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7 Mistakes Parents Make When They Learn Their Kid is Watching Porn

Discovering your young son or daughter has been exposed to pornography is upsetting.  You can’t make your children un-see what they saw, but you can help turn a bad thing into an opportunity for good conversation and a deeper connection with you around a very important topic.

This week Josh jumps into 7 very important things not to do when you as a Parent find out your son or daughter has been looking at porn.

Let us equip ourselves and one another as we continue towards “Becoming Whole.”

Highlights:

So many of us when we find out a son or daughter’s been viewing porn, we feel paralyzed, we feel concerned we don’t know what to do, we feel inadequate, we don’t feel prepared for this. Temptation is a normal human experience for men and women living in a fallen world, including saved men and women, Christian men, and women who have a new identity in Christ.

…if your son or daughter has been exposed to pornography, they’ve been exposed to something that has troubled the waters of their soul, that it is disruptive stuff that they’ve seen.

Don’t ignore those things in your heart, this is actually an opportunity for you to grow closer to Jesus.

7 Things Not to do:

  • Don’t freak out
  • Don’t shame your kids
  • Don’t do nothing
  • Don’t let your own failures disqualify you
  • Don’t lecture
  • Don’t go it alone
  • Don’t make your children your god

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Resources:

Read more about this topic at 7 Things Not to Do When Your Child’s Exposed to Porn
Read Josh’s new book  Treading Boldly through a Pornographic World: A Field Guide for Parents

