One of the greatest tools of Satan, especially when dealing with pornography, is to hide, to run and hide, and not realizing, as kids do sometimes, that the biggest freedom is opening up and getting a confidant that can work with you and walk with you as you partake of the wonderful gift of the Savior's Atonement.
Inside, that child is aching, hoping that somebody will just allow them to come forward. How do we help youth? How do we help children? Keep talking about it. The reality is, they're going to see it. I'd love to say that we can protect them and they won't. But they are going to see it. And so we need to help them understand that if they see it, and if they have emotional reactions, that they're still spiritually OK and that it's normal to have some responses when we see that. So they don't have to be overly stressed, especially avoiding any type of, like, shame responses to them. At one point or another in every parent's life, they have to say, "Oh, no, my child has seen pornography. What now? What do I do now?" I want you to know that I know how that feels. I know that feeling of darkness and worry and despair, and it feels like an emergency. It feels like a panic in your heart. But the first thing I would recommend that you do is to breathe. Just breathe. The second thing is, always be calm. If you respond with anger, with tears, with blaming, with punishment, that child will very likely hide any future behavior from you. And sometimes a parent's overreaction to the issue can be more damaging and more traumatizing to the child than whatever content they saw. So it's really important that we stay calm. So if I were handing someone the keys to the car, I would want that child to know what they could expect from me if they got a ticket or if they got in an accident. I don't want them to be surprised. I don't want them to be wondering, "Oh, how mad are Mom and Dad going to be if they find out I got this ticket?" I want to say to them right up-front, "Now, sometimes things happen. We don't want you to get a ticket. We don't want you to have an accident. We expect you to always use your very best judgment. But we know sometimes people slip up. I want you to know, if you had an accident, this is how I'd respond. I'd want to know if you're OK. I'd want to know how it happened and how you're feeling about it. I'd want to know if I can help. That's how I want you to know I would respond as well if I found out you were dealing with pornography or a sexual problem of some kind." Many parents feel wholly inadequate to talk about serious issues with their children. They see their own failures in life or their own struggles with sin, and they don't know that they have anything to offer. But parents always have something to offer. There is no child that doesn't need a parent to love him and to guide him. Our children know we're inadequate. It's not a secret. Are we afraid they'll find out? Of course they know. And we should be honest about it. We should tell them, "I don't always know what I'm doing," or "I do have problems that I struggle with myself. But here are some things that I'm finding." When a lot of parents start feeling bad, they'll come up to me after I've spoken at a Church event or something and say, "I did everything wrong that you said I shouldn't do in your presentation. Is all hope lost? What can I do?" And I say, "No, because that's what accountability is for. You can go to your child and say, 'I need to be accountable to you. I messed up. When you said, 'Hey, I saw pornography,' I melted down and had a panic attack, and you probably weren't sure what to do with your adult parent panicking. I messed up, and can we try that again?'" And children are forgiving of parents if parents will take accountability for their mistakes. When a child has seen pornography, they're already hurting. They don't need a lecture. They don't need punishment. They don't need yelling. They need your love. This is section 121, verse 41 through 43. And remember we're talking about a parent's reaction to a child who might come to a parent, really saying, "I need help." Here's the verse: "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood." Now, in a situation like this, I might change the word to "by virtue of our being parents of this young person." "Only by"--now listen to these words the Lord chose to give the Prophet Joseph: "Only by ... gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned." There is that word love again. "By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile--reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy." Whether we're a priesthood holder or whether we're a parent, that is great direction from the Lord. And I love the soft attributes: gentleness, kindness, love unfeigned (which means love un-faked), and an increase of love. So you see that these sensitive conversations are enveloped in a feeling and an atmosphere of love. You get your points across. You talk about what you have to do, but you begin with un-faked love, and you end with increased love. When parents and youth learn that they have someone that they love who's dealing with pornography, the first thing we want to do is thank them for their honesty. Thank them for coming forward, for being open and seeking help. Usually if a parent discovers or learns because that young person has come forward and confessed, that's a huge step. It's a huge step in the right direction, and to give them that credit. If they have come upon it and stumbled upon it and caught them in the act, it's probably good for that parent to not overreact, but to extend to the young man or young woman the love that they need to feel. Help them understand what repentance is, because that is an opportunity for us to receive more light as we repent. And once we understand the doctrine of Christ--which is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Atonement, repentance--as we as parents and leaders understand that doctrine of Christ and help children realize this is the way to have freedom and to have that peace. When the Savior says, "Come," He's asking for all of the kids to come, not hide. And then He says, "Come unto me, and I will give you peace." For parents or for anybody who's trying to work with kids on how to recover from a misstep, there's that beautiful scripture in 2 Nephi. If I have it right here, I'll just read it. It's in 2 Nephi 25, verse 26. It's a very famous scripture in the Church, but for me there's a real key to talking to kids who maybe have made a misstep. It says, "We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies." And here's the part: "That our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." We all make mistakes. Jesus knows that. He paid with His blood so that we could recover from our mistakes. And all we have to do is to turn to Him, and He'll lend us power so that we can recover and try again. I think the very first remedy that should be applied is love, unconditional love. Too often when a child is doing something that we disapprove of, we seem to withdraw or withhold love. And yet love is the first commandment in a family relationship. And the ability to help or to correct follows on the relationship established by unconditional love.