Q: I'm the father of a slightly "boy crazy" 14-year-old daughter. I'm really dreading the whole dating thing as she gets a little older. What can I do to prepare both of us?
Jim: Most fathers with daughters go through the same struggle watching their little girls grow up. I'd suggest you teach your daughter the proper role of dating by taking her out yourself, frequently.
Going on a "date" with Dad has many benefits for a daughter, regardless of her age. For example, as girls develop their identity, they measure themselves against the impossible standard of beauty portrayed by Hollywood. This is where fathers become very important. By spending time with your daughter, you can have a positive influence on her perception of herself.
Also, taking your daughter out on a "date" allows you to model how a man should treat her. By making one-on-one time a priority, you're showing your daughter she is valuable. And your acceptance for who she is will build her self-esteem. You can also help her develop a sense of individuality by listening to her and respecting the opinions she shares. Most importantly, spending time with your daughter regularly keeps her heart open to you.
So get out your calendar and schedule a "date" with your daughter. Let her suggest some activities she would like to do. It doesn't have to take all day, but make sure the time is special by limiting interruptions. The best way to ensure success in your daughter's future dating experiences is to make sure it starts with Dad.
Q: My teenage kids and their friends have all been talking about a TV series called "13 Reasons Why." I've heard some parents say that it's dangerous. What can you tell me about it?
Bob Waliszewski, Director, Plugged In: Netflix's "13 Reasons Why" became a bona-fide cultural phenomenon back in the spring when the streaming service released all 13 episodes simultaneously. While Netflix doesn't give out ratings, a whopping 11 million-plus tweets were fired off about the show in its first three weeks!
To many adolescents, "13 Reasons" can feel both real and relevant -- a window into the stress and strife of high/middle school. But many mental health professionals are especially concerned that the show's graphic depictions of sexual assault, self-harm and suicide may do more harm than good. They have reason to be concerned. To date, multiple people have committed suicide after reportedly being influenced by the show, and sadly, more are likely to follow suit. For instance, two California teens killed themselves just weeks after the episodes were released, and their grieving families blame "13 Reasons" for their deaths. A 23-year-old Peruvian man not only committed suicide but also made audio recordings for the people he believed were to blame (similar to the plot in "13 Reasons").
Even if the show were a cautionary tale about suicide (which I do NOT believe), parents would have more than 13 reasons to steer clear. The show includes two graphic rape scenes, glamorized teen drug and alcohol usage, and language so harsh that it makes many R-rated films look Disney-esque in comparison.
If your teens are talking about the show because it's currently all the rage, I get that. But that doesn't make it wholesome or worthwhile. In fact, because of the way the show glamorizes problematic behaviors, I think it's just begging for further copycatting.
Still, the subjects that this show raises are worth talking about. We have resources at Focus to help you discuss its major themes (suicide, bullying, self-injury, rape and sexting), as well as a review of the show; see www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/teens/13-reasons-why-not.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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