Click for Full Podcast Transcription

Several years ago, I talked to a mom on the phone who was very distraught, she was very upset. She had a teenage son and upperclassmen in high school who had been asked to not return to their churches youth group, because he had been caught sending inappropriate pictures to underclassmen in the youth group. And she was devastated. She was very, very concerned for her son, obviously, the son was devastated and humiliated and felt terrible about what he had done. And of course, the girl or girls that he’d sent pictures to also felt very, very uncomfortable and were challenged by what had happened to. So it was a mess all the way around sad all the way around. One of these that was the saddest to me in the conversation with the mom was she indicated that several years before she and her husband had found porn on their son’s computer. And they hadn’t really done anything. In response, they thought the problem would just go away. And she asked me that conversation. She said, Josh, do you think that might have played into what happened recently? Well, the answer is probably yes. And I can’t say that for sure. But probably yes. To many parents, when they find out a son or daughter has been exposed to porn, or has been looking at porn, don’t do anything. And so in this podcast, I want to give you seven things not to do when a son or daughter is exposed to porn, seven things not to do. Now listen, if you are not a parent, I would encourage you to listen in any way for two reasons. Number one, I guarantee you, you know, a parent who can benefit from what I’m about to talk about. And secondly, if you yourself were exposed to porn, I want you to listen with the ears of that I received the kind of help I needed when I was dealing with porn as a teenager. So listen, with both those ears, I think it’s going to be helpful for all of us. So you’re ready. Seven things not to do when a son or daughter is exposed to porn. Thing number one, you might already guess this one thing number one is don’t do nothing. So many of us when we find out a son or daughter’s been viewing porn, we feel paralyzed, we feel concerned we don’t know what to do, we feel inadequate, we don’t feel prepared for this. And so a lot of parents just to kind of hope it goes away. They think maybe this is just a phase the person’s going through. Maybe their son or daughter just stumbled into it and won’t do it again, they seem like a good kid. In other areas, I would encourage you don’t do nothing. Because if a son or daughter has or is developing a habit of looking at pornography, you not doing anything is really, I mean, it boils down to this. In essence, you are giving up your parental Place your parenting in the area of sexuality and you are handing it over to pornographers, you in essence, are saying, I’m not gonna be your parent in this area, I’m gonna let pornographers be your parent in the area of your sexual development. And I guarantee you moms and dads, I guarantee you, you do not want pornographers parenting your kids and care for life. However inadequate you are, they are going to do a much much, much, much, much worse job than you will. So don’t do nothing. That’s the number one. Thing number two, don’t charge in. Don’t The moment you find out that a son or daughter’s been exposed to pornography, don’t just go at them with guns ablaze. And don’t freak out on your son or daughter. Most of us need to take some breaths between when we discover a son or daughter’s been exposed to pornography. And when we actually talked to them about it, get your bearings, take some breath, take some time to debrief, take some time to pray. It might feel like an urgent, urgent thing for you to do and it is important that you don’t wait forever. But likelihood the chances that this just started yesterday is very, very slim. So it’s not gonna hurt for you to take a day, take two days, do what you need to do, to get yourself ready to have a conversation where you can be the adult in the situation instead of the one he’s freaking out and your son or daughter. I want to put it this way, if your son or daughter has been exposed to pornography, they’ve been exposed to something that has troubled the waters of their soul, that it is disruptive stuff that they’ve seen. And it probably has riled him up. A lot of kids talk about how when they first saw porn, they’re both drawn to it, and really grossed out by offended by it. disturbed by it. And so if you freak out on them, it’s just going to increase the possibility they’re experiencing of shame is going to be transferred to you and you don’t want them to feel ashamed around you. Alright, so that’s Thing number two, don’t charge in one, don’t do nothing, but also don’t charge in. The third thing. Don’t go it alone. I’ve talked to too many parents who get in a situation where they because they feel embarrassed for their son or daughter because they don’t know who to talk to. Maybe they’ve talked a little bit to their son or daughter and the son or daughter said please don’t tell Mom, please don’t tell Dad, please don’t tell anybody else. Parents. I understand that knee jerk reaction to keep your son or daughter’s privacy private. But you’re going to need help shouldering what you’re going through with this, and you’re likely going to need adult help around you. It really boils down to this in this category. If you don’t get help shouldering what you’re bearing in this, then you’re going to end up either crashing underneath the weight of it or you’re going to be placing on your son or daughter’s shoulders. And you don’t want either one of those because that’s not going to put you set you in a place where you can be able to help them long term. So a son or daughter asks you please don’t tell mom please don’t click tell that. Don’t make that promise. If they say, Don’t Tell, please don’t tell anybody, I’ll say, Listen, this is this is important stuff, and you are too important. I don’t know a ton about this, and you are too important for me to try to kind of fudge my way through it. So I’m gonna, I’m not promising you, that won’t tell anybody. But I do promise you this, that whoever I choose to tell will be someone who is trustworthy, and you will not share it with anybody else. Okay. And they may, you know, hide their head in the pillow when you say that, and they may not like that. But trust me in the long run, it’s going to be worth it. And they’re going to thank you for it at some point. So number one, don’t do nothing. Number two, don’t charge in number three, don’t go it alone. Number four. Don’t ignore your own heart. I’ve kind of been talking about this already. But a lot of parents that you know, they they they discover Sen has been exposed to porn. And the problem looks like the son or daughter’s porn use. And that’s true. But you also now have another problem, which is your own heart. What’s your heart doing in response to this, it’s too easy to try to ignore on hearts. When you get on an airplane, the instructions they give you if that if the cabin pressure drops, they’re gonna be oxygen masks that come down, put your own mask on first before you try to help your son or daughter. Why? Because if you don’t, likely, you’re going to conk out somewhere along the line, and you won’t help yourself or your son or daughter. So don’t ignore your own heart. And this also includes this, a lot of us, a lot of us, when our kids go through something difficult in life, it taps into some of our own past story as well. Maybe you’ve got a past sexual history that you’ve never dealt with or never faced or never confessed. Maybe you struggle currently with pornography or you’re, you know, just starting to shake the habit yourself and get help for yourself. It’s going to tap into all sorts of stuff there. Maybe it’s not related to sexuality, maybe you struggle with anxiety, or miss trusting God, or you just you struggle with some other aspect of being a mom