The Neutral Zone

The Neutral Zone: Talking with Young People


Caitlin on Nov. 3, 2023

Parenting young people can be a challenge. Wading our way through the “fines”, closed doors and high emotions seems to be a never-ending roller-coaster. It’s even more daunting not understanding the different challenges this generation face today.

So how do we connect? How, where, and when can we have those much-needed conversations around what’s going on for them? It seems like an impossible task even before we’re served an ‘eyeroll’.

Find a neutral zone. Make the conversation easy.

That could be as simple as while you’re driving or doing a chore together - such as hanging out the washing, or, our personal favourite, while watching TV. Pick a movie or series to watch together that might tackle some of the issues you are worried about. It’s an easy way to broach those tricky topics without seeming like you’re trapping them in an awkward parental lesson.

Issues such as mental health, the online world, and healthy relationships, are nearly universal for young people. In the 2023 State of the Generation Report, Youthline NZ found that these challenges are what young people have said they are most worried about today, which is why these conversations are so necessary.

Here's a suggestion

Depending on age and stage, and what both you and your rangatahi are into, here is an example of a show you could start with.

Welcome to Wrexham (13: Offensive language) – Disney+

Welcome to Wrexham is about two famous American actors (Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds) who unexpectedly buy the 3rd oldest football club in the world and attempt to get them promoted through the divisions. While it does show a ball or two getting kicked around it also emphasises the humble reality of living in Wrexham, what a football club means to their supporters and appropriately brings in the two actors’ flair for comedy. One minute you feel close to tears and next you’re in stitches.

Welcome to Wrexham highlights the challenges of athletes, coaches, staff, supporters, and the wider community. The series covers mental health, violence, injuries, and the history of Wrexham. In the first season a player and his partner open up about the heartbreaking loss of their baby. In the second season a player from the Wrexham A.F.C Women’s team speaks about their dad taking his own life due to mental health struggles. A recent episode breaks down what the ‘quiet zone’ is, shows a player talking about his son’s autism, and introduces a superfan with a similar diagnosis.

It's not every day that you find a series with such relatable characters, and while there’s a fair amount of offensive language we know from our conversations with young people that they’ve heard it all! Welcome to Wrexham is something that would get the conversation flowing and would provide opportunities to talk about some of those more challenging topics. Our guide to talking with young people about what they’re watching might help.

Hot tip

If you are worried about your child and feel like they don’t share your enthusiasm for the series (or for football!), make sure to cover where they can get help. Get them to put helplines into their phone. Use the tried-and-true excuse of ‘to share with their friends if they need’. The 2023 State of the Generation Report also said that young people do want support, whether that is from you, their GP, school counsellor or from places like Youthline. Actively encouraging them to reach out if they need is an amazing achievement even if you’re struggling to find that neutral zone.


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