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Dear Evan Hansen. 13 Reasons Why. Both of these shows have captured the attention and imagination of those of us who work with and treasure teens. Both of them look at the aftermath of adolescent suicide. Both are compelling, artistic and give us insight into the sometimes creepy and scary worlds of teenagers. And both have caused alarm for parents, school personnel and teen professionals.
Troubled teens are not a new topic for the teen imagination. Think of Carrie, The Breakfast Club, Thirteen, Girl Interrupted. Books include Go Ask Alice and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. We’re seeing these topics accessible to adolescents without any adult intervention or monitoring. How many parents knew about 13 Reasons Why before their child watched it? How many have found ways to start a real conversation about it? How many still don’t know about it?
We don’t really know what kids are thinking about these graphic depictions of high school, with rape, sexual abuse, suicide, bullying betrayal and totally incompetent adults. We’re left to wonder, “What do teens take away from this messaging?”
In response to the critical issues addressed in 13 Reasons Why, the URJ offered a series of webinars, discussions, and resources for congregational leaders and parents to address the show with teens. Find the recordings and resources in The Tent and read more about advice for parents at ReformJudaism.org.