Dear Dr. Jann: My ex-wife and I try to be consistent but we have different ideas on age appropriate movies for our kids. She accuses me of being a bad father because I allow our 10 and 12-year-old to watch some movies that are rated R. Am I wrong? I say if they don’t watch with me, they will watch with their friends.
Dr. Jann says: They may, but I personally think parents do not take seriously how detrimental it is for a child to watch movies or play video games where the images or situations are too provocative for their young children. They trust an arbitrary rating system to censor the images or situations their child sees, and that means someone else’s opinion is setting the bar for their parenting. Just because a movie is rated PG13 does not mean there are not situations in the movie you might not want your child to view. You and mom have to set clear boundaries about what you think is appropriate for your kids to see—and let them know why. Then hopefully they will make the right judgments when you are not with them.
The kids’ mom has to learn to trust your judgment—a difficult task for exes. Be proactive. Rather than simply watching the movies with your children, preview the movie first. Then if you deem it appropriate, watch it again with your children. You really want to get your ex’s attention? Preview a movie and censor it yourself. “I watched it before I let the kids see it and I don’t think they are ready for that one.” That will help build trust, which is at the root of this problem—and the essence of good coParenting.