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As I often tell my therapy clients, when it comes to their children and pornography, “it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.” Now, I know that it may sound like I’m a pessimist or an old curmudgeon that’s been worn out by all the negativity that he sees in the news, but in actuality, I’m quite the opposite. I am more of the “glass is half full” type of person who tries to see the good in most situations. But since learning more about the issue of pornography in our world today, the tactics use by this industry to draw our youth in, as well as the effects it has on their brains, I believe strongly that, as parents, we can’t sit back and just hope for the best. We need to be preparing ourselves and our children for when exposure to porn happens, because they will be exposed at some point in their life, like it or not. Plus, we need to have a plan.

Since walking through this issue with one of my own children, I have learned some very important lessons that I would like to share. These concepts have helped me in guiding my child through a very difficult time, while at the same time strengthening our relationship in the process. 

So, here are the lessons I’ve learned as a parent:

1. Make time to know and build trust with your kids.

This may sound like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how many parents are not taking the time to really know their child or have heart-to-heart connections with their children, outside of making sure they do their homework, clean their room, or stop burping at the table. As parents, our kids need to know that we care about them and their feelings and are invested in their lives. We need to be quick to listen to them more so than we need to be quick with having answers. Our presence with them is more important than our presents for them. Building this trust early on is often critical for those bigger, more dangerous times when we need them to trust us even more.

2. Utilize the Holy Spirit.

My wife taught me this one. She is always asking the Holy Spirit for help in knowing how to help our children and to know when their hearts are struggling or in trouble. When our first child got involved in viewing pornography, she felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to check into the situation. We were able to catch this child early on and to work with them before they were months or years into feeling the effects of an addictive behavior. So, I too have learned to utilize this great Advocate and have been able to help my children early on through some very difficult situations.  

3. Be disappointed and concerned, but don’t shame or allow anger to get the best of you.

Too often, our disappointment in our children’s actions can get the best of us. We often worry that their choices will reflect on us (the ones who are supposed to teach them right from wrong) and worry not only about their well-being but how this will look to others. Sometimes our anger can get the best of us because we know that we have tried to give them only the best and we just can’t believe they would make a choice like this. Or, we might be worried about the path they may be headed down. But, we need to remember that our responses will either encourage them to seek out our assistance in the future as they try to conquer this powerful attraction, or our anger and shaming will only push them further into themselves where they will battle this temptation alone and in silence.

4. Educate yourself and your children.

We, as parents, need to know what we are up against in this battle for the souls of our children. We need to understand not only the bad aspects of how pornography has damaged the lives of so many individuals, within the business and outside of it, but also how it damages the soul and re-wires the human brain. We need to understand the beauty of God’s gift of sexuality and why the attraction to the body is normal but is still meant to be kept sacred and kept for the One Flesh Union gift within marriage. It is then important to help your children also know these same things. If you can educate these truths to them little by little as they grow up, and according to what they are capable of handling, it can prepare you better for the big talk you’ll need to have when pornography finds its way into your child’s life.

5. Use a filter on all devices (and decide if they really need each one).

Don’t assume that just because your child is a good kid, that you don’t need a filter on every electronic device they have that has access to the Internet. That’s like not putting a fence around your backyard because you know your child is an obedient child who would never go beyond the property line. That may be the case, but that doesn’t account for the dangers that will enter into your property that could harm your child. Pornography doesn’t just sit and wait to be accidentally found. Promoters of it have methods of finding your children when and where they least expect it. The porn industry is actively seeking out the next generation of users to fuel its machine.

6. Let them know that you are here to help in those times when they are conflicted.

Let them know that you care, and show them you are trustworthy to come to and talk about this issue with when they are conflicted and having strong temptations—or even when they fall. Sympathize with them, and if possible, have the same-sex parent be the one who opens this door to them. Let them know that it is every person’s battle, but that they don’t have to do it alone. Let them know about the spiritual gifts we have at our disposal to work through this issue (spiritual advisors, confession, prayer together, etc.). Be their accountability person with patience and grace. Sometimes, they will even trust you in this role when they enter into adulthood, if you show them you really care for them in this fight. 

7. Pray for them incessantly! 

Never stop praying for them. God wants the best for them, and He is the one who truly has their back. He will be the one that helps them when they are beyond your reach and in places, you don’t even know about. Don’t ever underestimate the powerful graces that come from the prayer of both a father and mother!

Resource
Confident: Helping Parents Navigate Online Exposure

Confident: Helping Parents Navigate Online Exposure

Description

When a parent discovers his or her child or teenager has been looking at pornography, it can be alarming, hurtful, even frightening. Confident provides a full step-by-step guide for parents who want to navigate these unchartered waters.

Audience: Parents 
Language: English and Spanish
Resource Type: Ebook  
Cost: Free download or $2 per hardcopy 

Greg Schutte achieved a Masters Degree in Social Work from Ohio State University and has an Independent License in Social Work. Currently, he is the Director of "Marriage Works! Ohio" which is a department of the Elizabeth’s New Life Center in Dayton, Ohio. He is also a marriage therapist and the author of Discovering Our Deepest Desire Catholic marriage enrichment program. Greg and his wife Stephanie have been happily married for 26 wonderful years and they are the parents of seven children. Greg also plays in the Catholic music band “ROMANS”.