We need to talk.

No, seriously, we need to talk to our kids. We need to listen to them, really.

Shutting down conversation, eliminating topics from debate, telling our children things are banned from discussion doesn’t help anyone anywhere.

The Netflix show 13 Reasons Why has been a lightning rod for the message that words matter, education helps, and opening lines of debate makes things better.

Just watch what happens when these parents sit down with their kids, find a common denominator, share empathy, talk, and listen.

I live in Alberta. It’s a province that has a reputation for being conservative. No wonder. We have state funded religious schools and our right wing conservative parties peddle in social conservatism to placate their base.

But this isn’t about politics – well not totally anyway – this is about our kids. It’s about showing them we are open. It’s about showing them we are empathetic. It’s about showing them we care. It’s about showing them that home AND school should be a safe space for them to tackle whatever issue they find troubling them.

In Alberta, we’ve had debates for the past few years as to whether Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) are appropriate for schools. As you might guess, it is the SoCons, and religious schools that are finding trouble with school clubs that foster understanding, emotional support, and provide safe places for not only LGTBQ kids, but straight kids who find themselves on the outside.

GSAs work because they show kids they are not alone. GSAs work because they allow kids to meet like minds and talk. TALK. The kids have a place TO TALK ABOUT THEIR FEELINGS AND STRUGGLES. And it helps.

But still some fight the ability for kids to talk amongst themselves and find support. Over the past two weeks the clamp down on conversation happened again when an Edmonton Catholic school principal sent an email to parents telling them discussion of the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why would be not allowed at school.

“The discussion that is unfolding at school is troubling,” the email says. “Please let your child know that discussion of 13 Reasons Why is not permitted at school due to the disturbing subject matter.”

The Ontario Ministry of Education has issued a statement cautioning school boards not to use the series as a teaching tool.

If schools are going to try to shut this down, we need to talk to our kids.  We need to gear up, find a quiet time to get real and listen to our kids.

It’s not a comfortable show to watch. The themes might trigger some people, but if they are in a safe place, if they have support, if they have people to talk to about what they’re feeling, if the show fosters empathy and understanding, is that not better than suffering in silence?

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth ages 15 to 19, just behind accidents. According to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), 17.7% of high school students said they considered suicide in the previous year, 14.6% made a plan, and 8.6% tried to kill themselves. That’s an average of 6 kids in every high school classroom who have thought about it and 2 or 3 who have actually tried it.

A major campaign over the past few years has tried to encourage people to talk about their feelings. Let’s Talk Day has been a huge spotlight on the need to support those with mental illness, depression, or feelings of sadness.

Kids Help Phone

The Kids Help Phone has existed for decades as a safe place for kids to phone a peer and get something off their chest and find support.

We need to talk to our kids.

We need to listen to our kids.

More conversation is more better and more people need to understand this.

Talk to someone and tell them.

Thanks Netflix for producing this show and encouraging people to talk about what is bothering them.

This post is sponsored by Netflix

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