You may already be aware of this, but we launched something called Office Hours back in August. The idea was to allow people to submit questions about their unique life situations, so we could offer advice while being recorded on camera.
My thought when I came up with this idea was that I wanted my answers to be authentic and not prearranged or scripted. This way, whether someone agrees or disagrees with me, at least they know I’m being honest with my responses.
We took a small break from Office Hours over the holidays and will be resuming things this week, but in the meantime, this question came to us and I wanted to share some thoughts because I think my answer speaks to the theme of this month – starting new and often uncomfortable conversations.
This was the question:
My son (now 13) at 10, was exposed to porn by another boy while outside playing. This incident traumatized him and caused him to suffer with some great shame. He has struggled with porn and shame since, and I have looked for help from the church to find none. How can you help me help my son return to purity?
My full answer to this question you can check out in this week’s Office Hours video, which will be released Friday.
But in the meantime, this is what I told her in a nutshell.
1st, when it comes to kids and porn, the question is never if, it’s when.
Unfortunately, in today’s day and age, it’s almost a certainty that your child will be exposed to porn of some form. I know that sucks – but it’s reality.
And that’s why, in this case, the best defense is a great offense.
The earlier we start having these conversations and preparing our kids for what they will eventually be exposed to, the better off they will be in the long run. And, if we maintain an atmosphere of grace and love while doing so, hopefully our kids will come to us when they do end up seeing something they shouldn’t.
2nd, and more importantly, avoid talking about these matters as “sinful” or “impure” but rather as unhealthy or not the best for them.
Listen, I’m not dismissing the immoral aspects of porn and other unwanted sexual behaviors. I get that. But, when we are talking about young kids we’re dealing more with matters of curiosity, accidental exposure, and mental bonding.
In other words, your 9 or 10-year-old doesn’t need to hear about their “sinful choices” or lack of “purity.”
Generally speaking, they didn’t watch porn because of a deliberate decision to sin or disobey God.
And so, when we talk to them either before or after the fact, we need to reinforce the understanding that porn is unhealthy for them and twists what God meant to be good. We need to take the time to explain (in a way they understand) that watching porn will jack up their young brains, potentially causing them huge problems down the road.
Rather than saying, “Hey, I want to help you stop this because you need to be pure.”
Try, “Hey, I get that this stuff is out there and may even seem appealing on some level, but I want to help you avoid it because I want the absolute best for you and porn is not going to help you experience God’s best in your life; it will lead to the opposite.”
The first approach sends a subtle message of condemnation and inadequacy while the second approach communicates care, empathy, and grace.
3rd, you are the best resource for your children (in theory).
I talk about the unfortunate realities of church culture as it pertains to the topics of sex, porn and masturbation in my new book When Shame Gets Real. And while it is true that many parents find themselves feeling lost and alone because they can’t find the guidance they want from their church, friends, or even family, the best resource they can offer their kids is them.
Now this requires the parents to do some difficult things such as:
- Conducting their own research.
- Making sure their own views about sex and sexuality are healthy and grounded.
- Be willing to entertain all questions regarding these matters without freaking out each time.
- Diving into topics that seem scary and potentially problematic.
- Displaying a high degree of honesty, humility, and empathy along the way.
And even though you’ll face occasions when you might not have all the answers, that’s OK. Because it’s far more important to your kids that you are available to them without restrictions and without the expectation of condemnation than being the expert in any and all situations.
In fact, admitting that you simply don’t know and have to do some research on your own will show them your humility and honesty, which will contribute to their overall trust levels with you.
Again, as we’ve been saying all month, there will be some bumpy roads and difficult moments. Not every conversation is going to go smoothly and, yes, there may have to be some apologies along the way.
But knowing how to navigate these discussions in a healthy way and being willing to do so without shame or pretense will pay off huge dividends for both you and your family.
And if you need some help starting these conversations without being held back by sexual shame, check out my new book When Shame Gets Real: A new way to talk about sex, porn and masturbation. In fact, you can download the first chapter for free by clicking here.