This post is an adaptation of one I originally wrote for Strength to Fight. A recent experience made me realize it’s worth repeating. Even when we know a conversation needs to be had we often feel stuck in our tracks. I will share three proven concepts that helped me get off the fence and start talking to my own kids about the dangers of porn. 

Shaking my hand he said, “That was so great. Thanks for talking about this. I just know it’s so important.”

This is the response I often get when I tell parents —Talk to your kids about porn. Tell them why it is dangerous— Everyone’s head nods in agreement.

“This is a really tough subject to bring up!” my new friend continues.

I nod empathetically, while encouraging him that he can do it.

“I know we’re going to have to deal with it soon enough.

“Yup, you are… Everyone today has to,” I repeat in my own head.

“Luckily our boy hasn’t come to us yet. I guess we’re ok for now.

Wait! What? Stop. Rewind

How did we go from “I know this is really important” to “I’m going to wait until my child comes to me” in one breath?

Had I been unclear? The presentation was short, but I hit all the key points. I review the list in my head:

  •      Pornography is harder to avoid than it is to find
  •      Nearly all children will be exposed before they enter high school
  •      By middle school, peer pressure to use pornography can be extremely high
  •      Even good kids will be curious about pornography
  •      Children ABSOLUTELY need to know from parents that pornography is harmful
  •      Children deserve to hear from parents the health benefits of saying no to pornography
  •      Children thrive when they know they can talk openly about important subjects 
  •      Most of all … START EARLY!

When I speak with any group of parents, my objective is to have them understand they are the key to their kids success. If they want to protect their kids from pornography then they have to talk with their kids about pornography —ideally before they are exposed.

So, if we know that we should talk with our kids about porn, how do get over the next hurdle and start doing it?

Three proven concepts

I know where your coming from, I’ve been there too. To help me overcome my apprehension of tackling this subject, I had to start looking at the conversation differently. Below are three concepts which ultimately gave me the confidence I needed to talk openly with my own kids.

1. Admit out loud what feels uncomfortable

At first I had a hard time just saying pornography out loud. For many others this can be a real challenge too. Ask yourself, does it feel taboo or dirty to say it? If so, it may be wise to practice what you’ll say first. Ask your spouse or close friend to help you out. Kids are quick to pick up on negative cues. If they sense you are uncomfortable, they will be less likely to share with you their own concerns —now and in the future.

Fortunately, children are also very forgiving. Be upfront and honest about your insecurities. Your bravery alone will be inspiring to them. If you blunder through, they’re still going to stick with you on this one.  Find a quiet moment with each child. Explain outright that you would like to discuss pornography. It may surprise you how relieved they are that you are willing to bring it up.

Plus, it’s ok to add a bit of humour and laugh at the awkwardness of the situation. Let them know you will probably say something stupid along the way. It may take time to get comfortable talking about porn. That’s fine. Tell them you are willing to put yourself through any embarrassment because you love them so much.

Finally, let them know you would like to come back to this important topic regularly.

2. Appreciate the real cost of silence

Sometimes we worry that talking about pornography with kids could spark or renew a child’s interest in seeking out forbidden content. This is simply not true.

I used to get hung up on the idea that if I talked about these things too early, I would be robbing my kids of their innocence. Eventually it dawned on me that my silence was an open invitation for the media to step in and take my place. I will tell you that revelation shed a whole new perspective on the conversation. Check out this 30-second video from Educate Empower Kids that shows the power of mainstream media to influence our children.

I really can’t stress enough how important it is to discuss the harms of pornography within the context of family values. When we do this we let our children know mom and dad are fully aware that pornography does exist. But also that it can be openly talked about in our home.

We can use these discussions to help kids recognize why pornography is harmful. We can offer strategies on how to build internal filters. We can give advice for situations they might find themselves in. For example, when a friend wants to show them a picture on their phone, ask what it’s about before looking. Or, if they do encounter something bad, turn away immediately, then tell an adult as soon as possible.

3. Put yourself in their brain

All human beings are biologically wired to be attracted to sexualized images regardless of age, race or gender. So when a child comes across pornography on their own they may experience shock, horror, and repulsion but they may also be intrigued, curious and feel a rush of pleasure.

This strange mix of emotions can be very traumatic for someone who has never been warned about the dangers of pornography.  Without a plan in place, the brain has to come up with a solution on the fly. Often the brain’s reward pathway is going to insist that it should see more of the same.

It is important to recognize that when we fail to address pornography in the home, we may actually be teaching our children to not come to us when they encounter this kind of material online. Common reasons children have for withholding information from their parents include:

  • Fear of getting in trouble
  • Fear of disappointing their parents
  • Lack of vocabulary to describe the problem
  • Lack of understanding that they are in danger

On the other hand, when we do talk about pornography with our children, we help them create a response in their brain that says, “Hey this stuff is pornography, it’s dangerous, you need to go tell a parent!”  

Parent, friend, ally

Every single time I have spoken with my kids about pornography we have grown stronger together. It didn’t matter if they were six or sixteen, they wanted to hear what their parents had to say about this confusing topic. Not every conversation went smoothly for us. Both my husband and I have made mistakes along the way.

When less-than-perfect happens, take a step back, stop talking and really listen to your child’s concern.

If we think about this as a battle our kids have to face every day, we won’t want to delay the conversation or wait until our children might come to us. We already know this is important. Now our kids need to know that we are their for them. If they are in the trenches we have to be their greatest allies.

Are you ready to test these proven concepts? By helping your child define what pornography is and why it is harmful, you expose the porn industry as the common enemy. With your help your child will know how to fight back. 

Like and share

Like and share this article. Also, please send us your success stories! Perhaps you could tell us how the first conversation about pornography went in your home? We love to laugh, cry and celebrate with you. It’s our goal to support one another as we all work towards the same objective. Email us: parentsaware.info@gmail.com

 

Marilyn

Marilyn

Marilyn Evans lives east of Toronto with her husband and five sons. Concerned with the ease of access to online pornography, she began searching for ways to address this subject with her own children. The lack of support and information available to parents at that time compelled her to begin speaking out publicly on the subject. It's her hope that parentsaware.info will provide families with a resource they can turn to for answers on how to speak openly and honestly with their children. You can follow @parentsaware on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Marilyn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *