Monday, May 1, 2017

The Buddy Bench That Your Teen Needs

She wakes up unprepared for another day at school. She wishes that she were still in elementary school. Those times were easier. School was easier. People were easier.

She remembers how much the teacher used to stress acceptance and tolerance. How they had come up with rules of respect together and how each kid had taken a red washable marker and penned their name at the bottom of that document like a declaration of togetherness.  Unfortunately that connection is not forever and the ink eventually runs.

She misses how at elementary school if you were lonely, all you had to do was sit on the buddy bench and someone would come over and ask you to play. Not familiar with a buddy bench? It's essentially a designated bench on a playground where kids can sit if they are feeling lonely and want to play with someone. It is then up to their classmates to come over and invite someone on the bench to play.

They would ask you to play because of this declaration of decision; that sitting on this red metal bench was a sign that you needed something that could only be quenched by interaction from another human being. Sitting on the bench made others pause and notice you. It made people realize that sometimes people need help but they are too embarrassed or afraid to ask for it.   

This girl wasn't looking forward to school because the buddy bench was long gone. It was almost time for school and now she stands before her closet with endless possibilities but nothing to wear. Every decision seems like a monumental one. How was she going to continue to make these choices?

She wishes she could talk to someone about her feelings but she just keeps pushing it down. That's much easier than starting a conversation. She sighs. The buddy bench was an amazing part of the past.

With advanced age came more judgement and more pressure. Gone were the days as a teen where your outfit didn't matter. Gone were the days when all that mattered was who you were as an individual and that simple act of sitting down invited someone to find out who that was.

Sitting down and just talking about how your teen is feeling can be a monumental task in itself. Will they trust me enough to confide in me? Do they know I'm always here to listen? How do I even get them to talk to me?

The answer is always about effective communication.  Both parents and teens feel a disconnect because there is a perceived lack of common ground. Teens now think the same things we thought when we were their age which is namely "My parents just don't understand me."

In a study done by Netflix, parents revealed that 70% wish they had more to talk about with their teen. Common ground can be achieved easily by setting aside time to watch shows that deal with issues that teens face today. Your couch in essence, becomes your buddy bench.

Think your teen won't be open to watching the same show with you?  Seventy-four percent of teens are interested in talking with their parents about the shows they watch. With shows like 13 Reasons Why and Lost and Found, the shows bring up issues that teens face everyday including bullying, peer pressure, and body issues.

Don't know how to broach a difficult subject? Watch a show together and talk about what happened to the characters. Then ask them honestly "Have you ever experienced this? Tell me about it." What you will find is common ground through discussions about issues that they face. Maybe they aren't being bullied themselves but they have a friend who is and they don't know what to do about it. They didn't bring it up because they weren't sure how you would react.

Many teens will not tell you, but they need someone to talk to who can lend an ear and give them some advice. We remember what it was like as a teen; we thought we were alone and that we had to figure things out on our own.

As parents, it is our duty to make sure they understand that we want to know even if it is embarrassing. In fact, eighty-three percent of parents have watched a show that their teens have watched so that they can feel closer to them.  With issues that loom over teens like sex, anxiety, depression, and stress, making your couch the buddy bench can connect you with your teen. You can use Netflix to be the thing that brings you closer together initially. Keeping that connection going will be up to you.

Below are some shows that my family and I enjoy watching together and have opened up conversations about topics that have come up about middle and high school.

13 Reasons Why - After a teenager's perplexing suicide a classmate receives a series of tapes that unravel the mystery of her tragic choice.

Once I Was a Beehive - When her mother remarries one year after her father's death and sends her to Bible camp, a teenage meets others who can relate to her pain.

Pretty Little Liars - Rudderless without their missing leader, four formerly tight high school friends band together when a blackmailer threatens to expose all of their secrets.

Lost and Found Music Studios - Follows the lives of a group of musicians who are members of an after-school music program where they explore and discover their musical identities.

Little Boxes - After moving from NYC to a small town in Washington state, a biracial couple and their preteen son struggle to adjust to suburbia.

Disclaimer : This post was brought to you by Netflix and my relationship with them as a #StreamTeam influencer. All opinions expressed are my own. 


  1. Great post Chris. I dont have kids of my own, but i do remember what it was like being an understood teenager and can only image that with the new technologies available that bullies and peer pressure are harder to avoid than ever. Hopefully good shows showing all types of people will help bring us all together in understanding and common respect of individuality.

  2. Thought provoking post Chris.
    The video you shared grabbed my attention.