13 Ways to Watch “13 Reasons” Season 2…

13 Ways to Watch “13 Reasons Why”

So Netflix is going with Season 2 of “13 Reasons Why”.  I’m not happy about it at all.  Last season launched a million questions, and a billion concerns about the impact and the inaccuracy of the story line.  This show drew millions of middle school and high school kids.  The word “suicide” became a common household topic…and fear within the hearts of parents, educators, youth ministry leaders and kids.

Some parents will forbid kids watching this, and some kids will respect that rule.  Others will binge watch late at night by themselves or with friends…because FOMO and topics like suicide are always going to draw kids to the screen despite our best rules and regulations at home.

I’m certainly not cheering on the kids who will be watching it.  Honestly, I’m surprised and disappointed that Netflix is moving forward with the series.  But here we are, facing opening night on May 18.  My step forward is to offer 13 ways to approach this show with your child. It’s going to take careful, empathic listening on your part…and tons of patience on their part as you participate in something that lures them into wanting to own it and watch it alone. And THAT’S the First Step…

Step One:  Your kid doesn’t get to watch this alone. 

Warning:  Some kids are going to hate this part!

Talk with your middle school and high school kid when things are relaxed and they are able to talk openly (everyone has that time of the day/night that works best.  Don’t know it?  This is a powerful parenting tool!  It may be car rides with the rearview mirror as the visual contact or bedtime).  Ask your child if they plan to watch it, or if their friends are watching 13 Reasons Why.  LISTEN WITH CURIOSITY.  If they say, “yes, I want to.” Then ask what they know about the show.  Tell them that you’ll be watching it as well.  Invite them to watch it with you.  If they are dead set against that, then promise them that you’ll be watching it too because you want to learn from the show and understand what it’s about.

Step Two:  Your kids doesn’t get to NOT talk about the show.

Warning:  Some kids are going to hate this part even MORE!

Ever been part of a book club?  There is good food and conversation and eventually everyone gets to talking about the book.  If your kid is going to watch the show, the deal is that you are going to have a 13-minute talk (MINIMUM!) about each episode.  Here’s the HARD PART:  Your role is going to be asking questions (“what did you think about….”  “Have you ever known someone who felt like…?”). Ask questions about what your child thought was true or unbelievable.  Ask them if they have ever felt like, thought like, or known someone who feels/does/thinks like characters.

Steps Three and Four: Secondary Trauma and Watching FIRST

There are pretty mature themes in this show:  sexuality, suicide, depression, depression, sexual assault.  Remember…secondary trauma can occur when we witness (in real life, in movies, television, social media…our brains can’t tell the difference!) traumatic and disturbing events.  YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXPLAIN TO YOUR CHILD THAT YOU KNOW THE CONTENT CAN ACTUALLY HARM THEM.  And YOU get to decide if this isn’t age appropriate for your child.

Still don’t want to say no? This is a parenting issue, and you may want some support to talk about how to parent and set boundaries with adolescents.  In the meantime, you can explain that the themes of the show will include the above, so you’ll be watching BEFORE they do.  And your role as parent is to protect them from traumatic experiences, which includes inappropriate media.  Tell your kids they can blame you if their friends ask why they can’t watch. Set them up for success with peers!

Step Five: Talking about Healthy Sexuality and Sexual Assault

There are some great resources about healthy sexuality (that goes beyond “don’t have sex”…because kids need to have more information than just say no at this age).

Here’s one from a host of options online:


For Christian parents, you may find that the resource above doesn’t hone in on the specifics about your beliefs about healthy sexuality.  One option  might be:


Steps Six and Seven:  Talking about Suicide and Self Harm

Do you know the difference between self-harm (aka cutting, picking, burning skin) and suicide attempts? Do you know the difference between suicidal ideation and suicidal threat?  Colorado, and specifically Douglas County and Colorado Springs, rank in the top levels of national suicide activity amongst teens and young adults.

Again, there are several resources, especially in the area, but here are a few:




Steps Eight and Nine: Listen and Ask more than Talk and Answer

This show is an opportunity to learn how to listen so your kids will talk.  Our fear sometimes makes us talk louder to get our point across rather than listen deeply and ask questions that encourage your teen and young adult to talk.  It means that you begin to explore WITH them the answers and topics and solutions you used to just tell them to do or understand.

Some ways to prompt more from them and less from you:

  • “Tell me more about that…”
  • “Have you ever heard that…seen that…how did it impact you?”
  • “What can I do to support you when you’re feeling…?”
  • “Do you have any questions about this?  I might not know the answer, but I’m hoping we can figure it out together and then decide what is in your best interest.”

Step Ten: Self Care for Parents

I’ve seen so many scared, anxious and overwhelmed parents of adolescents.  Parenting is hard work.  Parenting anxious, depressed and self-injuring adolescents and young adults is painful and sometimes feels impossible.  It’s not. You’re not alone.  AND you need to be intentional with time for yourself. Don’t laugh.  You need to breathe.  You have to have perspective away from home and parenting at times. They are going to need you in deep ways throughout their life…and you need to be grounded and healthy for those times.

Step Eleven: Learn the Signs…Talk About the Signs

If your teenager or young adult is changing behaviors  – sleeping too little or too much, eating too little or too much, isolating, wearing long sleeves in the heat of summer, avoiding home or talking…these could very well be signs that they are experiencing depression, anxiety, self injury, substance abuse, suicidality.  We can be afraid to learn the signs because it might mean there is something wrong.  We can be afraid to talk about the signs or what we are noticing because we are afraid that by talking about suicide, we will push people over the edge.  You won’t. Plain and simple.  Ask directly, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” “Do you have a plan?”  There are plenty of resources and support around you to get the right info and the next steps.

Step Twelve: Attach!  Attune!  Parent a securely attached adult!

One of the strongest predictors of a securely attached adult is the way that kids attach to their caregivers and important relationships…especially during stress. Living with people who are 13 – 28 means that you balance between building independence and still being intentional about attuning with them, especially in stressful times.  What does that mean?  It means connecting – eye to eye and touch.  It means talking and hanging out without an agenda or criticism. It means saying “I love you” no matter how hard the day went, or how hard they push you away (or try!).

Step Thirteen: Live from Love, not from Fear

Like I said about attachment…THIS is the perfect opportunity to be consistent and loud and relentless in loving that kid of yours!  This doesn’t mean allowing whatever they want to happen, but it DOES mean that no matter what…you don’t cut them off in silence….you start and end the day with “I love you”….you don’t text hard and critical things instead of having a conversation…Living from love and not fear means that you don’t raise your voice or intensify your consequences because you’re scared.  You dig deep and love hard.


Parents – you can do this! Parenting teens and young adults is hard and amazing work!  You’re not alone and you’re not a victim to social media and Netflix!  If you need support with developing your family’s discussion about healthy sexuality in a social media world,  how to parent kids who are feeling depressed, anxious, suicidal, or how to attune and connect during these roller coaster years…enCOURAGE Counseling offers support to parents, youth ministry leaders, educators and teens/young adults.  Not talking is NOT an option.  Call today for a free 15-minute consultation.  Let’s walk through this challenge together!


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