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My Kid Was Exposed to Pornography

You have done everything you can to protect your children from the horrors of the world. Sometimes the best you can do, is help them through it.

You’ve learned your kid was exposed to pornography, and you’re wondering what to do next. Perhaps your heart is racing, your breathing is irregular, and you can’t concentrate. Maybe, like me, you’ve cried and screamed in anger, sadness, or depression. Maybe you’ve collapsed from exhaustion or are overwhelmed and want to quit this parenting business. I get it. It’s a lot.

Let me reassure you. You are not alone. I’ve been there. So have many parents before you.

My Kid Was Exposed to Pornography! How Could This Happen?

“What?! What did you say?”

“I was watching porn and . . .” My fourteen-year-old son’s mouth was moving, but my brain couldn’t comprehend the words escaping it. My husband and I had been on a walk when we saw him outside our front door, crying hysterically and motioning for us to come home quickly. He was more distraught than I’ve ever seen him. He was in full-blown panic mode.

Did he just say he was watching porn? We stood in our yard, surrounded by green grass, blue skies, and vibrant flowers. But my world went dark.

In the following hour, I learned my son had watched pornography periodically the previous year. He confessed because someone was extorting him. A fake warning appeared on his screen—pay money or be arrested—prompting him to tell his dad and me.

The Dark Secret of Pornography Addiction: In Children

That discovery opened my eyes to an underground world I didn’t know existed and motivated me to add filters to devices and update rules that were apparently too lenient. But, it wasn’t the end of my son’s porn use.

A year and a half later, at age sixteen, he confessed again, this time divulging the full story. He had been looking at pornography since he was nine or ten, and was addicted.

At the time, I questioned my parenting skills. While I had known pornography existed, I thought not my kid. My husband is a pastor. We raised our children in a Christian home and homeschooled them. If ever any child had the best opportunity to make biblical choices, it was my son. And yet, he was curious.

That’s the rub. Most children stumble onto pornography by accident, but many search for it out of curiosity. Unfortunately, the power the images hold is incredible, and what may start as simple inquisitiveness can become a raging battle.

Between those two confessions and for several years afterward, my husband and I walked through his problems and the ramifications that spilled into our lives, alone. I only confided in one out-of-state friend, unable to reveal this secret to other friends, family, or church members.

While we scrambled to help our son, I experienced all the emotions—anger, sadness, pain, betrayal, shame, and guilt. I needed help. I longed for another mom who had been in my position to put her arms around me and let me cry, shout, and process.

Seven Steps to Help You and Your Child

Many parents experience the same emotional turmoil. They desire support and practical help but can’t turn to those closest to them. The shame, guilt, and stigma stop them from disclosing their dilemma. If you’ve learned your child has seen pornography, I’d like to offer these seven steps, based on my personal journey and experience helping other parents.

1. Pause and Pray

When we encounter a traumatic situation, our instinct is to resolve it as quickly as possible. However, we should not address the issue until we’re mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ready. If your child is dealing with a pornography problem, it didn’t develop overnight, and it won’t be fixed overnight. It’s okay to hit the pause button. Breathe.

If your child confessed or you’ve already had discussions that didn’t end well, tell them you’d like to take a break from the conversations while you gather your thoughts and pray.

Seek God’s guidance. Each circumstance is unique and requires a unique response. Lean on God’s wisdom. Trust Him to lead you.

2. Process

Take the time to internalize the information you’ve obtained and allow your emotions to settle. Process your feelings.

During this period, analyze the facts, what you know and what you don’t know about pornography. For example, you may have learned your son or daughter saw pornography while at a friend’s house. Do you know if this was their first exposure or one of many, how it made them feel, and how they responded? Gather some non-threatening questions to ask your child at the appropriate time. Try not to make assumptions. One encounter with pornography does not mean your child is a porn addict. However, it’s a legitimate concern.

Do you know the long-term effects of pornography on the brain and how porn use affects future relationships? Do you understand the types of pornography available? Research the dangers to help your child understand their choices. Be ready to discuss God’s design for sex and how pornography impedes sexual intimacy.

3. Protect Devices

Pornography is easily accessible and children can stumble onto it accidentally. Therefore, all households should utilize filters on Wi-Fi routers and each device, along with parental controls. Filters are like seatbelts. They help keep us safe. However, they are not foolproof, so the best line of offense and defense is ongoing conversations.

4. Communicate

When you discover your kid has been exposed to pornography, express your unconditional love. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Value your child. Avoid shaming or blaming. Use appropriate body language.

Make the initial conversation brief. The purpose is to collect information about the exposure and remind them you are on their side.

Schedule times to check in with your child, daily at first. As the discussions progress, re-evaluate check-in times and length. Don’t be discouraged if your child is unresponsive. Keep trying. Regular one-on-one conversations show you care and help break down barriers. The objective is for them to trust you and eventually be comfortable opening up.

5. Evaluate Boundaries

Assess your boundaries and update them as needed. This list is not exhaustive, but rather a starting point.

Consider these options:

  • no devices in bathrooms or bedrooms
  • leaving devices in parents’ bedroom every night
  • shutting off the Wi-Fi at a particular time every night
  • screen time limits
  • not leaving your child home alone
  • deleting social media apps
  • evaluating friendships and time with friends
  • what activities may be triggers, and daily routine.

Remind your child that boundaries are in place for their protection because you love them. If a child is mature enough, ask them what they believe are appropriate boundaries. They are more likely to follow the rules when consulted.

6. Maintain Self-Care

Prioritize your physical, emotional, and spiritual care. A healthy parent is more effective. Rest, eat well, exercise, and take mental breaks. Pray and read Scripture.

7. Find A Friend

I encourage you to find one confidante. When we disclose our problems to a trusted friend, counselor, or pastor, they can listen, pray, evaluate, and offer practical advice when necessary. They share our burden and offer hope. You Are Not Alone

Pornography is pervasive. Many parents are learning their kids have been exposed to, or are watching, pornography regularly. While this is troublesome and should make us pay attention, we don’t have to journey through the process on our own.

Find a support system. And remember, nothing is new or shocking to God. He cares about you and your child, and He is walking this road with you both.

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