Talking about pornography with your kids may not be the easiest thing you’ll ever do. But figuring out how to take on this challenge may be one of the best things you do as a parent.

Take heart you are not alone.

Before sitting down to write this post I scrolled through a page of fun parenting memes to get me in the right frame of mind. It’s an exercise I recommend for anyone who needs a quick laugh and a gentle reminder that we’re not alone in any number of parenting frustrations.

The same is true when it comes to talking to our kids about pornography. Whatever concerns and worries you have, it’s guaranteed that thousands of parents feel the exact same way. The difference is that we rarely talk about it. The subject of pornography continues to be loaded with stigma and is avoided like the plague in most parenting circles.

Perhaps a few good memes are needed to help us understand how connected we are.

For some reason I am imagining we are all on a game show and Steve Harvey is introducing this next category: What do parents fear most when talking to their kids about pornography?

Curiosity. DING!

It’s true, the most common reason parents give for delaying conversations with their children about online pornography is that they are afraid their kids will go and seek it out. We feel like we are telling them where to find a huge hidden stash of candy.

Only pornography isn’t hidden at all.

I know this was a tremendous hurdle for me to overcome. Even today, I catch myself falling into the same worry trap thinking I might say or do the wrong thing. Sadly, this is a pitfall that prevents parents from giving children the tools and support they need to recognize and reject pornography.

Bringing up difficult subjects at home gives kids a sense of security.

As shocking as  this might sound, children actually see parents as a trustworthy source of information. So much so, they are willing to “go to the mat” to defend your opinion on the playground.

A family isn’t just a group of random individuals living under one roof. It is a unique organization where all members contribute to the communication patterns, information processing, traditions, rituals and ideologies. The core values of a family are integral to the well-being of each member. So when parents share their views on important subjects like pornography, it helps children understand how to process that information.

When parents remain silent, children are more likely to have difficulty putting the information they see or hear in context of their core values. Children may feel that certain subjects are taboo or off limits with mom or dad.  If so, they are likely to turn to friends and questionable online sources to answer their questions. Not having appropriate conversations with our kids about pornography can actually promote greater curiosity.  

Children need to hear from their parents that sex is good —and why pornography is bad.

All human beings are biologically wired to be attracted to sexualized images. A child who comes across pornography on his or her own may initially be shocked, or even horrified and repulsed but they will also be intrigued, curious and feel pleasure. This strange mix of emotions can be very traumatic.

Parents can acknowledge that it is very normal to be interested in the naked body and that sex is an important and rewarding part of an adult’s life. Parents can also explain to a child that part of pornography’s “hook” is to make the viewer feel good but then leave them feeling empty and lonely. Kids respond well when parents point out that sex is one part of an emotional commitment to someone you love. Pornography steals love away from sex.

The word pornography is just that —a word. For a child it comes without sexual connotations.

Some worry that talking about pornography is enough to send sexualized images to the brain. As one of my sons put it, “it just doesn’t work that way mom —unless of course you’re a teenage boy, then pretty much anything will send a flood of sexualized images to the brain.”

He went on to explain that kids encounter sexualized images everywhere online. He says, that unless parents teach kids that clicking on those images can be dangerous then kids are going to click. Everyone’s curiosity gets the best of them eventually.

I came across a story of a father who tried to confront his nine-year-old son about the pornographic images he discovered on his tablet.  Their conversation is very telling of how children disassociate the word pornography from the sexually explicit content they may encounter online.

Dad —“Son, I have to talk to you. I know you were looking at porn.”
Son — Responding to the ominous tone in his father’s voice. “No, dad I didn’t”.
Dad —“I’m not angry, but please don’t lie. I know for a fact that you were.”
Son — Still confused “wait, Dad … what is porn?”

As adults, we assume that children who have seen or heard about pornography must know what it is. Yet, unless children have been given an age appropriate definition of pornography they have no context in which to place sexually explicit material when they do encounter it online.

Overcoming fear takes practice. When all else fails … apologize.

Not many of us grew up having conversations with our own parents about pornography. So, if you feel awkward or uncomfortable bringing up the subject with your kids you are not alone. Recognize that you are charting new territory and cut yourself some slack.

Sometimes it’s a matter of getting comfortable with the words and getting used to hearing them from your own lips. Compare notes with your spouse or a good friend. Be honest, tell them you really want to have an open dialogue with your kids about pornography but you need to rehearse what you are going to say.

For me, I have no problem standing in front of a large auditorium talking about pornography. But when I am in close quarters and it’s my turn to take the lead, I still squirm and falter. I catch myself using hushed tones and nervous body language. I know full well my behaviour isn’t terribly helpful for my kids but I struggle nonetheless.

This is when it pays to be totally honest.

I might say to my child, “I really need to talk to you about some important things today … Even though pornography was around when I was a kid, no one really talked about it. I don’t want it to be like that with you and me. Can you be patient with me as I learn to get more comfortable with the subject?”  

Guess what? … You just totally scored parenting points for admitting your vulnerabilities. It is more than okay to confess vocally that you’re learning how to manage this subject right alongside your kids.

When it comes to talking to your kids about pornography, what matters most is that your kids know you care enough to start the conversation. Understand that it will get easier each time you come back to it because this was never meant to be a one-time discussion.

What you can do today!

  • Talk about your concerns and fears with your spouse or good friend
  • Plan a time to speak with your child about why pornography harms
  • Use one of these amazing resources to help your start the conversation
    Read-a-loud bookVideo resource; Teen website
  • Help other parents feel less alone in their worries —like and share this article 
  • EMAIL US YOUR SUCCESS STORIES! parentsaware.info@gmail.com

 

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