You don’t need to be an authority on porn to be your kid’s primary resource on the topic. After all, you’re an expert on the two things that matter most — You unconditionally love your child and know them better than anyone else. Plus, you have deeply held sexual values. Without being an expert, you’re confident that porn isn’t a valid source of sex education, nor is it good for your child’s brain or their future relationships.
Chose one of your kids and decide on a time, then sit down and launch into the topic. Don’t wait until you know exactly what you want to say, you may never be a hundred percent certain. It’s okay if you blush and stammer a bit, when it’s over you’ll be so glad you did it!
But, You Ask, What Should I Say?
Let them know what they can expect when they do see porn. (Not IF they see porn, but WHEN. By the time they’re 18 years old, 19 out of 20 kids have been exposed to pornography.) Explain they might feel uncomfortable, excited, guilty, or even curious and want to keep looking. Let them know these are all normal reactions. Porn may go against our values, but it can appeal to our sexual appetite. We may view pornography as wrong or bad because it cheapens something we view as sacred, and have reserved for a very important relationship — marriage.
When their experience turns out the way we predicted, we become trustworthy in our child’s eyes. In the future, they are now more likely to turn to us when something is confusing or troubling.
Try to Normalize the Experience
When we don’t shame our children or give them a guilt trip, but instead reassure them that what they’re experiencing is normal, they become less likely to keep important inner experiences a secret. They feel like they can be open with us because they know we won’t judge or lose respect for them no matter what reaction they have.
Child may Fear Telling the Truth
As hard as you try to be approachable, don’t be surprised when your child lies to you about pornography. You may find evidence on your computer that they’ve been looking, and yet they deny it. The inner experiences that get activated by porn can be very potent and confusing. A child swept up by this swirl of thoughts, feelings and behaviors, may be afraid. They don’t want to lose the esteem we hold them in. As honest as they are in other arenas, they may get paralyzed into silence, unable to discuss their sexual thoughts and explorations.
Therefore, it’s good for parents not only to bring up the topic of pornography, but to keep the dialogue open and ongoing. I asked my 12-year-old son what I should tell parents about talking to their kids about pornography. He said, “Tell them to keep talking about it. It’s too hard for us as kids to bring up.”
If they don’t have a struggle with pornography, we can use these occasional talks to remind them that sex will be a great part of life when they’re older. And most importantly one they’ll want to share exclusively with their spouse, rather than having lots of intrusive images or expectations based on fiction rather than reality.
How do we Deal with Temptation?
Whether they have an issue with pornography or not, we can talk to them about how we handle temptation. We’ve learned some things that make us more susceptible or less vulnerable to it — Things like:
Have you noticed that I don’t watch late night TV on the weekends?
When I’m active spiritually, I find that I’m not as easily drawn in.
Have you noticed that I sometimes pour out my heart to your dad (or mom) at the end of a hard day? It’s much healthier to talk things out instead of leaving them pent up inside.
When I travel, it’s good to limit the amount of TV I watch in the hotel room.
It’s good to have lots of healthy ways to release stress so that I don’t find myself tempted by unhealthy ones. That’s why I garden, bicycle, hunt and read suspense novels.
When I see someone attractive and I’m tempted to lust, I remind myself they’re a human being with a family, life and feelings of their own.
Keep Door Open to Talk to Children
I often ask clients who’ve been struggling with porn for decades what they wish they could go back and tell their younger self after he or she was first exposed to porn. Most say, “Your reaction is normal, but porn can hook you and take control of your life. Don’t feel so bad about it that you keep it a secret. You don’t believe it now, but you CAN talk to your parents. They will help you. They may be upset at first, but they’ll get over it and they’ll help you figure it out. Don’t try to deal with it on your own!”
You can be the mature presence who offers these important messages to your children. Please, just do it. Spare them the decades of suffering that await those who don’t get any coaching on this topic until years later.
© 2014 Mark Chamberlain