or a dad. Don’t ignore those things in your heart, this is actually an opportunity for you to grow closer to Jesus. And for you to give him more access to yourself so that you can have more to give your son or daughter in the long run. You know, we are our kids parents. But we are still kids to our Heavenly Father. And so let him parent you through the things that are stirred up in your heart through this. So that’s the number four. Thing number five, when it does come to talk to your son or daughter Don’t lecture, Don’t lecture. Now if my kids are listening to this podcast, I’m going to tell you, Dad, take your own advice. Because I just slip into lecturing, I slip into teaching mode, I’m way too easily moved that way. That’s kind of the way I’m wired. It doesn’t work that well, your kids don’t need you to spend a lecture, likely after a minute or two, they’re going to check out to some degree, a lot of them. Some of them are probably can sustain longer than that. And some of like really hunger to hear what you have to say yet, but you had to fill that out. Typically, instead of like, just think Don’t lecture instead of lecturing, you want to listen, you want to create an environment in that conversation with your son or daughter, where you are listening a lot to what they have to say. Now, they may not want to say a lot. But that’s okay. Because if you’re setting the environment up in a situation where it gives them the feeling that you want to listen that you care about what they have to say and what they’ve been experiencing, then even if it’s not in this conversation, even if it’s not an every conversation every once in a while that they’ll know Okay, I have something to say and I know mom and dad are safe place for me to go with this because they listen well to me. And when I talk to them, I feel like they really hear me. So don’t lecture instead, listen, the other reason you want to listen is because as you asked good questions, just good open ended questions. And and by the way, when you’re asking questions here, you’re not asking questions like a private investigator trying to dig up dirt you’re at you are seeking like, like a geologist gently trying to uncover, you know, tender fossils that you don’t want to ruin. So you asking questions like, hey, just tell me what’s been going on? And when did this start for you? And what’s it been like for you? And does anyone else know? And how have you been feeling about this? And is it something that you you’re feeling okay about? Are you feeling conflicted about it? That kind of stuff. You might ask him, if they’re uncomfortable with it, they say they don’t like to have you. They don’t like what they’re doing. Asked him? Have you tried to stop? And what’s that been? Like? What’s it been like not to be able to stop, just listen to them. part, the reason you wanna listen to them is it’ll, you know, it’ll speak to them. But also, it’ll give you more information about the depth and breadth of what they’re dealing with. It’ll give you more information about like, oh, it seems to kind of a new thing for them. Or you know what this seems like it’s been going on a long time, I actually might need to get them some extra help. So listen, listen, listen, ask good questions. And listen, Don’t lecture. But listen, that’s number five. Number six. Don’t be perfectionistic not with them and not with yourself. Nobody is perfect. You are not trying to set up a conversation that you just have one perfect conversation. And that’s it and everything turns around. That is a myth. It’s not going to happen. Matter of fact, this is an opportunity to even downshift and say, Look, you we haven’t talked much about sexual desire and pornography and online use and you know, over the years, but we need to do it like this is a part of your life and I’m your mom, or I’m your dad. And so we’re gonna have lots of conversations about it. And don’t just make those conversations all about the pornography, but, you know, talk about other things too. And oh, I mean, this is just an extra bonus, I’ll throw this in here for you. Make sure that you’re talking about other stuff to have fun with your son or daughter, don’t let this thing be the vortex that pulls all your conversations back to and how you deal with pornography because your son or daughter is going to avoid you if you do that. So don’t do that. So don’t be perfectionistic you’re not looking for a once and done thing. You’re looking for lots of conversations, and really opening up a new door in your relationship with your son or daughter. Alright, that leads us to last thing. The last thing that you don’t want to do, don’t be all about what your son or daughter should not do. I know that’s a lot of negatives in there. And it’s ironic that I’m saying Don’t be all about what they shouldn’t be doing after doing a podcast and seven things not to do. But here’s the point. So often, when we’re trying to disciple our kids and their sexuality, we tell them, we talked to them about what they shouldn’t be doing. You shouldn’t be looking at porn, you shouldn’t be lusting, you shouldn’t be doing this. And we do that. And we fail to talk about what they should be for. And so I want to just close with this idea. And it’s an idea that’s really helped me in my parenting. And I hope it’ll help you. Instead of primarily letting these conversations being about what you’re not about. Make the conversation about love. Make the conversation about love. The reason pornography is forbidden. The reason we shouldn’t go to pornography is because it is it is against love. It works against being people who love other people. Well, when we’re looking at pornography, we’re not loving the men and women in pornography. Well, we’re actually treating them like objects. When we train our brains to lust after people we’re not treating other people while we’re at least we start to see objects instead of people. So make your conversations about love. The reason this is so helpful too is as your son or daughter is trying to break the habit of pornography forgot if they’ve had the habit, then as they have conversations with you, it’s not about just about their failures. Now you can now if they have a stumble, if they dip back into pornography, if they’re looking at something they shouldn’t. He said okay, well, you know, if we’re if the aim is becoming a loving person and receiving receiving love and becoming a loving person, then what’s the next step? Yeah, you want to receive my love and receive God’s love for you. He forgives you, He gives mercy to you. So let Why don’t we just pray and invite him to help you receive His love, even though you’ve stumbled? And then and then what do you do? How can you love from here? I just find that to be such a more hopeful conversation than just kind of checking off the boxes about what you want to don’t want to do. Alright, listen. Last thing. If you want to learn more about this I please selfish selfish plug here. Take a look at my new book that I co authored with a good friend of mine, Daniel Weiss, the books called treading boldly through a pornographic world a field guide for parents, we just brushed on these topics. And these seven things are really all about you. We didn’t even get a whole lot into what to do for your son or daughter. And treading boldly through a pornographic world gets into all of it so you can find out more about trading boldly at trading, boldly calm, or in the show notes for this episode. Jesus, thank you so much that you are a good good father to us. Thank you, you care about our hearts and you walk with us through the ups and downs of our lives even in our parenting. Lord, I pray for every parent listening, that you’d hold them close. And Lord in turn, I pray that each one of their sons and daughters would feel held close by you to pray all these things down the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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