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How TV Drama This is Us Explores the Complexity of Parenting

TV shows and movies can provide more than entertainment, or a temporary escape from the reality of our lives. Through watching character’s stories unfold on screen, we can gain unique insight and perspective into what we may be experiencing. In the TV drama This is Us, we are reminded of the many joys and many struggles of being human, as we follow the Pearson family through several generations. In this article, we will take a look at the various challenges that are depicted in the show, specifically in the realm of parenting.

For more articles and information about parenting, visit BetterHelp.

Parenting Challenges Explored in This is Us:


  • Coping with grief and loss. A central focus of the show is the death of beloved father Jack, and how his wife Rebecca and children Kate, Kevin and Randall cope with this devastating loss. Rebecca must let go of her hopes and dreams for her family and their future, and grapple with raising her children on her own. This is Us teaches us that we may never completely move on from grief as much as learn to live with it.


  • Raising a child of a different race. As a black baby adopted into a white family, Randall spent many years feeling as though he was an outsider. Though his parents Rebecca and Jack do the best they can to care for and support all three of their children, Randall is deeply affected by his family’s lack of acknowledgement around racial differences. It is not until he is an adult that he is able to start opening up conversations with his family about how he felt growing up as black in a white family, and the hurt and anger he felt about not having these critical discussions earlier in life.


  • Caring for a child with a disability. Kate and Toby’s son Jack is born with a condition called retinopathy of prematurity which will leave him mostly blind throughout his life. Toby shares with Kate that Jack’s disability ‘makes him sad’ as he considers the challenges that Jack will inevitably encounter. While this reality is difficult to come to terms with, Kate’s experience fuels a newfound passion for teaching music to blind children. Despite the ups and downs that are ahead, flashforwards reveal that adult Jack has become a happy and successful musician.


  • Navigating co-parenting as a family structure. The show also depicts the realities and awkwardness at times of co-parenting. Kevin has to learn to shift his expectations when it comes to what a family looks like. As he is no longer with the mother of his twins, he has to learn how to cope with only seeing his children at scheduled times and missing out on some special moments. He feels the constant weight of wanting to live up to his own father and feeling like he is falling short.


  • Parenting while living with a mental illness and/or a substance use disorder. This is Us showcases what it is like to be in the role of parent, while also continuing to manage one’s own challenges with mental health. Randall experiences persistent anxiety and panic attacks. As the series continues, we see him speaking to a therapist for the first time to address his mental health concerns. It is also revealed that Kate’s husband Toby lives with depression; while at times symptoms seem to be minimal, it is something that he has to continue to manage. Lastly, we witness Kevin’s journey battling a substance use disorder and maintaining his sobriety. Depicting these experiences on-screen serves to normalize mental illness and combat the stigma around these conditions.



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