What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this thought-provoking drama promotes family-friendly themes like respect, responsibility, and coping with adversity. Two sets of parents approach child rearing in different ways, but both have strong value systems that they impart on their kids, and they make clear their expectations of them. Expect some rebellious teen behavior (some of which is criminal and goes unchecked), references to drinking and pot, and language ("hell" and "damn," mostly). A main character is deaf, and her struggles to assimilate into a hearing family and social settings raises awareness of deaf culture and society's tolerance of difference.
What's the story?
From the outside, Bay Kennish's (Vanessa Marano) life as the privileged daughter of an ex-pro athlete, John (D.W. Moffett), and his devoted wife, Kathryn (Lea Thompson), is idyllic. But inwardly, she's always felt a little out of place in her family. Even so, nothing could have prepared her for the shock of learning that a hospital mix-up when she was a newborn sent her home with the wrong parents. When the truth comes out and she comes face-to-face with her working-class birth mother, Regina Vasquez (Constance Marie), and her parents' biological daughter, Daphne (Katie Leclerc), who is deaf, Bay feels as though her world is spinning out of control. Tensions rise when financial pressures force Regina and Daphne to move in to the Kennishes' guest house and newly blurred boundaries suddenly challenge the value systems that each family holds dear.
Is it any good?
SWITCHED AT BIRTH is a thoughtful drama series that explores family relationships, teen issues, and the challenges and rewards of connecting with someone who's vastly different from you. Although the story centers on a unique (and improbable) challenge that two families face, its messages resonate with a much broader audience, and families of any make-up can use the story to talk about how the show's themes of tolerance, perseverance, and battling stereotypes relate to issues they face in their lives. True, the show does gloss over the intense emotional fallout that this scenario would raise in real life, but it doesn't shy away from conflict altogether, forcing the characters to overcome their differences and great adversity to find common ground.
Beyond the main story, there's also a subplot surrounding Daphne's deafness, which gives a candid portrayal of society's response to disabilities and fosters respect for different ways of life. Sporadic language ("hell" and "damn," mostly), teen rebellion, and references to pot and teen drinking are present, but the overall messages of responsibility, communication, and respect are what will stick with teens.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about tolerance. What challenges arise when you try to relate to people from different backgrounds? What situations have forced you to do so? Why is it important to try?
Tweens: Do you find the families in this show believable? Can you relate to their problems? In what ways do the characters draw on their family structures for strength? Do you do the same?
How does our society as a whole respond to people with disabilities? What strides have been made to better accommodate people's differences? How far do we still need to go? What stereotypes exist regarding people with disabilities?