“How can biological, psychological, social, and spiritual needs be affecting my child’s pornography use?” Help for Parents (2019)
“How can biological, psychological, social, and spiritual needs be affecting my child’s pornography use?” Help for Parents
It can be difficult and overwhelming to know how to best help our children overcome their pornography use. We may feel inadequate when it comes to providing the kind of help that is needed, or we may feel shame in sharing our children’s struggles with others. However, we can find hope in knowing that many resources are available to help us. Identifying what resources are best for our families is a personal process, but we can be guided by the Spirit. Consider the guidance offered in the following video.
If needed, we can turn to family members, ward leaders, and professionals for help in clarifying our children’s path to overcoming pornography, but our children are the most important people to enlist in this process. As we listen to our children and help them articulate their needs, we can honor their agency and help them feel loved and supported. Respecting the agency of children who do not want to change is difficult. And while we cannot force them, we can seek to understand the influences that contribute to their behavior.
Sometimes we incorrectly focus on one specific area of our child’s life or the particular behavior we want them to change. However, we can better help our children when we look at them as a whole and seek to understand everything that might be influencing their choices.
While focusing on the spiritual healing and growth of our children is vital to their progression, we also should consider other possible influences. It is often helpful to identify the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual influences affecting our children.
One of our biological influences is our sex drive, and we should be aware of how our sex drive influences our behavior. It’s important to help children understand that having sexual desires is a normal aspect of life and part of how God created us. Because of the strong and constant nature of these feelings, keeping these desires within the law of chastity is a challenge for most. Having frank, open, and respectful discussions about physical growth and development can be empowering to our children.
Other potential biological influences to consider might be diet and sleep habits or factors due to chemical imbalances in the body, like depression, anxiety, impulse control, and other mental health concerns that can negatively impact our ability to resist behaviors like viewing pornography. Medical professionals and other health practitioners can be helpful in such situations.
Psychological influences may include early childhood trauma, low feelings of self-worth, depression or anxiety caused by life experiences, or a number of other emotional issues. These influences may be less obvious, but identifying them can be helpful in determining what may be driving a child’s desire to continue pornography use. Discussions with our children about these and other psychological influences may help them grow emotionally. We can also seek to help our children learn how to identify and regulate their emotions.
Enlisting the help of extended family, friends, and reliable self-help resources (including books and the internet) can often prove helpful, particularly in teaching life skills related to sexual drive and expression. Depending on the situation, it may be necessary to seek qualified professional help as well.
Social needs are important in the life of a developing child. Friends, acceptance, and connection take on greater importance as children move into adolescence. We can look for natural opportunities to guide our children as they share feelings of belonging, loneliness, or confusion about interacting with members of the opposite sex. We can also seek to help them understand and control their use of social media and technology. Acquiring healthy social skills is important for any child, but particularly so for one who is struggling with peer issues and turning to pornography.
Adolescents often perceive pornography as a fantasized form of social interaction. We can help children understand that pornography does not accurately portray genuine, healthy sexual relationships. Instead, it often shows scenes that are violent, disrespectful, and dangerous and that portray people as objects to be used rather than real, meaningful intimacy. Children need to understand what God intends—that as a husband and wife we give and receive loving attention, appreciation, respect, and acceptance in order to create a mutually fulfilling sexual relationship.
Our children may need help understanding spiritual promptings, receiving revelation, and recognizing Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ’s love for us. Children need to understand that sin of any kind can weaken their ability to feel spiritual promptings from the Holy Ghost. They may also need a safe place to talk about hard questions, or they may need help learning to deal with personal imperfections. While we may strive to be diligent in teaching our children the gospel, helping them to talk about their life experiences in the context of religious teachings is important. As we continually seek to help our children feel they can discuss difficult questions with us without disappointing us, we can help them understand spiritual matters.
Rather than feeling overwhelmed and inadequate in parenting our children, we can turn to the Lord for help. He is our best resource, and He can help us know what to do to help our children.
The following video shares some additional thoughts on our children’s needs and the influences that affect our children.
Here are some ideas that others have found helpful. Prayerfully consider what actions might be best for your family, taking into account that those actions may or may not be listed here.
Consider what resources might help you teach your child about healthy sexuality and the dangers of using pornography. Potential resources include credible websites, information and videos on ChurchofJesusChrist.org, self-help books, family members, Church leaders, mental health and medical professionals, and parent support groups.
Look and pray for opportunities to help your child understand the role of sexuality in his or her life and what it means to have a healthy sex drive and healthy sexual expression. Discuss appropriate boundaries regarding the expression of sexuality as a single and married person.
Seek to understand your child’s biological, psychological, social, and spiritual influences. Ponder on how these influences are impacting the life of your child and how they might be addressed.