Netflix is my favourite place to find TV shows for my kids that combine artistry, education, and diversity. Finding quality programming that offers diversity in their characters isn’t always easy, but luckily Netflix has plenty of options to sift through. Below I’ve compiled a list of my favourite diverse shows perfect for families to watch with their older kids, all available through Canadian Netflix.
Great for kids 6+
This British family drama offers the perfect central heroine, Zoe (Jaylen Barron), an American teen who is spending the summer on an island off the coast of the United Kingdom, visiting her British grandfather. Zoe creates a special bond with a wild horse, and an adventure and mystery unravels.
This is a sweet story with a strong female lead, and is sure to be a hit with younger kids and tweens. You don’t see many diverse lead characters in British television (not that I’ve noticed), and it’s nice to see diverse leads like Zoe, played by Jaylen Barron, as well as Zoe’s best friend Jade (Manpreet Bambra); Zoe’s mom, Maggie (Natalie Gumede), and her younger sister, Rosie (Navia Ziraili Robinson).
Great for kids 10+
This teen dramedy follows two best friends, Alexa (Paris Berelc) and Katie (Isabel May), as they enter high school and face typical teen issues. To make the transition more difficult, Alexa and Katie are keeping a big secret. Alexa has cancer, and Katie isn’t sure how to be a supportive through the diagnosis.
The Mendoza family is a diverse family navigating their young daughter’s cancer diagnosis - a storyline that is atypical, but also handled in a fairly light-hearted manner. This is a great show to introduce to tweens and teens, and encourages empathy and compassion for others.
Great for kids 10+
It’s 1998 and 12-year-old Harshu (Vishesh Bansal) is growing up, and questioning the family dynamic that surrounds him. This coming-of-age tale, set in India, takes a look at the life of an adolescent boy, full of 1990s nostalgia and beautifully shot scenes. Yeh Meri Family is an Indian tv show with English subtitles, but don’t let that stop you from giving it a chance.
Harshu and his family are the perfect family to welcome into your home, and Yeh Meri Family is exactly the kind of quality show that families will love and return to.
Great for kids 12+
A family favourite at our house, One Day at a Time, a reboot of the 1970s classic, introduces us to a Cuban-American modern family living in Indianapolis. Penelope (Justina Machado) is a single mother, army veteran, and nurse raising her two growing kids while attempting to create a new life after her recent divorce. Legendary Rita Moreno plays Lydia, Penelope’s mom and the matriarch of the family.
One Day at a Time touches on many social and cultural themes, from gun ownership, mental health and medication, the military and PTSD, LGBTQ teens, and so much more. It’s hard not to get misty-eyed at the end of every episode, but the themes and issues handled in a short thirty minutes are done with care and respect.
Great for kids 12+
Watch Kim’s Convenience with your tweens and teens, but know that this show is as entertaining for you as it is for them. The Canadian-made program follows the Kim family, a Korean-Canadian family that own a convenience store in Toronto. The well-written series sets the stage for diverse characters, complex social issues, and a lot of laughs.
Kim’s Convenience offers characters that on the surface might look stereotypical, but along the way turn into nuanced and deep individuals that will make you laugh and cry. Diversity is written into the show, not like a list of boxes needed to be checked, but are a natural process of a show developed, filmed, and made about a Korean-Canadian family living in Toronto. We see diversity in the female minister, the many diverse patrons who purchase items at the store, and many other ways.
Great for kids 14+
There are so many high school teen dramedies on Netflix right now, and Everything Sucks! doesn’t always get the attention or credit that it deserves. Set in 1990s Oregon, a group of students at Boring High School navigate life together. The show mostly focuses on freshmans Luke (Jahi Di'Allo Winston) and Kate (Peyton Kennedy), and their friendship that blooms throughout the first season.
What I love about Everything Sucks! is how realistic and honest their portrayal of teen life is, it’s a show set in 1996 that I think anyone can relate to. It includes diversity seamlessly, from the types of families represented (single parents, racially diverse characters), and also touches on LGBTQ topics, mental illness, and even child abandonment. Give it a try with your teen, because Everything Sucks! Is everything, but sucky (ha, I had to).