Tonight, as I sat at my desk thinking about all the things I should be doing, I couldn't help but keep thinking about a post I seen on Facebook. It was the image you see to the left - a Netflix Original based off of a book. I've never read the book, but I found the title to be intriguing and decided to watch it. It wasn't until I pressed play and got about 3 minutes into the show that I realized something: This could be a tool for parents everywhere. Why wasn't this available sooner?
After finishing the episodes - all of them - I found myself fighting my brain to piece all of the issues together and how to blog about it. Partly because it was such an informative and empowering show, and partly because it hit home in a way that I can't express right now.
Due to my own course work in college, I had almost forgotten about the things I wanted to write about, when I came across another post today that got me thinking. The comment was something like: "... romanticized suicide and should be removed from streaming immediately!".
I sat there with my jaw on the floor. Was this person serious? How was it romanticized? You'd have to live in a bubble to think that. Then I thought, OK, let me see if I can "make it seem" like they were indeed glorifying suicide. I could not. I analyzed it from top to bottom, front to back, and all points in between. What I did see being "promoted" was: drinking, bullying, dishonesty, revenge, anger, oppression, embarrassment, selfishness, and pure hatred. Suicide was merely an effect of those things.
So, in attempt to provide a less narrow-minded point of view, I started making a list of reasons why parents SHOULD watch the show. Not because I like to cause a stink, but because it hit home in a way I hope none of you ever experience.
Here they are!
School isn’t like it used to be – not just public school vs. homeschool, but school realms vs. individual needs. Some teens are ok with being lied to, or being mistreated. At least they will make it "seem" like they are. In truth, they are just as hurt as you and I would be if someone lied to us or mistreated us. The difference is, you and I are adults and we can approach resolutions in a different way. Teens are awkward, unaware, and often times they fly by the seat of their pants. Especially in today's world where everything is as fast as can be and rumors spread like wildfire. Accept that things are not like they used to be. At least when reactions of teens are involved.
#12. Times are Staying the Same
Even before the days of Leave it to Beaver, there have been issues of bullying. Whether it’s school yard fights from the 50s, or graphic and damaging text/images online, bullying continues to be an issue, and one that has grown into its own culture. From movies and television shows, to music and online groups, bullies seem to have made room for themselves in the world today.
#11. Teens are still Teens
In every sense of the word, teens are still the same, confused, clumsy, awkward, and even unattached teens that every generation before them has gone through. These phases of: "I am who I am", "I can do what I want", "I don’t know what to do", "I’ll just do nothing" mindsets are part of that uncertain time in their lives when they are trying to find out who they are, wanting to blend in and stand out, all at the same time.
#10. Teens Perceive Each Interaction in a Different Way
Even if their very best friend is doing something, they may not want to. It isn’t until they themselves feel like “What will they think if I don’t?” So, they don’t want to do something – drinking for example – but because they are concerned with fitting in, they do it anyway. Then, another teen is faced with the same decision, and doesn't think twice about it because they have accepted the fact that they are going to make bad decisions, so be concerned with it anyway. Encouraging your children to NOT worry about what others think is a great concept. Implementing it is a different story. As parents, it is up to us to set the example and to provide that strong validation at home.
#9. Teachers can’t do everything!
In a manner of speaking, teachers are in a hostage situation. Their accreditation is on the line for teaching, their level of discipline within the classroom constantly criticized, and on most days, they want to educate children in academia. However, they are left with the daunting task of teaching: character, morals, ethics, responsibility, and a number of other character traits that should, in fact, be taught at home. However, they are not. And that is on the parent.
#8. Teaching Teachers to be Aware – And Students to Hold Them Accountable.
Many parents of bullied children feel as though the teachers are not doing enough to protect their children. In fact, according to www.dosomething.org, over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year. Those are the ones that are reported. The truth is, bullying is most likely another under-reported crime that occurs in the US. Students need to be taught to document events that occur on campus, at the bus stop, on the bus, and on school grounds, anything that is considered bullying. This allows the school to be held accountable with their zero-tolerance policy. This form of accountability will hopefully encourage children to speak up when something is going on but more so, to hold the teachers accountable for failing to get involved in the prevention and redirection process.
#7. Sex Is Still Very Much A Part of Teen Life
Just because your child says they are not active does not mean they are pure. We all like to think our children would never lie to us. But that in itself is the farthest ideology known to parenthood. Our little angels can pull the wool over our eyes and have us believing they are telling the truth, when really it is the farthest from it. Teaching your child that they can come to you is a vital part of parenthood. Being able to listen in a nonjudgmental way is even more important – and probably one of the hardest things a parent could face.
