13 Reasons Why… You are a BELOVED CHILD OF GOD!

Note:  Thank you to my fellow youth workers for your conversation around such a relevant topic… and for the permission to use your thoughts, words, and ideas!

I finished it in 2 days…
I’m waiting for a friend who has Netflix to come over so we can watch it
I haven’t but everyone’s talking about it
I love that show
I’ve heard everyone saying they love this show
I plan on starting it soon
It’s an AWESOME show!!

There’s lots in my grade that are

What is it that is receiving such newfound praise from so many? A new Netflix original TV Show rated TV-MA. And why would I be writing a post about it on a youth and family ministry blog? Well, because those responses above are from middle and high school students active at our church!

And what is this show and what is it about?

The show is 13 Reasons Why. It is an American show based off the 2007 young adult book of the same title by Jay Asher and was released on March 31, 2017 on Netflix.  The first season is 13 episodes with each episode narrated by a student who kills herself and focuses on failures with select individuals within the school she attended that led to her suicide.

These episodes deal with very mature themes; including suicide, depression, underage drinking, cutting, rape, premarital sex, drug use, guns and weapons, broken families, child abuse, homosexuality, revenge porn, and bullying. (And I may be missing some) The language is GRAPHIC and doesn’t shy away from curse words, the F-word is used a lot. There is nudity – however, no frontal nudity. There are scenes depicting sexual assaults, and ultimately in the final episode showing the graphic scene of the main character committing suicide.

This was a hard show to watch, it was intense, but each hour-long episode seemed to fly by. It may have exaggerated high school life a bit, but for the most part it seems to be accurate, real, and speaking to teens.

I would never tell your youth to watch this show. I did reach out to find out if they already were watching it. But I think that as adults and leaders, especially in Chippewa Falls, even with the preface above, it is important for you to sit through. We all know that suicide is prevalent here in Chippewa and that our young people have lived through years of suicides. I know that in the 10 months I have been here, we have a culture of talking about suicide and not shaming people for getting help; we talk about it and we have resources for getting people help. But this is our reality that we live in, and our young people are watching this.

So now what?

On this Holy Saturday, the in-between time of Good Friday (death) and Easter Sunday (resurrection), remember that each of us is claimed by God and called beloved. So with the help of another youth worker friend, we came up with our own 13 Reasons Why… why each of us is a beloved, child of God!

So here they are – a list to help remind you:

13 reasons why response

Please believe that this is not me trying to tell you how to parent your child(ren), I offer these suggestions in an attempt to partner with you on this journey. I am also sending this out now, because here in Chippewa Falls, we are in the midst of a 3 1/2 day weekend and about to celebrate the resurrected Christ. As we enter into this season of hope and life, perhaps we can remind ourselves and our families that we, and the people in our lives, may not always feel that way in the midst of the day to day; but Jesus matters in our lives as much now as he did in the lives of the disciples almost 2000 years ago.

  1. If your student isn’t watching it, start a conversation with them about the show from what you know.  If they want to watch it, I would suggest watching it with them.  It is better for them to watch it with you, and have someone to process with instead of sneaking to watch it.  The issues, in my opinion, are too heavy for our students to be dealing with alone.  If they are watching it without you, they are processing those issues in the dark.
  1. If your student isn’t watching it, and has no intention to watch it, I think it would be helpful for you as parents to see it.  You will not only gain perspective on your student’s life at school (and with peers), but also gain perspective on the issues that come with everyone having an iPhone in their pocket (something we didn’t deal with).
  1. If your student is watching it (and you can confirm this by going to your “Account Settings” on Netflix, then to “Viewing Activity”), then I truly believe you should start also.  It will be offensive and difficult to watch, but your student needs to have someone to talk with about this show.  This can also be a great opportunity for you to engage your student on topics that may not normally come up.  Your student may also envy this chance to catch you up with what they’re dealing with day to day.

Through my experience (though somewhat limited) in working with students struggling with either depression or suicide, we need to be on the look out for subtle signs that a student is asking for help.  From my experience, it is difficult for students to outright ask for help.  They may struggle with saying, in person, “I’m thinking about hurting myself”.  We have done a good job of not shaming youth, but it can still be difficult.

I don’t have this figured out by any means, but I would suggest offering your student an easier way to tell you they need help.  Almost every student is more comfortable texting, so I say start there.  I would tell them “if you are ever in a place you’re thinking of hurting yourself and need help, just text me something like, ‘Mom/Dad help'”.  If that’s even too upfront for them, you could have them just text you “X”, something that would never come up normally but you both know the meaning. This link brings you to a blog about helping your students get out of tough situations with their friends, but could be adapted for this purpose as well. http://theparentcue.org/an-escape-plan-for-teens/

I would also suggest having a place where resources are posted at home. Over the next week or two, I will be curating some resources for web and phone for local organizations that specialize with the major issues brought up through this show. If you need help finding more, we at Our Saviour’s would love to help you and there are counselors at school that can help.

Again, I’m just trying to offer my perspective on this popular show. If you want to have a conversation with me about this or why I’m recommending it to you with the conditions listed above, I welcome your calls/texts/emails. I’m also in the office from 12pm-4pm Monday-Thursday and available to meet with you on appointment outside of that time.

Peace, Blessings, & Happy Easter!



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