By Dan Garner, LMHCA
(For Part 1 Click Here)
(For Part 2 Click Here)
(For Part 3 Click Here)
In Part 3 of this series we talked about building relationships with your children that will help them feel comfortable opening up to you if they have been exposed to and/or are struggling with pornography; generally this will be older, teenaged children. Here, in Part 4, we want to talk more directly about how to open that relationship with young children who, hopefully, have not been exposed to pornography yet but most certainly will be at some point.
In the past, before internet made pornography so much more Affordable, Accessible and Anonymous parents were able to sidestep the issue of pornography and cross their fingers in hope that their child simply would never need to deal with it. Today, all of that has changed. Children are exposed to more pornography at a younger age more easily than at any other time and our parenting responsibilities have increased along with this increased exposure. Children are completely unequipped to deal with pornography when it pops up on the screen and causes all kinds of powerful, confusing and pleasurable feelings inside their little minds and bodies. This is an experience that no child was designed to confront. Therefore, they need your loving, knowledgeable and confident guidance through this new and scary terrain. Remember, somebody is going to teach your child about pornography and sex, whether at school, at a friends house or online; lets make that somebody you. Take back your right to educate them according to what you feel is best and healthiest.
This begins with learning how to speak frankly and openly with your children about sex and pornography. These conversations need to start very young, generally around 7 years of age. However, talking openly about people’s bodies and the more special parts of people’s bodies can start much younger. If you feel your stomach tightening right now, just thinking about talking to your young kids about this topic, take heart; you are way more uncomfortable talking about this stuff than your child is. To your child, this is all new information that is not yet sexualized so they take it all in just as data; like talking about potty training or not hitting your brother. Also, there is an incredible resource at your disposal which I cannot recommend highly enough. Good Pictures, Bad Pictures is a book written by Kristen Jenson that provides a non threatening and effective way to begin a conversation with your child about pornography. Through this story book, you and your child will develop a common vocabulary for talking about bad pictures, how to recognize them, what makes them dangerous and what to do when you see them.
The last major point that I would like to make here is that, just as was covered in Part 3, the most important aspect of building a relationship with your kids is to be empathic and understanding. This means that children need to know from you, before they ever see pornography, that coming and talking to them is not going to make things worse. Kids will often hide and keep secrets for surprising reasons. They may simply be afraid that since they just saw something “bad” that you are going to think they are bad or that they are going to get in trouble for doing something wrong. You can head this off at the pass by not only being very clear with them about the fact that they won’t get in trouble for telling them but that you will actually be thrilled and proud if they come and talk to you about it! This will give them the proper perspective and encourage openness. They may also be afraid to tell you because they fear that you will take their “screens” away. Again, you can resolve this concern by being very clear that you will be calm and talk with the child about what happened and how they can be safe in the future but that their things will not be automatically taken away. This resolves their concern while leaving you free to make whatever choices you may need to make in the future.
This level of intervention may seem daunting and you may even feel like it isn’t fair that we, as parents today, have to take on this challenge when no other generation before us has had to. However, there are many of us out here fighting the fight together and we have many resources at hand to make it possible. As always, if you have an questions or concerns you can contact us here at Recovering Hope for a free 15 minute consultation. We also provide monthly workshops on this topic that are free and open to anyone. Please join us as we address this issue head on for the benefit of our families.
-In Tri-Cities, WA
Keywords: Family, Pornography Addiction, Porn Addiction, Sex Addiction, Therapist, Counselor