Sex In The City … And In The Suburbs

Dear Mamas,

My 11 year-old daughter has been invited to a slumber party and I’m really uncomfortable about what I have heard so far. Apparently they are planning on watching Sex in the City. I’m no prude but I am uncomfortable with this. We don’t let her watch R-rated movies and this one, to me, is way too mature for her. What do I tell her? So far I have said “We’ll see.” This is one of her favorite friends and she is so excited about the party. The parents are usually good about stuff with the kids. Help!


Dear Debra,
Wow, this one is tricky and sticky, that’s for sure. But your instincts are right. Sex in the City is not a good movie choice for 11 year-old girls for a million reasons.

Unfortunately, many parents don’t understand that the R-rating is there for a reason and that children can be disturbed and even damaged by viewing movies with content way beyond their ability to understand or process.

But you mentioned that these parents are usually pretty reasonable and you know them, so before you tell your daughter “No,” or cave in and let her do something that goes against your better judgement, try to find out whether the mother is open to hearing your concerns and maybe giving her plan some more thought. Just make sure you don’t come off sounding like you know it all. For starters, you could say something like this:

“Hi Tami. First of all, I wanted to thank you so much for inviting Hannah to Zoe’s birthday party. She’s really excited about it but I have a little problem. I understand that you are planning to have the girls watch Sex in the City and the thing is, we have a family rule that the kids can’t watch R-rated movies until they are 17. But I wasn’t sure that what she told me was right, so I wanted to check with you first before telling her yes or no.”

Then see what she has to say. There’s a good chance that “Zoe’s mom” will be willing to change the plan once she hears that you aren’t crazy about letting your daughter watch a movie rated for the over-17 crowd. Maybe she hadn’t really thought about it and once it’s brought to her attention she may realize that other parents may have objections too.

You can emphasize that you don’t want to make any waves or cause a problem and that if Sex in the City is definitely happening you will just tell your daughter that she won’t be able to go because your family has other plans that night and leave it at that. Let her know that you will keep this conversation confidential and would appreciate it if she would too.

Or, if she’s planning to go ahead with the movie despite your objections you could also find out what time it’s going to be shown and let your daughter go to the party, but pick her up before the movie starts. Either way, you will be sticking to your guns and honoring your own values without being insensitive to the other family and their plans.

These kind of awkward, uncomfortable scenarios are bound to come up more now that your daughter is approaching the teen years. It’s good to get some practice in dealing with them head-on. Make it a habit to call and consult with the other parents when your daughter is invited to spend the night or go to a party and don’t be shy about asking questions like, “What’s the plan for the evening? Are you going to be there the whole time? What are your thoughts about underage drinking? Will the kids be at your house the whole time?” etc.

It’s hard to do it the first couple times, but so good for your child to know that you care enough to make sure the situation is safe and appropriate for her. And even though she may say, “You’re the only mother who does this!” deep down she’ll feel protected, and later on, she’ll be grateful. And even if she isn’t, it’s your job to be the lifeguard and make sure she isn’t getting in over-her-head or paddling around in dangerous waters.

Good luck!

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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