The show brought me back to a teenager’s world and way of thinking. We need to remember that teenagers and adults are different. The frontal lobe doesn’t fully develop until twenty years of age, and we as adults have to keep this in mind when faced with teenage issues. We may disregard an Instagram post as silly, when for our child it could be the end of their world, of their reputation. We need to learn to listen to them, and by that I don’t mean waiting for our turn to speak and lecturing them about how silly their concerns are. I mean walking in their world, in their shoes, with an open mind, without judgement, but with guidance. It’s real acrobatics and we have to practice it a lot before we can become comfortable with it. But the lines of communication need to remain open.
My daughter and I talked a lot about the characters, what they were going through, their parents, etc… We talked about them not as fictional characters, but as real people who are living through their individual and collective dramas. Because let’s face it, even though it is fiction, everything depicted in the show happens in real life: your image being ruined on social media by a picture taken out of context, being bullied, a desperate need to belong to a group, fear of rejection (for both boys and girls), rape, sexual assault, the inability to express complicated mental and emotional states which lead to feelings of isolation, fear of being judged, the models our society dictates on how we should look/feel/be/perform, etc…
I watched a few episodes with my daughter, stopping at various points and discussing the issues as they were arising. There are a few more topics the show covered that we have not talked about yet: the need for boys to be educated as to what true consent is (does the absence of a no automatically mean it’s yes?), how everything we do affects others, recognising a predator for what he/she really is, how girls really need to know how to say no and leave as soon as a situation becomes uncomfortable and dangerous, how careful we need to be with social media, the outmost importance of seeking help, recognising the signs of depression, the impact our behaviour has on others… and I’m forgetting some. For me as a parent it was a reminder that we need to remain very, very present, all of our senses switched on at all times. I am a little angry with myself that I needed the school to bring my attention to the show when I should have jumped on the opportunity as soon as my daughter mentioned it.
On the last episode, I was shattered. I turned to my daughter and told her, “now you understand my concerns as a parent; every single issue of this show is something that I think about a lot”.
I think she understood. At least for now. As for me, I need to keep practicing my listening/guiding acrobatics.