“How do I help my child after discovering his or her pornography use?” Help for Parents (2019)
“How do I help my child after discovering his or her pornography use?” Help for Parents
Most children want to be listened to, supported, and trusted. However, children may be reluctant to talk with their parents about behaviors that they feel are shameful or embarrassing, such as pornography use. Building strong relationships and communicating with our children is one of the best things we can do to help them.
As children feel safe in loving relationships with parents, they are more likely to talk about the challenges they are facing in their lives. The following video includes suggestions for how to have ongoing conversations with our children about pornography and other challenges.
Discovering that our children have viewed pornography can leave us feeling shocked, dismayed, or disappointed. Because of these emotions, it can be easy to respond in a way that magnifies shame or invites contention. Instead, we should seek to respond in a calm and loving manner. This may mean taking time to process and pray before discussing further. When our children feel loved and supported, they may be more willing to open up, share their struggles, and receive parental guidance.
Often when children are viewing pornography, they are doing so to meet certain needs. These needs are unique and specific for each child but may include sexual curiosity or the desire for a distraction from anxiety and depression. As we seek to understand our children’s individual needs, we can help them find solutions and meet those needs in healthy ways. We can help our children develop plans to move forward as we act upon spiritual impressions. Coming to understand our children’s needs may require learning new skills as parents, such as asking questions differently and taking time to really listen.
We can teach our children about healthy sexuality in many ways. This may include engaging in ongoing conversations with our children about their sexual development and relationships with other people. Additionally, we can use situations we encounter in everyday life to discuss healthy sexuality and the dangers of pornography use. Asking our children how they are doing in regard to pornography use and appropriate sexual behavior is also important. It’s often helpful to discuss these topics in an atmosphere that is relaxed, loving, and open rather than forced or contentious.
Overall, we should seek to build strong relationships with our children so that they will feel comfortable bringing their challenges to us. As parents, our goal is to help our children know that we will respond with love and acceptance when they need a place to turn with questions about sexuality. When left without this safe place of openness and understanding, children often turn elsewhere for their answers.
If we haven’t started forming strong bonds and discussing sexuality with our children, we can start to do those things now. As we prayerfully seek to connect with and help our children, the Lord will guide us.
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.
Identify opportunities to listen to your child. What do you need to do in order to slow down and listen instead of react? What questions might be helpful for you to ask?
Seek to identify patterns of healthy communication that can be developed in your family. For instance, can you make eye contact, ask inspired questions, or be more reflective and less reactive in listening? How might you improve communication with your child? (see “Self-Reliance Principle 8: Communicate: Social and Spiritual Listening,” Self-Reliance Live, ChurchofJesusChrist.org/topics/pef-self-reliance/live).
Discuss and testify of the importance of healthy sexuality and the plan of salvation. Find natural ways to discuss these topics on a regular basis.
Consider how you might help your child understand that he or she is not alone in this struggle. This might include explaining that many people feel drawn to pornography. It can be helpful for a child to know that he or she is not abnormal because of an interest in sexuality or pornography.
Consult various sources of information as you seek to identify your child’s needs. This can be especially helpful when a child appears to be making a sincere effort to change but isn’t having success. There may be underlying needs that require attention.