First of all, nobody wants to have this conversation. I avoided it for months after I thought it needed to happen. However, I’ve now stumbled through a few awkward talks with my kids (my oldest are 13 and 11), and I’m really, really glad I did. If you’ve got kids, and you live near a computer, eventually you’ll need to address it with them yourself. It will be uncomfortable, but here are 5 things to remember as you move forward into these waters.
1. Make a Plan
Orchestrate some uninterrupted alone time, and you’re less likely to chicken out. I took one of my kids on a walk in the neighborhood – something we already do from time to time. Also, I left my phone on the kitchen counter at home.
2. Have a few other things to talk about.
Don’t think about having to have a “porn talk” with your kids. You’re talking to them about life and how to navigate through the only life they have. If you don’t already talk with your kids this way, maybe don’t start with this topic.
I wanted my kids to hear about this stuff from me – but in the context of bigger things. (why God matters, what life is about, friends experiencing divorce, what it means to love and be loved, etc.) Let the issue of pornography come up in a conversation about life and healthy relationships, and then you have a conversation to return to when you’re done with the really uncomfortable stuff.
3. Lower Your Expectations
If your kid is 9 or 10 (and if you’re lucky), they may have never even heard the word “pornography” before. You won’t have to go into a lot of detail. This is the first of many conversations you’re going to have, so take a deep breath and be thankful the Clinton/Lewinski scandal is not all over the news.
4. Be Clear
My wife has helped me with this. Sometimes, I’m so uncomfortable in a conversation like this I’ll leave things too gray. That doesn’t help anyone. Being clear helps me use less words, which takes less time and is easier to understand.
1. pornography is one of the most terrible things in the world. It is a deep evil that (for most kids) is unlike anything you know about in the world so far. (You can embrace the silence that follows. You’ve got their attention. I let many seconds go by before I said anything else.)
2. It is pictures and video of things that are only meant to be very private. That is, people, with no clothes on, being very intimate with each other, in front of a camera. Do you know what intimate means? Do you know what sex is? (ask them to tell you – you may be surprised how little they understand) Pornography is people using sex in terrible ways. In my first conversation about this with my son, I left it at “people being intimate with no clothes” and “one day, you will see it. When you do, you’ll know.”
3. The reason it is so bad is because it is so powerful. God made sex to be an explosion of joy and wonder – to help keep husbands and wives deeply connected. But because of our sin, people have taken this beautiful source of power and twisted it into something evil. In this new form it is a explosion of horror and destruction, and it destroys from the inside out.
I used the example of Voldemort and the horcruxes from the Harry Potter stories. Voldemort took something beautiful and powerful – a soul – and twisted it and used it as a powerful, evil tool for himself.
4. I told my son, as dark as Voldemort is, that’s how dark this stuff is. I said, “One day, you will see it. And when you do, run.” “It will be like a car wreck on the side of the road. It will be hard to pull your eyes away, but you’ve got to. The darkness of pornography is too powerful. So, when you see it, get away as fast as you can.”
5. DON’T Over-Share
I shared that pornography has helped ruin friend’s marriages, and how, without naming any names, people we know and love today are still suffering from the explosions of destruction that pornography caused in their lives as children. However, if you, personally, struggle consistently with the temptation to view pornography on the internet, do not share that with your elementary/middle school aged child. Do not burden them with that. It is too heavy. If they ask, of course, be honest and tell them yes, you’ve seen it – you know the danger, and that’s why you’re warning them. Boys identify with their fathers, for better or for worse, and it’s going to be hard enough to avoid it without knowing that dad checks it out every now and then. (I know women also view pornography, and I’d guess similar discernment is needed for girls.)
In closing, congratulations on being a pro-active parent. Even though I believe these are good guidelines, don’t worry about getting everything right. It’s much better to have a clumsy talk than no talk at all. And some of these these awkward conversations will become signposts in the road for our children’s lives. Never stop praying, before, during, and after these conversations. Take pauses. Let stuff sink in and leave room for them to think and ask questions.
If your child has already been exposed to or influenced by pornography, don’t worry. You are reading this because you are claiming your role as chief influencer of your child. Every researcher knows that parents have the greatest and most effective voice in the life of a child. Even if the child pretends not to listen, they hear. And if they are hearing love, that’s the most powerful voice of all.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:5
– – – p.s. – – – I almost chickened out myself, today. I finished this post a few days ago, and still wasn’t sure whether I should post about such a troubling topic on the Slugs & Bugs Blog. But we parents need each other. I learn so much from other parents all the time, and I hope these thoughts help someone else.
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