5 “First Response” Strategies for Parents

natural-family-planning-and-communication-e1353170921796I’m hearing from a lot of parents these days. They reach out seeking help on how to deal with a young child they suspect has been exposed to porn. Then the question that every parent has is, “what on earth do we do about it?” So I’ve put together a bit of a first response list. There may be other things that could be on this “high priority” list but for now this is what I recommend:

1. Remain calm but proactive. Doesn’t do anyone any good to freak out! Don’t think that because your child saw porn he or she will automatically become the next Jeffry Dahmer or out of control sex addict. Remember that the average age for first time exposure is somewhere around 11 so it seems inevitable. It’s not your fault as a parent if your kid is exposed because a classmate at school has a magazine or has a smart phone with unfiltered access to the web. On the other hand if your child discovers porn on your own home computer then it may be that you haven’t thought seriously about protecting your family. Exposure at any age to porn is really a reflection of the times in which we live. The challenge is to address it in a healthy way and make sure that porn doesn’t rule the day. The worst thing we can do as parents is ignore the subject altogether and just assume that our child will get through it and be ok. This is a time to engage and provide guidance through the awkward stages of early childhood and adolescence.

2. Keep the conversation ongoing. As parents we have to keep the talk about sex and sexuality (age appropriately) going in order to correct misinformation, and keep the conversation God-focused. If we provide a safe, open, environment for conversation about puberty and body changes our kids are informed and empowered to handle ongoing encounters with porn or other unhealthy sexual messages. Ignoring the issue generally creates greater curiosity and kids are resourceful enough today that they can find the answers with a simple google search. Most likely they won’t find the answers we want them to read or the images/videos we want them to see. Make sure it’s as much of a dialogue as possible. It’s easy to want to lecture our kids on sex but that tends to be less effective. Remember too that it isn’t just one awkward conversation. It may get slightly more uncomfortable and more complicated as our kids get older. Let them ask questions and avoid the cliche, pat answers. Give them a vision of what purity looks like. With pornography comes the issue of masturbation. Tough subject, but again much is gained by open, appropriate conversation. One very good resource that I highly recommend is the Passport to Purity curriculum through Family Life Ministries.

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