Dear Family Coach: My 14-year-old daughter wants to watch this new series on Netflix called "13 Reasons Why." I've heard the show depicts a lot of difficult themes like suicide and drugs. I don't want her to see it. But all of her friends are watching it, and I'm getting a lot of pressure. Is it OK to insist she stay away from the show? — Holding Ground
Dear Holding Ground: I've got bad news for you. She has probably watched it already. If she hasn't, she certainly will, with or without your consent. Unfortunately, it is literally impossible to shield your daughter at that age. Even if you don't buy her a smartphone or give her access to Netflix, you can't control what choices other parents make for their kids. Just one child on the bus needs to have access for your daughter to be happily watching without you. Strictly forbidding her to watch just won't work.
The best plan now is to use this show as an opportunity to talk about those sensitive themes. I'd recommend you binge-watch the show as soon as you can. Then ask your daughter whether she has seen it. To encourage her to tell the truth, make it clear that you will not be angry with her if she has. If she admits to watching it, talk to her about her thoughts and yours. Since there are likely many conversations to have regarding the material, try not to touch on everything in that first talk. Instead, use the show as an opening to continue a dialogue with her on all that she will learn in the next few years.
If she hasn't watched the show, give her permission to watch. Let her watch with you, or if she prefers, let her watch on her own. As she progresses, discuss the plot and themes as you see fit. Remember: This is a conversation, not a lecture. You may also research some resources to give her about suicide and depression.
Dear Family Coach: My son is 10 and already has a mustache and public hair. I am freaking out about this because I thought I had another few years; I'm a single mom; and his father isn't around. How should I approach this? — Unprepared for Puberty
Dear Unprepared: You better get prepared quickly. Puberty waits for no one, not even single moms.
Your baby boy is changing and growing up. He needs someone to recognize that. He may want to still be your little guy at times. Other times, he may like to be addressed in a more grown-up manner. This in-between stage is tricky. So take your lead from him.
Don't assume your son needs his father to discuss puberty. Many boys actually have an easier time talking to their mother. Take an unabashed approach. Don't squirm or beat around the bush. If he sees you are uncomfortable, you will get nowhere. Relax, and leave no topic off the table.
It is possible that your son will not allow you to give the birds and the bees chat. In that case, find an uncle, neighbor or friend that would be comfortable filling this role. You might also check with his school to learn more about the curriculum. Lastly, get a good book for you and your son to peruse whenever necessary.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.