What Every Parent Needs to Know About 13 Reasons Why Season Two

13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why became a cultural phenomenon when it was released by Netflix in the spring of 2017. It sparked debates about mental health, violence, bullying, sexual assault, and suicide. A shocking number of copycat suicides were attributed to the show, and many discussed whether or not people should watch the show at all. The show has an MA rating, but a lot of younger viewers have seen the show. Nearly every teen in America knew about the show, with most of them consuming its content. In light of its popularity, the second season of 13 Reasons Why was green-lit quickly and released on May 18, 2018. 

We want to empower parents to engage their teenagers surrounding the content covered in season two. It will share the issues that you as a parent should be aware of. Below are some of the most controversial issues and how you may begin discussing it with your child. There is also a downloadable discussion guide you can use & share.

Before We Get Started

13 Reasons Why is not for teenagers. It is for mature audiences. We do not recommend that teenagers view the show, but many will. Furthermore, teenagers who do not view the show will have friends who will, and they will likely talk about it. The second season seems to be even more dramatic than the first season. There are hints of conspiracy, as well as a trial in court. These aspects should create a less relatable experience for the teenage viewer, compared to the first season’s exclusive use of family life & high school. The show features a number of pieces that are NOT the normal experience of an American high school student. However, it does showcase that being a high school student today is hard. That aspect really seemed to resonate with those teenagers I know who watched the first season. 

Parenting is hard, and the topics brought up by this series are heavy. Do not walk this road alone. Talk with other parents. Challenge each other to have these discussions with your teenagers. Hold each other accountable to making this happen. Share what works, and support each other.

RAPE

13 reasons why season two 2 parent's guide, christian, catholicThe first season of 13 Reasons Why featured a scene where the bully, Bryce Walker, forces himself upon Hannah Baker as well as other girls. The second season has a plot line that suggests that rape is a chronic problem for Bryce and a number of athletes at the school. As a parent, how should you approach this subject with your teenager? 

Provide clarity. Explain what rape is and why it is wrong. Rape is a violent act that is the opposite of love. Rape takes. Love freely gives (a note about the proper expressions of love in their proper context is important and should be clarified before having this discussion with your teenager). Leading with the truth in clear language is important. Hopefully your teenager doesn’t have first-hand experience with this (if they do, please seek the guidance of a licensed counselor and the aid of the authorities as rape is also a criminal act). 

While it is likely that your teen hasn’t experienced rape first hand, this topic can serve as an onramp to discussing boundary violations. Here is how you can take that big heavy topic and process it with your teen.

State the Truth:

Explain that rape is a huge boundary violation that is unlawful and leaves lasting damage to the victim. 

Discuss:

  • In what ways does rape violate someone’s Physical boundaries?
  • What are other ways that Physical boundaries can be violated?
  • What can you do if someone violates your Physical boundaries?
  • What can you do to protect your Physical boundaries?
  • What can you do to protect the Physical boundaries of others?

Repeat:

Utilize a similar flow of discussion for Emotional boundaries and Spiritual boundaries.

GUN VIOLENCE

13 reasons why season two 2 parent's guide, christian, catholicLast year, 13 Reasons Why ended with a teen shooting themselves. In season 2, the topic of gun violence is showcased. It is aimed at protecting oneself, seeking justice in one’s own terms, or revenge/rage/school shooting. While I pray that your child never experiences gun violence, the recent shootings in our country have created a culture where your teenager has thought about that as a possible reality for their schooling situation. On May 18th, the day of the second season premiere, a student open fired in a high school in Sante Fe, Texas killing multiple people. This is a difficult subject that has become highly politicized. Recognizing your own approach to gun ownership and usage, here is how you can approach this topic.

State the Truth:

Guns are tools that can inflict lethal damage on another.

Discuss:

  • What is an example of the proper use of a gun?
  • What should you do if you encounter a gun in an inappropriate setting?
  • What are your thoughts and feelings regarding the recent school shootings that have taken place?
  • If a friend said that they were considering using a gun against someone, how would you respond?
  • If someone brought a gun to school or other setting, how would you respond?

BULLYING 

Bullying has been a topic in the spotlight for a number of years, and there are many resources available. Nevertheless, a show like this provides an opportunity to bring up the topic again and highlights that bullying is still a relevant topic even if technology has changed how bullying occurs. The second season of 13 Reasons Why features bullying that includes physical violence as well as verbal bullying such as threats and labeling. 

When it comes to the discussion of violence, the “three hurts” must be considered:

  1. Is the person being hurt by others (bullied)?
  2. Is the person hurting others (bullying)?
  3. Is the person hurting themselves (self-harm – discussed below)?

Many parents have discussed aspects of bullying with their children. Here is another way to continue the conversation.

State the Truth:

Bullying is aggressive, unwanted behavior that involves a real or implied power imbalance often through physical or social means.

Discuss:

  • In what ways do you see bullying take place at your school (or sports team/social groups)?
  • What can be done to address bullying when you encounter it?
  • What are some appropriate ways to interact with people you do not like?
  • What are some appropriate ways to interact with people who do not like you?

13 reasons why season two 2 parent's guide, christian, catholicSUICIDE, SELF HARM, & MENTAL HEALTH

Attempted suicide is addressed again in the second season. Hannah Baker, a victim of suicide, continues to appear in season two. The topic of mental health and suicide is further complicated by the series as the school counselor is flawed. In fact, one of the tapes from season one was dedicated to him (for those who have not viewed season one, 13 tapes were left behind after Hannah committed suicide, and each tape pointed to one of the people/reasons why she took her life). Self-harm would fall into this category as well as mental health. 

Navigating this topic is difficult since every person can struggle with a bad day or season of depression. It’s even more challenging due to the fact that the dialogue you seek should be one where you are able to foster openness and vulnerable sharing. Often when this topic is discussed, the conversation talks about some third person who struggles with these things and how they can be helped. This creates an implied shaming if the “other” that needs help is the teen you are discussing this with.

For these topics, I defer to the experts. Please check out the resources from the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, the Center for Parenting Education, and the Jason Foundation.

Other Issues of Concern

13 Reasons Why brings up a slew of other topics including: lying, sex, drugs, alcohol, addiction, and more. All of these aspects are important topics, and the show can provide a springboard to discuss these topics. Note that your teenager does not need to watch this show for you to have these discussions with them. One school district recommended that teenagers not view it, and there is a petition to get it removed from Netflix. However, if your teenager has watched it, please sit with them and watch it again & discuss. Netflix has seen the impact it has made and now has resources available at 13reasonswhy.info

Hope

The last piece is one that seems completely absent in this series, the aspect of spirituality. Christians are people of hope, and the dignity of the human person is central to how one should treat others and engage society. The reality that God created you on purpose, with purpose, and has a plan for your life is vital for a teenager to know. The richness of meaning is difficult to find without a reliance on God. While the series doesn’t offer a springboard for discussing this aspect of personhood (the soul), the brokenness that flows from a disordered understanding of this reality should prompt you as a parent to double down on discussing and showcasing this truth in your teenager’s life in a daily, intentional way. 

Parenting is hard, and the topics brought up by this series are heavy. Do not walk this road alone. Talk with other parents. Challenge each other to have these discussions with your teenagers. Hold each other accountable to making this happen. Share what works, and support each other.

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