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7 Things Not to Do When Your Child’s Exposed to Porn

We love the innocence of little children. They see the world through fresh eyes, laugh easily, dance without feeling embarrassed. Being around them even helps us to see the world differently.

Many summers ago, a little girl was visiting our family and playing outside when it started to rain. Hard. We all ran for shelter. As we stood staring out at the pouring rain, I wondered how disappointed the girl was that the rain had interrupted her play. The next moment, she looked over at me with a bright smile and said, “I love the rain. It’s so happy!”

Naturally, we want to protect the innocence of children we love as long as we can. And it is an uphill battle:

• Eight-year old Owen was curious and did a web search of the word “boobies.”
• A boy in Timmy’s class was showing kids naked images of women on his iPhone.
• Katie was looking up pictures of bunnies she could draw.
• His older brother was careful to skip over inappropriate YouTube videos when Sam was watching with him. But Sam noticed those videos and felt drawn to them. He found a way to come back later to watch the videos his older brother avoided.

Discovering your young son or daughter has been exposed to pornography is upsetting. If you want to respond helpfully and not make the situation worse, avoid these seven common mistakes:

  1. Don’t freak out. As much as you can, be a steady source of love, security, and grace, so your children can come to you with whatever external and internal battles they’ll face as they grow.
  2. Don’t shame your kids for being curious or for being drawn to pornographic images. In a very real way, your kids’ curiosity and attraction to nakedness are good. God designed the naked body to be “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). What’s not good is the way pornography misuses people’s bodies, nakedness, and sex.
  3. Don’t do nothing. You may feel uncomfortable and may not want to “respond badly,” but these are not good excuses to do nothing. Your son or daughter needs you, otherwise they’re left to their own devices to try to figure out how they’re going to process what they’ve seen. Actually, without you, they’re left alone with the messages pornographers want them to hear, and pornographers are terrible sex-educators. You want that job.
  4. Don’t let your own failures disqualify you from speaking into your children’s lives. If you haven’t done this perfectly, I’ll bet one factor may have been a lack of healthy, loving conversation with your parents about sex when you were growing up. Your kids don’t need perfection, they need your loving involvement.
  5. Don’t lecture. Invite your son or daughter to tell you what they saw and how it made them feel. In response, listen and thank them for talking with you about it. This is a part of how you let them know you’re a good resource for them no matter what they’re walking through. And listening well means you’ll better be able to decide a good course of action moving forward.
  6. Don’t go it alone. You need a place you can freak out, people you can talk to, trusted friends you can open up to about how all this is impacting you, and godly input about what you can do. I’m increasingly convinced we can’t be the kinds of parents we want to be without others helping us.
  7. Don’t make your children your god. Your well-being cannot be grounded in how well or poorly your son or daughter is doing. It’s enough for your children to try to make sense of what they’ve seen and how it made them feel. Their child-sized shoulders can’t bear the weight of your adult-sized needs.

    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 deeper connection with you around a topic that is so important.

For more on parenting your pre-teen and teen kids in this digital, sex-saturated culture, bring Regeneration’s PG – Parental Guidance Needed conference to your church and keep an eye on our new web site for more helpful content like this.

Question: What other do’s and don’ts have you learned about responding when a son or daughter is exposed to porn?

Praying for our kids,
Josh

7 thoughts on “7 Things Not to Do When Your Child’s Exposed to Porn”

  1. Josh, one of your best. I will use this blog when I e-mail about 60 people to invite them to the testimony dessert nights that Baltimore and N. Virginia are having in April. Thanks for giving me material to send when I invite my friends to support this important work

  2. Josh, really good on the number of fronts. I’m wondering, you write: ‘without you, they’re left alone with the messages pornographers want them to hear…’ What are those messages?

    1. I’d be interested to hear others’ thoughts on your question, too, Connally. Real quickly, some of the messages I believe pornographers want our kids to hear include:
      1. People are no more than objects to use for your own pleasure.
      2. Women want sex the same way sexually addicted men do.
      3. No doesn’t really mean no.
      4. Violence and sex go together.
      5. Deviant sex is normal and healthy.
      6. Porn stars and porn producers are normal, healthy, happy people with great sex lives.
      7. Porn is your secret friend.

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