Q: I'm in an uncomfortable spot with a neighbor, whom I enjoy a great deal. My 8-year-old son is friends with her son, and she lets them watch TV shows and movies that I would not. I don’t think PG-13 movies are OK for an 8-year-old. I also don’t want to put my son in a position where he has to say, “My mom doesn’t let me watch this show,” and I’m not sure how to confront my friend without coming across as disapproving of her parenting style. Besides making sure play dates are at my house, what’s your advice?
This month’s question is answered by Carolyn Stone, Ed.D., a psychologist and parent coach with offices in Newton and Chelmsford.
A: This is a situation that you need to address at the adult level. It would not be fair to expect your son to speak up for himself about the shows. He is too young for that, he might fear being teased, and he might like to see the shows. Ask your neighbor to come over for coffee, maybe when the boys are at your house. When you meet, bring up the TV shows and movies the boys watch. Indicate that this is your concern and not a judgment on her parenting. Also include that you enjoy her company and you are pleased that the boys are friends. Then express the concerns you have for your son about the shows. Many parents wish to shelter young children from adult content, so don’t be embarrassed.
I hope that your friend will agree to limit the shows the boys watch in a way that doesn’t make your son uncomfortable. If not, you’ll have to decide whether to have the playdates at your house, ask your son to come home when those shows come on, or decide that a little exposure won’t be a big problem.
Input From our Readers
“Just say to the neighbor that your kids aren’t ready for those type of TV shows so if she wouldn’t mind sending them home when her kids would like to watch their shows that would be great. Honesty is the best policy!”
– Nikki in Roslindale
“You can say, ‘I don’t feel my child is mature enough for that kind of programming.’ That way you are not questioning her parenting style. (I have never let my children watch an episode of Sponge Bob and all my friends think I’m crazy.)”
– Lauren in Hyde Park
“Just be nice and your neighbor shouldn’t feel threatened. Maybe she does not approve of something you do as a parent when her son is over and may then feel comfortable enough to bring it up.”
– Kathy in Medford
“She should just be open and honest and explain in a nice way.”
– Joy in Brighton
Email your relationship dilemmas with spouses, neighbors, teachers, family and, of course, your kids to Susan.Flynn@parenthood.com. We’ll ask both professionals and our readers for their advice.