#6. Kids. Are. Mean.
Yes. They are. Yours. Mine. Kids are mean. They do not have the communication skills to sit down and talk like adults to work through something because, guess what? They are not adults. Their way of communicating is some of the most harsh, brutal words they know. And its not that they are intentionally being mean, but more so, they are just trying to tell the other person how they feel, what they are experiencing and how hurt or angry they are. And sometimes, they are hurt and their anger and resentment is a form of asking for help, but not knowing how.
#5. Stress at Home Will Follow Them More Than You Know
They wake up each morning hearing their parents arguing over bills, car payments, lost income, cheating spouses, or other things that grown-ups argue about. This sticks with them throughout their day. This hidden worry of “is everything going to be OK?” “Are they splitting up?” Or for those single parents raising kids, perhaps the argument was with them: “Why did you skip school?” “How can we afford senior pictures?” “Why can’t I have a car?” These things are real and they are important to them. One of the reasons why our children are so agitated is because the world is forcing them to grow up at a rate triple their predecessors two decades ago.
#4. Coping skills are not just for adults
As teens, they are faced with many choices in their young life. From passing grades to finding summer jobs. From being accepted by their peers to winning over their teachers. It makes sense for them to feel stressed. That stress is compounded when they are not accepted, make failing grades, and feel as though their teacher doesn’t like them. Simply put, teens today are lacking in this area and I see it every time I see a teen rolling their eyes because they can’t get what they want, or when they argue with their parents. I see it when I hear the door slam and the radio gets turned up to deafening levels. I see it when a parent cries.
#3. Rape is Never OK
In today’s society, sex is pushed to the limit and placed right in the line of sight of ourselves and our children. Our culture has often placed rape in the “taboo topic” box or brushed it under the rug. Schools have implemented dress codes to help “alleviate” the sexual context inside the school. However, removing the skimpy clothing does not decrease the desires teens often experience. By saying to a young girl: You cannot wear that because it’s too short, you are not only saying that she cannot wear clothing that expresses herself, but that her feelings are not as important as the guys who would drooling over her. If a girl is sent home to change because she was showing too much skin, not only do have you made this aware to her, but to everyone she sees and has been seen by that day. And whether she is wearing a spaghetti strap top and shorts, or jeans and a t-shirt, the guys are still going to be looking at her. You’ve done nothing to curb their desires. You’ve only embarrassed a girl. The fact is, boys seem to not be held accountable. No means no!
#2. Trust Your Instincts
If your child is showing behaviors they’ve never shown before, let that be a flag for you. If they are: quieter than usual, struggle with making friends, seem distant during family get-together's, seems to have a feeling of sadness or hopelessness, are irritable, angry or hostile, cries frequently or becomes tearful, seems withdrawn from friends, has lost interest in activities, has lowered school performance, and shows a change in their eating and sleeping habits, let that be your wake-up call. Talk to your child. Spend time with them. Encourage them to talk. If they won’t talk to you, find someone they will talk to. Most importantly, love them and let them know that whatever they are experiencing or going through is never a reason to take their own life.
#1. You have not failed as a parent.
Sometimes, we are so busy with life. Whether it’s work, college, or other busy reasons, we simply miss the signs. Sometimes, the experiences they have when they are very young stick with them long after you’ve forgotten. Sometimes, even when you’ve done everything you can to remove any doubt of love for them, it simply is not enough. Removing them from the situation after the damage has already occurred and going on about your life as though they have fully recovered is: Just. Not. Enough. Sometimes, when a child is bullied at a young age, they become damaged. That damage is not something that can be tossed away as soon as you begin homeschooling. It is now a part of them. An integral part of helping mold them into the adult they will one day become. And sometimes, it comes flooding back when their life seems to be going too fast. Sometimes, it is just too much.
I'll have another post, entitled "Our Story" coming out in a little bit, but I want you to understand:
A.) There is nothing scarier than dealing with a person who is suicidal, except that person being your child
B.) You cannot make decisions for them – they must do it on their own
C.) You can be supportive of them, or not – either way, they will still make their own choices
D.) Educating yourself through various forms of media regarding suicide is vital to understanding just how dark of a place a person must be in to think that having no life at all would be a reprieve
Yes, the show has some scenes that are hard to watch. Visioning your child in those scenes are gut-wrenching. But to be really honest with you, I'd rather watch the show and take away knowledge that I can apply in rearing my children, than to sit back and buck the show because, once again, that taboo topic remains taboo.
Until next time,