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  • Danielle Matthew

Dear Evan Hansen: What it’s about and why parents and teens should watch it together

Dear Evan Hansen is a riveting stage musical, based on the book by Steven Levenson. The musical covers common issues faced by today’s teenagers: social anxiety, depression, suicide, disconnection from social media, deception and trying to “fit in.”

It tells the story of Evan Hansen, a 17-year old high school senior who has severe social anxiety and finds it very difficult to connect with other people and make friends. Recommended by his therapist, he writes letters to himself to outline the “good” of each day. He accidentally leaves one of his letters in the school’s printer. Later that day, it was found by another boy, named Connor, who was struggling with his own mental health issues.

After discovering the letter, Connor refuses to give it back to Evan. Three days later, he then mysteriously kills himself. Connor’s parents find the letter and confront Evan. Evan doesn’t know how to respond, so he fabricates a story about a friendship with Connor that didn’t really exist. The story unfolds as Evan begins to have a relationship with Connor’s family, and as an attempt to keep Connor’s memory alive at school, delivers an inspiring speech that goes viral on social media, which leads to more problems.

While Connor and Evan were never true friends, they both struggled to connect with peers who were their age. Both boys also shared a certain degree of disconnection with their parents. Their moms wanted to help but didn’t know how. To a certain extent, the social awkwardness and parental/child disconnection shown in Dear Evan Hansen are common issues that many teens and their families face.

Why is this musical important to be seen by teenagers and their parents?

Dear Evan Hansen is a good musical/play for parents and their teenagers to watch together. It seems that this may be a play that could bring up important discussions about issues affecting our children in today’s digital era. It provides an opportunity for parents to ask their teens important questions about their self-image and perceptions with social media. The musical can lead to a dialogue that some parents may not have had yet with their children.

The musical did a good job at demonstrating how teenagers can mask their emotions and create a false persona to hide their true selves and feelings due to fear of being rejected by others. It provided a realistic example of the desperation that many teens feel to connect with each other.

Dear Evan Hansen also shows how people can get lost along the way in whatever journey they face, and that the support and encouragement of peers and family can be very important – especially during adolescence and teen years.

Dear Evan Hansen is well delivered. It provides a realistic look at the issues and feelings that many children/teens experience today. If the musical comes to your area, it is worth getting tickets for parents and their teens to see.

Danielle Matthew is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who helps adolescents, adults, couples and families who are in pain due to issues such as anxiety, severe stress, low self-esteem, or depression. With over 20 years of experience, Danielle authored Amazon Parenting Best-Seller, The Empowered Child: How to Help Your Child Cope, Communicate, and Conquer Bullying, has a private therapy practice adolescents, adults and families, and is the Director of The Empowerment Space Bullying Therapy Program in Los Angeles. Featured in Huffington Post and, Danielle has appeared on Fox, ABC and CBS Morning Shows and Mom Talk Radio, and is the expert contributor to Washington Post’s article: “Kids love to ‘roast’ each other. But when does good-natured teasing become bullying?”

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