How to handle having the “other” talk with your kids.
Let’s face it…talking about pornography with your kids may not be the easiest thing you’ll ever do. Even the very idea of such a conversation, may make you feel a little (or a lot) anxious. But taking the time to figure out what could work best for your family, may be one of the best things you do as a parent.
There is no right way, no set formula. Each parent is different; each child is different. It’s not always going to be comfortable to talk frankly about pornography and sexual intimacy with your children. Then again, you may be the type of parent who is really open around these kinds of topics. When it comes down to it, you are the one who will know best how to help your family.
Chances are, no matter what your comfort level, you are going to feel on more than one occasion, that you’ve messed up. That your child isn’t responding to your concerns. That you’ve said all the wrong things.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Our greatest resource to combat the negative effects of pornography, is open communication between parents and child. Each time you revisit the subject it will get easier. It will get better. Here are a few ideas that will help you begin:
A Desire for Change. When a child comes to you and says, “Can we talk? I’ve been looking at pornography. I’m really sorry, but I want to stop.”
As a parent, you’ll probably feel a wide range of emotions. Many of which will be negative. Do your best to remain calm. Shove the negative stuff aside to deal with when you are on your own. Realize for a moment what an incredible thing has just happened. First, your child recognizes that pornography is not good. Second, your child believes that he can find help by opening up to someone he trusts. And third your child chose you to talk to YOU! Coming to you was probably one of the hardest things your child has ever done. Be sure you tell him how proud you are of him for having the courage to come and talk to you and how much love you have for him.
Do-overs. Let’s assume for a moment you weren’t the perfect parent (just imagine!) and you absolutely lost it when you discovered a child’s habits with pornography. Remind yourself that you are human too. Once you’ve calmed down, tell your child you messed up and you would like to have the conversation again, the right way. (See above.) Punishing a child/teen for viewing pornography, will only create distance between you. Let your child know that you are prepared to help him have as many do-overs as needed until you can beat this issue together.
Interest in Sex is Normal. Reassure your child that it is normal to be interested in sexuality and that you are so grateful he was ready to talk to you about his habits with pornography. Allow your child to do most of the talking. Ask why he thinks pornography is harmful? Talk as long as your child wants to talk. When he’s done tell him you have some other thoughts but you want to talk about them after you’ve both had a chance to think about things. Ask if you can follow up again. Leave the conversation with the opportunity to come back to it later.
Using your brain. A basic understanding of brain science is essential to fight against the pull to use pornography. If your child is young (age 6-11) use Good Pictures Bad Pictures by Kristen Jenson to learn more about how the thinking part and the feeling part of your brain works. If your child is older (12+) see FightTheNewDrug.com to learn more about how the brain responds to pornography and how we can work to forge new pathways and retrain the brain to develop healthy habits.
Basic Training. In an effort to retrain the brain to avoid pornography, help your child learn to recognize triggers in his life that lead to using porn —stress, people, location, moods. As much as possible, help your child remove those triggers from his life. In severe cases, this may actually include not using the internet for a time. But all decisions need to be made with the child and be a solution he feels good about. You are there to support his resolves, not to punish or dictate how things will be done. Healing the brain from pornography is as much about putting in the good as it is about removing the bad. Help your child fill his day with meaningful activities —hobbies, interests and passions that don’t rely solely on technology. Good eating habits and daily physical activity is also part of the healing process.
Focusing on the light. As you help your child to focus his energies into positive interests, hobbies and relationships, the impact of pornography will eventually lose its grasp in his life. Encourage prayer and meditation as an added source of strength for both you and your child.
These conversations are not always easy and recovery may take time. Expect many stumbles along the way. Put in the extra effort and prepare to help your child get back on track with an unlimited supply of love and encouragement.
Because they’re worth it!