How do I support my child through relapses?

    We hope our children will successfully chart a course away from pornography and never return to it, but it’s likely that they will experience relapses. The processes of change and sincere repentance take time. As we seek to see our children as divine beings and children of God, we can help them grow and develop into the individuals they are meant to become.

    Seeing our children’s potential helps us to focus on all of their qualities and avoid defining them by their pornography use. We can encourage and help our children to find their purpose and direction in life, live accordingly, and become valuable contributors to the world they live in. We can teach our children to feel remorse for their mistakes, make restitution, and seek forgiveness. The following video includes thoughts on supporting children through relapses.

    Seeing the Big Picture

    Creating a vision of hope for recovery is important in supporting children struggling with pornography use. As we help our children develop and work through plans toward healing, we should seek to measure success appropriately. While helping our children abandon pornography use is one of our goals, it’s also important to help our children progress in their process of becoming like Christ. We can help them understand and experience the joy of repentance and finding peace in Him—even when they make mistakes. We can help them desire to turn to Him throughout their lives. We can guide them to seek the atoning power of Jesus Christ each day as they strive to become like Him.

    Lasting change often comes by focusing on incremental changes rather than instantaneous results. For instance, it can be beneficial to help children identify changes they might make in the ways they relate to others, use technology, or behave at school or in the home. We can help our children consider what types of changes are appropriate for them and their recovery. Getting involved in indexing, teaching lessons, and serving families in the ward are all activities that invite the Spirit. Perhaps they consider service they can dedicate to the Lord as an act of restitution.

    It’s likely that relapses will happen. Establishing and maintaining healthy, open communication with our children helps them come forward quickly after relapses. This is a pattern we can help our children establish in their relationships with Heavenly Father as well.

    When relapses do happen, we can help our children see that all is not lost. Asking questions that reflect the progress they have made helps them evaluate their growth. What have they learned that they will do better next time? What might they do to avoid a future relapse? What help do they need? Additionally, we can ask questions about how we might best encourage and support our children. Remember, this is their journey of healing; we are here to help.

    As we focus on the big picture and strive to see our children as eternal beings, we can help them grow and progress. We can help our children focus on the effort they are making rather than the challenges they are facing along their journey.

    Ideas for Taking Action

    Here are some ideas that others have found helpful. Prayerfully consider what actions might be best for your family, taking into account that they may or may not be listed here.

    • Encourage your child to keep a journal and to note changes in his or her life, hopes for the future, and plans to work to improve.
    • Help your child understand guilt, or godly sorrow, and how that differs from shame. Talk about acts of restitution your child can dedicate to the Lord as a means of inviting His Spirit back into his or her life. How might you help your child recognize feelings of remorse and the blessings of making restitution?
    • Identify and share with your child scriptural accounts that teach the joy of repentance. (Consider the stories of Enos in Enos 1, Alma the Younger in Alma 36, and others.)
    • Strive to support your child in all areas of his or her life. Rather than focusing exclusively on overcoming pornography, discuss how you can help him or her develop additional qualities, attributes, and skills.