Disagreeing on appropriate movies and tv shows our children watch – how can I address the issue with my ex?

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Dear Sheila

My ex-wife and I have two brilliant boys aged 10 and 12. We split the care 50/50 and on the whole things are very amicable. However, when the boys are with her, she lets them watch movies/tv shows which contain lots of violence and which I think are inappropriate for children of that age. They ask me if they can watch those sorts of programmes when they are with me, but I always refuse. She always gives in and when I raised my concerns with her, she told me (a) it’s not a big deal and (b) it’s not me for to regulate what the boys get up to when they are with her. I don’t want to be controlling but I can see that my boys are picking up inappropriate phrases from the shows they are watching. On one occasion, my youngest ran into my room at night screaming that there was a zombie under his bed. I think the shows they are watching are having a negative effect on them. What do I do about it? Maybe I am overreacting, and I really don’t want to cause any issues between me and my ex as it is the boys who would suffer as a result.


Justin, Poole

Dear Justin

Thank you for your e-mail regarding your boys.  I was pleased to read that, “on the whole things are very amicable”, well done, it sounds like you are both doing a good job of parenting your boys.

Co-parenting can be tricky especially when one of you does not like something their co parent is doing or not doing.  How you communicate your concerns can be a minefield.  If you can remember not to be accusatory, punitive, or blaming that is a good start.

You are correct when you say, it is not up to me to regulate activities when the boys are with their mum.  However, you might be able to suggest that there be a common theme in both houses that the boys stick to age-appropriate viewing/playing as suggested by the government or film board or gaming watchdog.  That way it is not you who is trying to control what they watch, but a professional body that has done research regarding what is age appropriate.

I would be wary of making an example of the Zombies, that might be construed as criticism of Mum’s parenting.  Rather initiate a discussion about what you BOTH feel would be some good guidelines for both households to keep.

My last observation is pick your battles, think how you would feel if the boot were on the other foot?  Nobody likes being criticised and when you are parenting apart both of you will feel vulnerable at times as it is hard work.  Think about how you can support your co parent in saying no to the boys when they want to watch content that is not suitable.  Perhaps have a family meeting with the boys and Mum and Dad, saying something like, “Mum and I have been chatting about what we think is suitable viewing for you and we have decided to stick to government guidelines, as they are there for a reason.”  Ask the boys if they feel that is unfair in any way and try and get some sort of agreement that they will stick to.  Perhaps remind each other that you are there to support your co parent as there will be future situations that require both of you to work together in a supportive way for the good of the boys.

I hope that helps,


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