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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that despite being fairly dated, Clarissa Explains It All is a likable '90s sitcom with a lot of appeal for today's tweens and their parents. It centers on a down-to-earth teen whose daily conundrums involve relationships with her family (including her pesky brother), the woes of dating, and the many complicated situations in which she finds herself, all of which yield positive learning experiences with wholesome morals about friendship, trust, and honesty. Clarissa draws emotional strength and a sense of identity from her tight-knit family, and her parents encourage her independence while remaining accessible if she needs advice. The show was an anomaly during its original run because it cast a close boy/girl friendship that wasn't hampered by sexual attraction, which offers parents a good opportunity to talk about social dynamics and dating with their tweens.
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What's the story?
CLARISSA EXPLAINS IT ALL stars Melissa Joan Hart as Clarissa Darling, a spunky, outgoing teen who talks to viewers about anything and everything that happens in her life. As events unfold within her family and among her friends, Clarissa turns to monologues aimed at her audience to help make sense of what she's feeling and to evaluate how best to cope. The show's stories usually revolve around typical teen woes like pimples, pesky siblings, and dating, and when working out solutions on her own doesn't work, Clarissa turns to her parents, Janet (Elizabeth Hess) and Marshall (Joe O'Connor), or her best friend, Sam (Sean O'Neal), for direction.
Is it any good?
Not surprisingly, this series shows its age in the predictable areas of wardrobe and special effects, but it's not so dated that it would be an impossible sell for today's tweens. This is great news for parents, who will find Clarissa to be a breath of fresh air amid the sexy, sassy female characters who often grace the screen in many modern series. On the contrary, Clarissa's got a level head and high principles, which help guide her through coming-of-age hurdles like having a first crush, accidental shoplifting, and personal insecurities, all of which are dealt with in a thoughtful and realistic manner in Clarissa Explains It All.
Besides Clarissa's enviable relationships with her well-meaning parents and even her irritating (but loyal) little brother, Ferguson (Jason Zimbler), her friendship with Sam raises some interesting points that are important to talk over with your tweens in light of today's sexually mature culture. Be sure to use the opportunity to discuss the fine line between friendship and romantic involvement as well as how your family's rules apply to tweens' freedoms and responsibilities when they're socializing with their peers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Clarissa Explains It All 's messages. What lesson(s) did Clarissa learn related to this story? Could you relate to what she was going through? How might you have handled the situation differently?
Tweens: What is your reaction to Clarissa and Sam's relationship? Do you think it's possible for boys and girls to be just friends? How does the dynamic between them change as they get older? Do you think there's pressure for relationships to become romantic? What outside factors affect your impression of dating?
Tweens: Who are some of your role models? How do their actions and values help shape your own? How do they help you work through struggles in your life? Do you often ask for their help or guidance?
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