Protecting Your Family From Pornography Part 3: Building Relationships
By Dan Garner, LMHCA
(For Part 1 Click Here)
(For Part 2 Click Here)
As I have mentioned previously in these articles, none of the information that is provided here should be used to shame, humiliate or punish your kids. If you are working diligently to safe guard your home and your family from pornography and you find out that someone has already been exposed and is struggling to know what to do, the very last thing that you want to do is become angry and harsh. This reaction will only communicate to your child (or spouse) that what they have done is horrible and that you are disgusted with them. They will respond be retreating from you and moving toward what helps them to feel better. In many cases this will be more pornography and secrets.
Rather, you want to engender an open communication where you are able to be very clear about your heart felt concern for them. In many instances we react first with anger because it hurts too much to feel our sadness. Do not allow this false anger to cloud the very real love and respect that you have for your child. Stay focused on your love for them and offer concerned support this way:
As your child begins to feel safe they will trust you with more and more of their story. This may take weeks to be told fully and they may never feel safe enough to disclose the full story to you but you can encourage them by listening and showing empathy.
Listening is a much more difficult skill than we give it credit for. Too often, especially as parents, we think that listening well means that we catch every inaccuracy and false statement so that we can correct it. This is not the time for that. Listen without responding. Even if your child’s motives and reasons don’t add up you can continue to listen and ask questions only for clarification. Allow them the time and space they need to piece together their own story.
Then respond with empathy. Empathy is very different from sympathy. Whereas sympathy causes us to look at others and pity them for where they are (“It must be sad to be you right now”) empathy takes more effort on our part. Empathy requires us to look at ourselves, put ourselves in their shoes and find what we can relate to in their story. Even if we cannot find a way to relate we can be validating of whatever feeling they are having (“I understand that you are hurting. I’m sure I would feel hurt too. I can feel how much you are hurting.”) By doing this, instead of telling them about how much we are hurting, how much they have hurt us or how much they deserve to feel the way they do, we are “staying in their corner” so to speak and keeping ourselves in a position to help and be a part of their struggle.
The decision to seek spiritual and/or professional help should be made carefully but in most cases it is recommended that some outside support is sought. Often, you as a parent are going to have a great deal of your own hurt, pain and shock to overcome and you will need support to help you cope so that you don’t take it out on your child. The child will likely need support to begin sorting through the problem and coming out of hiding so that the issue does not get worse. Professional support should be sought out if your child has made several attempts to stop and has been unsuccessful. This is especially true if your child continues to hide his pornography use from you, lies about it and sacrifices other obligations and activities in order pursue more pornography use. This indicates compulsive or addictive use and requires professional intervention.
As you create a safe environment for your child to work through their pornography struggle you will become a powerful ally. This helps rather than hurts your relationship and gives you and your child the best possible opportunity to succeed.
-In Tri-Cities, WA
Keywords: Family, Pornography Addiction, Porn Addiction, Sex Addiction, Therapist, Counselor