Co-Authored By: Danielle Ledesma, MA

Raising adolescents has always had its challenges. In the 21st century, parents can find themselves in a perpetual state of fear and confusion about how to best parent their teen. Parents may lack comfort in knowing when to intervene with their child and how best to step in. There can lie anxiety around evoking negative responses from one’s child when demonstrating feelings of concern or through increased involvement. These feelings held by parents, as they support their teens on their path of self-discovery and transition to young adulthood, are rooted in reality. As adolescents are developing their identities and have a desire for greater independence, they equally continue to desire an ability to lean upon the support of their parents. Euphoria, one of HBO’s hit summer series, had a profound effect on its viewers exploring the nature of concerns adolescents have today and their management of such stressors.

Episodes of Euphoria included topics of mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder, trans issues, body image, technology, self-esteem, and an array of pressures experienced in the lives of adolescents. Whether it’s the devastating loss of a parent, exploring and developing one’s sexual identity, surviving sexual and physical assault, feeling unworthy, or grappling with a substance use disorder and mental illness these experiences are illustrated within the protagonists and supporting characters creating a concert of rich themes that are both anxiety provoking and enticing to observe unfold. Although the episodes of Euphoria are dramatized and fictional, we understand that the narratives are less fictional for some and depict what life can be for youth.

In addition to the importance of the adolescents’ character narratives, the parents on Euphoria are portrayed as deeply complex, well-intentioned, yet unaware caregivers in the lives of the children they love. The parents are depicted as individuals who are required to navigate experiences of loss, financial difficulties, and conflicts of their own while trying to manage raising their children. Many of the adults are fearful of how their children behave, who their children may become, and possess concerns that others may cause harm to their families. As a result of their own internal and external conflicts, their ability to be supportive adults is compromised, where they fail to meet their child’s needs in a way that truly benefits the child. Rather, the parent child relationships viewed are saturated with unhealthy fluid and rigid boundaries, physical, verbal, and emotional abuse, parental misattunement and children who become parentified; possessing an independence while lacking the cognitive and emotional skills necessary to be successful. Their children are emotionally negatively affected; and thus, the relationships held with children are fraught with feelings of anger, sadness, betrayal, and longing.

If these are issues you or someone you know are experiencing, Euphoria can be a useful tool to begin to think about how to support teens in a way that feels authentic to them individually and developmentally. It is imperative that supportive adults in the lives of young people be aware of the common concerns that occupy adolescents’ daily experience. It can be beneficial to examine how adolescents are coping with their struggles alongside the areas in which they require guidance. In doing so, parents can continue to have a powerful influence within their child’s life through these progressive developmental years.