“How do I respond when I discover my child has viewed pornography?” Help for Parents (2019)
“How do I respond when I discover my child has viewed pornography?” Help for Parents
Children may feel confused when they are first exposed to pornography. They may feel guilt or shame, particularly if they’ve been taught the dangers of pornography. In responding to our children’s pornography use, we should follow our loving Heavenly Father’s example of parenthood. As we strive to emulate His efforts by establishing open communication with our children, we can help our children feel safe when talking to us.
Some children may not tell their parents that they have seen pornography, while other children will come to their parents seeking help. How might we prepare ourselves to respond to our children in a loving way regardless of how we discover their pornography exposure?
We may overreact when we discover that our children have viewed pornography. Feelings of fear can lead us to be less loving and supportive than we’d like to be. However, the best response is often to show love while seeking to understand the situation. Our children may be feeling shame, and we can help diffuse that shame by asking them questions about what they are feeling, what they experienced and saw, and what they hope to do moving forward. It’s important that we help our children feel safe and protected rather than fearful and vulnerable.
We have many opportunities to encourage our children to come unto Christ. When we discover they have viewed pornography, we can help them understand why it’s harmful to their happiness. This may also be a good time to reinforce teachings about the role of sexuality in our lives, the God-given sexual feelings that we have, and how pornography can distort those feelings. It’s also important to carefully emphasize the evils of pornography, including the false information about sexual relationships.
As we seek to connect with our children, we can ask meaningful questions to help us understand our children’s experiences and how they are feeling. When we do so, we can gain insight about what they know and what they need to understand about human sexuality and intimacy.
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 creating a list with your children of the ways in which pornography can harm them, their future relationships, their understanding about sexual relationships between men and women, society, and so on. You may want to consider the teachings found in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 145) to guide your thoughts.
Talk with your child about the normal feelings that occur when people their age see pornography. Seek to remove feelings of fear or embarrassment. Discuss why the Lord has directed us to turn away from pornography.
Consider your own feelings regarding sexuality and pornography. How can you confront any fears you might have about discussing these topics before talking to your children?
Look for opportunities in everyday situations to discuss human sexuality. Try to better understand your child and his or her day-to-day experiences.
Seek to understand the difference between shame and guilt and how to identify and explain that difference (see Wendy Ulrich, “It Isn’t a Sin to Be Weak,” Ensign, Apr. 2015, 30–35; Liahona, Apr. 2015, 20–25).