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If Your Child is Looking at Porn: Give Them Grace

Last Updated: October 30, 2020

Guest Author

Want to write for the Covenant Eyes blog? Share the story of your journey to freedom from pornography. Let us know how you overcame porn or how Covenant Eyes has made a difference in your life or the lives of those you love.

The darkness of the room was only broken by the glow of the screen. The darkness in his heart wasn’t—couldn’t—be broken by anything. The 12-year-old boy felt hopeless as he sat in front of the computer again—again enslaved by the porn that he couldn’t stop thinking about and yet hated all at once.

“God must hate me,” he thought over and over again as he clicked on each new video, hoping to find some sort of escape from himself. The temporary thrill of his secret waned and he felt he had to look for something more, something new to bring back the excitement he once felt. He needed help in the most desperate way but the shame and guilt kept him from asking for it.

He knew his parents would be devastated, and he didn’t think they would ever understand what it was like to do the wrong thing over and over again. His addiction, which started with another boy from church showing him a picture on his smart phone, had been going on for almost a full year and he didn’t see an end in sight.

This may sound like a story that would happen to someone else’s son, but the truth is it probably hits closer to home than most parents know: 93% of boys and 62% of girls have admitted to viewing porn before the age of 18. If you think that it couldn’t have happened to your children you are at best being naïve and at worst you are willfully turning a blind eye.

Creating a Culture of Grace

Most children raised in a Christian home think that their parents don’t struggle the way they do. We have set ourselves up as the rule for good living. We say things like, “I can’t believe you just did that,” and “How many times do I have to tell you not to act like that?”

Self-righteousness exudes from our parenting, creating hopelessness in our children. We forget that we struggle against the same sins daily. For me, it is laziness and self-centeredness. I want peace, I want to be able to read in peace and quiet and when my kids interrupt that I get angry. I know I shouldn’t but yet every day I struggle with the same thing. And then hypocrisy of all hypocrisy: I cry out in disgust as my daughter’s room isn’t clean yet again, and how many times have I told her to put her clothes in the laundry basket. As parents, we forget we are desperate sinners in need of a gracious Savior.

Confession of sin to our children is a must for any parent seeking to point their child to Jesus Christ. Do you admit along with St. Paul that, “Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” Too many of us have set up an us-vs-them mentality, parents-vs-kids, good-ones-vs-disobedient-ones, instead of the model of brothers and sisters in Christ running to their Savior together.

Do you remind your child you are a sinner just like they are or do you attempt to shame them into better behavior? If there is habit of confession and repentance in your house it will be easier for children to admit when they fall into sin. If this is new to you, an easy way to start confessing is saying something like, “I sinned against you and against God by believing that ________ was better than Jesus.”

Jesus is Better

May our parental hearts beat with the message for our children that “Jesus is better.” May they hear from our lips that our longing for them is that they are rooted and grounded in Christ’s love for them.

May we, by the work of the Holy Spirit, build in them such a magnificent picture of Jesus’ love that they will not look to other “loves” to satisfy. May our prayer echo Paul’s in Ephesians 3, “may (our children) have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that they may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Gushing over His great love and faithfulness to hardened sinners should be the theme of our households.

Is There Forgiveness Even for This?

Sexual sins are the most shameful in the church. The shame forces hiding. The hiding forces captivity. Captivity breeds hopelessness. And hopelessness looks for a release looks for comfort—often leading to more sexual sin.

Jesus Christ himself said that he didn’t come for those who think they have it all together, he came for the sick. He loved on the immoral, he broke bread with the unfaithful—and thank God for that or none of us could sit at his table.

The church has got it all wrong: we’ve silenced and ousted the sexually immoral when Jesus looked to speak peace and forgiveness to them. Is this the Jesus that your children know? If it is there will be a freedom to repent.

Please, by all means talk to your children about the insidious nature of pornography, explain to them that those aren’t objects that they are looking at—they are image-bearers. Tell them how viewing pornography isn’t just a private sin: it affects people who may be held as sex-slaves or addicted to drugs or just plain lost. Tell them all of those things. Have the conversation with your kids no matter how uncomfortable.

But please, please, please couch all of this in the forgiveness of sins available for those who are in Christ Jesus. Make sure they hear that “neither death nor life nor viewing porn nor things present nor things to come will separate them from the love of God in Christ.” Give them hope for change. Give them something better. Give them Jesus Christ.

Photo credit: pezz


Jessica ThompsonJessica Thompson is an author of several books including Give Them Grace, Exploring Grace Together: 40 Devotionals for the Family, and Answering Your Kid’s Toughest Questions and a frequent conference speaker. Her heart is to see women, families, and children freed from the bondage of moralism and to live in the truth that in the gospel there is joyful freedom awaiting them.