The reason NBC’s family drama “This Is Us” makes viewers cry so much is because the characters’ individual struggles, their unique family dynamics, touch upon relatable, universal truths. Watching the show can become a form of personal therapy.
It helps that no one on the show is perfect. Even the most likable characters are flawed in a very human way. The way they interact with one another reveals valuable insights for those of us raising our own families.
Here are the 12 best parenting lessons from “This Is Us.”
By Aisha Sultan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
1. It’s OK to let your child see your mistakes and vulnerabilities.
It’s a powerful moment when Kevin sees his father, Jack, on his knees saying the Serenity prayer. He know is father is an alcoholic and struggling to stay sober. Jack told his kids about his drinking problem and that he is seeking help for it. But seeing his strong father in that moment of vulnerability allows Kevin to empathize with him in a different way.
2. All families go through some major trauma and dysfunction.
Rebecca and Jack have an enviable marriage. Their love for one another and their devotion to their children is evident in every scene. But the ferocity of their love doesn’t insulate them from crises that threaten those very bonds. It helps them weather those moments over time, but it’s a good reminder that even the families that seem the most perfect struggle greatly at times.
3. The best parenting intentions can backfire.
Rebecca keeps their adopted son, Randall, away from his birth father to protect him but also to protect herself. Her misguided decision leads to a lifetime of her son searching and wondering about his birth parents. The life-changing decision blows up their relationship decades later.
4. Forgiveness is everything.
Parents forgive their children on a daily basis, especially during their teenage years. And we hope they will extend the same forgiveness toward us when they are older and see our shortcomings as adults. Randall eventually forgives his mom. Kevin forgives himself. It’s the only way families and love survive.
5. You can’t ignore childhood trauma and hope it goes away.
Jack’s death affects each of their children differently as they grow up. Kate struggles even more with her weight and self esteem. Kevin eventually becomes and addict. Randall has two major nervous breakdowns. None of them can heal and move forward until they confront and deal with their feelings of their father’s traumatic death.
6. Even great parents have teens who act like jerks at times.
Kevin’s horrible behavior at dinner with a football coach wanting to recruit him is so great because he acts like such a brat and embarrasses his parents. It’s reassuring to see that even wonderful parents trying their best to raise kind, thoughtful kids go through periods when their kids act like total jerks.
7. Traditions are so important, but not in the way we might think.
It’s not always the big celebrations and traditions we plan and put so much effort into that stay with children as adults. Jack started Pilgrim Rick at Thanksgiving as a way to make lemonade out of lemons. It was this tradition, however, that became so meaningful to them as they grew up and Randall kept going as an adult. He shared a special moment with Kate at her birthday party to cheer her up, which was another small moment that leaves a big impression.
8. Every parent feels invisible sometimes.
Rebecca, who gives up her career and dreams, to raise triplets is a devoted and loving mother. And she seems to thrive in her role as a stay-at-home mom. But even Rebecca has to confront when she lost in process. It’s okay to admit that the sacrifices we make as parents, even the ones we are happy to make, can leave us feeling invisible and resentful at times.
9. Healing is possible. Change is possible.
Even though it’s scary and difficult, Kate decides as an adult she is going to work on losing weight. She decides to pursue a lifelong dream later in life. She finally finds true love, even though it is rocked with loss. Through the characters struggles, they show that even the most difficult changes are possible.
10. Sleep deprivation makes everyone crazy.
All new parents struggle. Sleep deprivation is legit torture. And while those days and nights seem endless when they are small, one day you look back and marvel at how quickly that time passed.
11. Don’t forget about your spouse.
Rebecca freaks out when she realizes that she nearly forgot Jack’s birthday, but with three newborns to take care of, who could blame her? Still, she makes an effort, and sometimes the smallest gesture of kindness is enough.
12. Siblings eventually show up.
Even the ones we didn’t feel as close to growing up or the ones we wish understood us better can show up in unexpected ways. Take heart from Kevin and Randall, parents. Those siblings who fight constantly still have a chance to be there for one another as adults.
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