What do you do when you suspect your teenager is viewing pornography?
Many parents are nervous to bring it up, because kids often just deny it and get mad at you for thinking they would, creating distance between you and your child. However, it's a topic that can't go undiscussed. The secret to making these conversations comfortable, effective and connected is learning how to talk about pornography from a place of loving concern, not fear.
It's important you have conversations about pornography with all your school-aged children. Because of smartphones, studies show children are being exposed to pornography as early as eight years old. So, it must become a topic that is addressed often with all your kids.
It's also important that you don't make your child feel dirty, bad or ashamed. When approached with shame or embarrassment, a discussion about pornography becomes unproductive, combative and closed off. It is very important that your responses are based in love and wisdom, not fear.
Fear-based responses don't work, because they tend to be focused on making you feel better, more than on giving your child what he needs. But how do you not have fear when you are really scared for your child and their future?
You must learn how to get into a trusting state before you have these conversations. We recommend using these two principles to eliminate fear and bring love back into the picture:
Trust your intrinsic value as a person and a parent. Also, trust that your child's worth and value are both infinite and absolute. No matter how many challenges arise, mistakes are made, or tempers are lost, you will always still have the same intrinsic worth as every other soul on the planet. You cannot fail as a parent and your child's value is secure no matter what choices they make. This life is a classroom, not a test.
See the universe as a wise teacher that will always deliver the perfect lessons we need, exactly when we need them. There is order in the universe — you can trust your child that will eventually make harmful choices, but you can also trust that they can learn from these choices. Through it all, their value and your love will always be the same.
Remember, your teen is not a bad person because he has been viewing pornography. He is a normal person who has been exposed to porn because of natural curiosity, which should be approached with love.
Here is a love based way to speak to a teenager about pornography:
Before you approach them, set your agenda aside and be ready to ask questions and really listen to what they think and feel, without judgment.
Ask if they would be willing to chat with you for a minute (and if they are), ask questions about their views on pornography are and what they have been exposed to or heard about it at school.
Of course they aren't going to admit much and that's OK at this point. Listen and make them feel safe as they explain what they will share. Then, ask permission to share your views on pornography — "Would you ever be open to letting me share a liitle about what I have learned about it over the years?"
Spend time calmly sharing why you feel pornography is damaging. Use all "I" statements and share why you have decided (for you) not to view it. Explain the ways you believe it damages real relationships and how viewing pornography now could actually make it difficult to have a good, healthy, intimate relationship with a spouse later on.
Admit that when you were their age you were really curious about sex and wanted to understand the whole thing, but in those days, you couldn't turn to a phone or computer for those answers. You had to get your questions answered by adults and peers who were willing to actually talk about sex. Let them know you would love to be that person for them and can discuss sex without making a big deal about it or making them feel bad for being curious. Give them a better option than turning to the internet.
Let them know that curiosity is normal. Explain why you don't view porn, because of the way it can change the way you see other people and why that's a problem. Explain how it creates unrealistic expectations around sex and can even become addictive. Share your values and why you have decided to avoid it.
Make sure your the number one goal is making sure your teenager knows you love them unconditionally and you are there for them anytime.
Even if you do a great job with the conversation it's not a guaranteed that your teen will not react in anger. Understand how this conversation can be awkward and hard for them (not to mention a bit embarrassing). Don't take any reaction your child has personally — a fear-based reaction from them is not about you. Just reassure your child of your love for them and reiterate how you are always there to talk anything through without judgement. Let them know you will always love them no matter what.
You can do this.