We desire for our children to have the same childhood experiences that we had growing up. We remember the magic and joy of being a child, of seeing the world differently through innocent and curious minds, and we want to encourage and preserve that magic for our children.
A grave reality of our times, however, is that our children can encounter something damaging so much more easily than we did at their age, through social media, web sites, and technology. While these are powerful tools which can be both fun and useful if used correctly, it is a wearying struggle trying to protect our children from its misuse, and we cannot be their shadow:
Michelle overheard some older kids talking in the lunchroom about sex acts and did a web search of the words they used.
Sarah’s boyfriend asked her to send naked photos of herself, and sent some to her in return.
An advertisement online encouraged Sam to click to a pornographic website.
Katie noticed her parents had a mature TV show in their Netflix queue and decided to watch it, too.
A stranger messaged Tommy on a children’s game app and asked for pictures and information before introducing him to pornographic images.
Whether your young son or daughter approached you about finding pornography, or you learned about it afterwards, it is distressing. You are not alone in your discomfort and sorrow, but if you want to nurture your children and respond helpfully, here are seven steps to approaching this situation well:
- Stay calm. Your children need you to guide them through all of their external and internal battles, and a positive reaction will encourage them to continue to come to you in the future. It is normal for you to feel a myriad of emotions, but your children need to feel safe with you and loved by you.
- Thank your children for coming to you instead of hiding or seeking for answers elsewhere. Children are naturally curious, and God has designed the naked body to be beautiful. You are the best source of information for your children to learn more about how God designed sex and people’s bodies.
- Do something! You may feel very uncomfortable, or think your child is still too young for you to have this conversation with them, but doing nothing leaves children to process alone or worse, to go back to pornography for answers. Your children need you to step up and respond, gently but quickly.
- Know that you are exactly what your children need right now, whether you know what to say or not. Your children don’t want a lecture, they want your loving support and encouragement.
- Spark a healthy and positive conversation. There is a wealth of information about the beauty of sex and the godliness of body (Genesis 1:27), some of which you should share with them. But this is not the time for a one-sided conversation. Invite your children to share what they saw and how they feel, and to ask questions. Listen to them. This is how you teach them to feel safe and comfortable with coming to you for help.
- Seek out support. You need a place away from your children where you can freak out. Find trusted friends you can talk to about your own feelings and how this has changed your children or your family. You and your spouse should find time to talk and pray together, as well.
- Remember that your children are still your children. It is devastating to find out that our children have been introduced to pornography. Yet we must remember that they’re still young children despite what they may have seen, and a stumble or a fall does not mean the battle is lost. Continue to nurture their innocence, to satisfy their curiosity in healthy outlets, and to build up a culture of purity in your home.
When something like this happens, we can be tempted to move quickly past and act like it never happened. But with some patience, prayer, and work, this can be turned into an opportunity to inspire healthy conversation and to foster deeper relationships within your family.
For more on parenting in the digital age, tune into our current podcast series on the Regeneration Ministries podcast. You can find it on our website or wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also bring PG | Parental Guidance Needed to your church.
Question: What is the best advice or lesson you’ve learned about talking to your children about pornography? Share it here and continue our list!
Praying for our kids,
I love this post because it is open and honest about the curiosity of children and our natural attractions to sex and nakedness. I believe children are currently exposed to sex and sexuality at younger ages than many of us were. As a result parents really do need to be aware of this and create a loving and safe space where this can all be discussed. My one disagreement with this post is the statement, “You are the best source of information for your children to learn more about how God designed sex and people’s bodies.” I know that we all want this statement to be true, but I don’t think it always is and I think historically the church has done a very poor job of talking about sex in a healthy way. As a result there are many within the church who do not know how to talk about sex, who turn it in to something that is shameful, and as a result ignore it and consequently without knowing it push their children to educate themselves. I think that many Christian adults actually have unhealthy views of sexuality. I just think it is helpful to acknowledge that education about sex and sexuality should not come solely from within the home. I think and wish/want the home to be the healthy starting point for these conversations, but in reality it is frequently not the case for many. I would imagine that those who are here have a larger understanding of that truth and complexity. I think in someways by stating that the home is the only place where these discussions are to be had has had a negative backlash upon the whole subject by relegating it to hush hush conversations, thus encouraging sex and sexual desire to be seen as something more bad than good.
Megan, thank you for your thoughtful comment and for pointing out the flaw with my second point. You’re right that many parents aren’t equipped to be the best resource for their children to learn about God’s design for sexuality. Your point is well taken. I hope your comment will encourage parents to aspire to become that “best source” for their kids and to seek out additional help where they need it!