols is the first line of defense against addiction.

11. Mental Health
Anxiety and depression are rampant among teens, college students and young adults. Research shows the pressure kids feel as a primary reason more and more kids at such young ages are struggling. Ask your teen what pressures he or she feels, and how you contribute to it or help relieve it.

12. Suicide
In the show we are invited in to the emotions of those left behind. Mrs. Baker’s pain, grief, and regret, the guilt of some of Hannah’s friends, and Clay’s anger helps us better see suicide’s devastating effects. With Kate Spade’s recent passing, mental health and suicide are back on the table. There is no shame in needing to see a counselor. Does your child know this? How can you be a safer person for them to talk to? Ask them.

13. Gun violence
Tragically, school shootings have become common occurrences. But the issue at hand goes beyond gun control. Engage your kids in a conversation about the deeper root: how little we value human life and why. And if you watch the show, evaluate what leads to the near deadly situation.

As you broach these conversations with your teens, they may try to shut you down. Though this may tempt you to stop trying, don’t take their lack of interest or silence as justification for quitting. Be prepared to talk first: When you are willing to share your own sin, shame, and struggles, it will help them open up and listen. They need your voice to evaluate life through gospel glasses.

Kristen Hatton holds a master’s in counseling and works primarily with teen girls, parents and families. She is the author of Parenting AheadThe Gospel-Centered Life in Exodus for StudentsFace Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World, and Get Your Story Straight. Kristen and her pastor husband reside in Dallas, Texas and are the parents of three young adults and a son-in-law. Learn more by visiting her website at www.kristenhatton.com.

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