It’s hard enough to come to an agreement on every major aspect of parenting when both parents are happily living together and raising their child in the same household. So, when it comes to co-parenting a child, things tend to become even more challenging.
Parents who are divorced or legally separated may find themselves unable to compromise on many aspects of parenting. But when two people share custody of a child and can’t agree on what’s appropriate for their child, it opens the door to greater conflict down the road.
This is apparent when it comes to things like media and entertainment and their potentially negative impact on a minor’s development. While one parent may think it’s perfectly acceptable to show their 10-year-old (or younger) son or daughter an R-rated movie, the other may not.
You don’t always have to retain a divorce lawyer and take them back to court, but that is definitely an option in some cases. Fortunately, if something like this has happened to you, there are a few things you may be able to do to prevent it from happening again.
Before you overreact at the idea of your son or daughter watching an R-rated movie, take a moment to assess the situation. Yes, most movies with an R rating are inappropriate for children younger than 17 or 18 years old, but there are often two sides to every story.
If you’re on speaking terms with your ex, talk with them about your concerns. Try not to be judgmental or confrontational or it may come across as an attack rather than a civilized conversation. Once you’ve shared your concerns, ask your ex why they let your child watch the R-rated movie in the first place.
You can’t control what your ex does, nor can you constantly observe or control what happens when your child is visiting them in their home. Because of this, it’s important to find out your ex’s reasoning for allowing your child to watch the film.
For instance, did your child ask them for permission to watch the film and did your ex simply say yes because they didn’t want to deny them? Or did your ex just not consider the potential ramifications of letting such a young kid watch the movie? If your ex simply didn’t think about it, voicing your concerns (and preferences) may be all that’s needed to stop it from happening again.
Unfortunately, not all divorced or separated parents are open to communication. That doesn’t mean you should stop trying, but it may mean you should consider other options as well.
Look for a Compromise
Oftentimes, co-parenting comes down to being able to compromise. If your ex sees no problem with letting your son or daughter watch an R-rated movie, then try to reach a compromise you can both live with. Keep in mind that even young children are very susceptible to their environment and they’re likely to react poorly to negative stimulation or a couple of arguing parents. Try to keep the peace between you and your ex, at least for your child’s sake.
Consider Your Ex’s Parenting Style
Before you decide your ex is an unfit parent, evaluate their parenting style and ability. Think about how they’ve raised your child to this point and if they’ve made sound decisions. While letting your young son or daughter watch an R-rated movie may not be your idea of good parenting, it doesn’t necessarily mean your ex is a bad parent. To determine if your ex is a good parent, ask yourself a few questions:
- Do they understand and react well to your kids’ needs?
- Aside from letting your child watch an R-rated movie, are they generally good at caring for your child?
- Do they prioritize your child’s welfare in areas that matter like education or health?
Your ex may have made a questionable choice in letting your son or daughter watch the R-rated movie. At the same time, if they have your child’s best interests at heart, then chances are this is something you can work out together.
It’s always better when both parents can agree on what’s age-appropriate for your child. After all, children of divorce often need as much consistency as possible. Unanimity is also helpful in decreasing the chances of your child trying to undermine or take advantage of one parent or the other.
But even if an agreement is not possible, you can still set limitations in your own home. Explain to your child what they can and cannot do – or watch – when they’re with you. Make sure they understand that the rules may be different depending on who they’re with, but that they should still respect the ones you’ve put in place. Always do your best to explain your reasoning, rather than just tell them no.
Kids often learn through repetition, so don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. While setting limitations, be as flexible and forgiving as possible so your child understands you have their best interests at heart and aren’t trying to be unfair.
Consider Counseling or Mediation
If the problem is serious and you and your ex still can’t reach an agreement, it may be time to consider counseling or mediation. A professional third party who’s experienced in family matters may be able to help you and your ex in ways you couldn’t achieve on your own.
Taking Things Further
It’s not illegal to let a minor watch a Rated R movie, as long as they have parental supervision, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for the child’s well-being. Although the effects of being exposed to age-inappropriate content like R-rated films are not fully known, they can be problematic for your child. Depending on your child and the film itself, these movies may lead to recurring nightmares, desensitize your child to violence or substance abuse or add emotional stress to their lives.
If you believe your child is experiencing emotional trauma or neglect when with their other parent, you may be able to challenge your ex’s custody of them in court. You may also be able to change their rights to supervised visitation.
However, you’ll need to prove that your ex is an unfit parent. Not only will you need to gather substantial evidence to support your case, but you’ll also probably need to hire a family law attorney. In most cases, this should be considered a last resort.
Before going this route, decide if the time, cost and emotional stress on you, your ex and your child is worth it. Ultimately, the child’s physical, mental and emotional well-being needs to come first, so avoid making a decision that may cause them further harm.
When Should I Let My Child Watch Rated R Movies?
Deciding to let your young child watch an R-rated movie depends on a few factors, such as:
- Your child’s maturity.
- Your personal and family values.
- The reason for the R rating.
Remember, age isn’t always a clear enough factor in whether your child is mature enough to watch an R-rated movie. Just because one ten-year-old shouldn’t watch a movie doesn’t mean your son or daughter is the same. If your ex has already let your child watch an R-rated movie, you may be able to gauge their maturity level in the way they react afterward. You can also talk with them about it and observe if they seem disturbed, distraught or fine after watching it.
Besides, some films receive the R rating due to explicit content or excessive violence that may be harmful to your child. Others receive it for more minor reasons, such as language or small quantities of violence. If you haven’t seen the film before, you can either watch it to determine if it’s appropriate for your child, or you can check IMDB’s Parental Guide to see why the movie has that rating.
If you think your child is ready to watch an R-rated movie, do your due diligence to find a film that you believe your child will enjoy and handle well. Try not to rely only on what others are saying. Instead, use your best judgment to make an educated decision for – or with – your son or daughter. If possible, bring your ex in on the decision-making process, too.
Ultimately, whether you feel ready for it or not, your child will be exposed to different things that you may consider inappropriate for their age. Do your best to establish clear limitations and try to maintain open communication with your child. When possible, and if necessary, make compromises for the benefit of your son or daughter.
Steven Harris is a family law & divorce attorney in Huntsville, Alabama. He lives with his lovely wife of fifteen years and regularly writes informative articles online about domestic relations law and other related topics.