5 Tips to Help Kids Be Honest About Porn

Expecting honesty from our kids about their exposure to pornography is a tall order when we’re asking them to divulge information that would be painful or embarrassing to admit to a parent. But to help our kids know how to combat the allure of pornography, we need to know what they struggle with. Honesty is required for any of us to move away from something we struggle with.

Here are a few things parents can do to increase the chances a child will feel safe being completely honest.

5 Tips to Help Kids Be Honest About Porn

1—Get to know their feelings.

We all think we know our children, but the older they get the less of themselves they readily share with us. The older our kids get the more we as parents need to listen and the less we need to lecture. Young children express their feelings easily but older children may not even be entirely sure what they feel about a given subject and are not sure we will accept them if they express their true feelings.

The earlier we get into the practice of asking our children about their feelings the easier it will be as they get older for them to share. Getting to know our kids’ insides is critical before we start talking with them about pornography and other awkward topics.

2—No punishment.

This one goes against our grain as parents, but it is really important. It is not our children’s fault that modern pornography is attractive to them. It is not their fault that it’s so easy to access. It’s not their fault that everywhere they turn people are talking about pornography. Even kids who try really hard to avoid it will fall into pornography’s trap from time to time. If we punish them when they admit they have looked at it, it greatly reduces the likelihood that they will be honest with us again.

My son was 13 the first time he told me he had looked at pornography. I didn’t punish him but thanked him for being honest. Then later we looked at ways to prevent the method he had accessed it. He told me a year later that he was really afraid to tell me what he had done, even though I had told him it was okay to tell me if he ever did look at porn. He said that if I would have gotten mad or punished him, he would have never been honest about such things again. He was taking a risk and I had to prove to him I was safe.

It may feel wrong to us as parents, but we can’t punish or penalize our kids when they fall in this area. At least, we can’t punish them and expect them to be honest with us in the future. Yes, we can and should keep finding ways to do a better job of restricting access to questionable content. When we do this, however, we do it showing as much care as possible, not with a sense of retaliation.

3—No shame.

The most important thing to do when a child is caught or admits to viewing pornography is to assure them we love them. If they begin to associate shame with viewing pornography, they may keep any future events secret from us in order not to feel that shame again. Being caught or admitting to porn use should be immediately followed up with strong affirmation that they are loved.

Related: How to React the First Time Your Child Admits Watching Porn

The message to our children is, “You don’t have to impress me with how pure you are. I love you because you are my son/daughter, not because of the harmful things you don’t do.” Kids need to be sure that belonging to their family and community is not conditional on how perfect they are.

4—Be loyal to the process.

Our conversations with our children about their sexual thoughts and behaviors are a form of accountability. That may be a scary word to some of us, but it doesn’t have to be. Any kind of accountability, even a very informal type, is a process, not a one-time event. As we continue to talk with our children, hopefully they will learn the benefits of honesty. Things they struggle with will begin to diminish when they open up about them.

Our faithfulness to these conversations with our children is more important than whether they mess up. This journey is a relational one, not one based on performance. Pouring our time, interest, and concern into their lives is what strengthens them. Trying to measure up to a standard will never strengthen anyone.

5—Preserve the relationship.

There will be times when a child does not want to talk or is obviously lying. There will be seasons when they may be very open with us and others when they are closed off. It happen with the best of families—a child seems to give up to pursue things that we know will hurt them. In such cases we are left wondering if we should become more forceful or if we should stand by and do our best to love them anyway.

No two kids are the same and there are too many scenarios to go into any depth on how to decide what to do in these situations. However, we can keep one principle in mind when this happens. No matter what we do, we should not sacrifice our relationship with our child. If we are the one who cuts off relationship in some form, the child is left without support even if he or she changes their mind about their behavior in the future. Don’t put them in a position that the only way back to love is by groveling. God certainly did not treat us this way and we should not treat our children like this.

Let’s face it: honesty can be hard for any of us at times. It is particularly hard for a child who is afraid of disappointing their parents. Children fear losing relationships more than anything else. Let’s teach them that their honesty will not result in loss of relationship.

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