In my seven years of counseling sex addicts and their wives, I’ve seen some common themes amongst the sex addicts’ families of origin. I’d like to share them with you today. Here are six ways to raise a sex addict.
In the chance that you’d rather focus on raising your child to live a life of sexual purity, I’ve included a link at the end of each of my six points so you can quickly access an alternative approach.
1. Create a home environment where emotions are not openly expressed.
Teach your kids that expressing feelings–such as fear, sadness, and insecurity–is weak. Sex addicts do not know how to appropriately express emotion which is why sex addiction is often called an intimacy disorder.
A great way to emotionally stunt your sons is to teach them that real men don’t cry. This will ensure that they learn to really bottle up those normal, healthy emotions. Instead their emotions may come out as anger, pushing away people who get too close.
Finally, avoiding conflict by always pretending everything is ok teaches kids to do the same. What to do with all the bottled up frustration? Don’t try to have a healthy discussion about it with the person who upset you. Escape the pain. Numb the feelings.
Instead of encouraging your kids to stuff their emotions, create a home of trust and openness.
2. Don’t offer unconditional love.
Make sure your kids believe that love and affirmation are earned through achievement, whether it be grades, sports, or something else. Kids who feel accepted, just for who they are, are less likely to seek out feelings of love and affection through unhealthy means.
A child who doesn’t feel unconditional love usually doesn’t experience a lot of affection and non-sexual touch. Having never developed a strong attachment to a caregiver, sex addicts do not have the skills to have an intimate relationship as an adult. Healthy touch and intimacy can actually be uncomfortable. They turn to sex (on screen or in person) to try and meet their natural need for touch and connection. Ironically, this will make them increasingly unable to empathize and connect with a real person.
Hugging and kissing your kids often meets a basic need we all have for touch and aids in their development. Spending quality time with them makes them feel like they are special to you. A child who never felt special grows up not feeling lovable.
Instead of offering love dependent on their performance, show your kids consistent, healthy affection that makes them feel valued and accepted..
3. Make sex a dirty word or just never discuss it.
Many sex addicts had to learn about sex through porn because no one taught them about it.
Many were shamed when caught masturbating or looking at porn.
Don’t teach your kids that sex under the right circumstances is normal, healthy, and good. Don’t teach them that their desires are normal. Instead, panic as you see them developing sexually, because of your own discomfort around the topic. This will ensure they see sex as something illicit to keep hidden, shrouded in secrecy and lies.
Shame is a funny thing. It has a way of making us hate ourselves for something we feel or desire, yet can cause us to crave that thing even more.
Instead of avoiding or discouraging any talk about sex, initiate conversations with your kids about sex and porn.
4. Raise your kids in an over-sexualized home.
If point number three doesn’t work, try creating an environment that lacks sexual boundaries. In this environment, pornography may be lying around casually. A parent may have multiple sex partners visit the home. Adults in the child’s life may not keep their sexual behavior private and behind closed doors. Women’s bodies may frequently be objectified by male family members. Or adult female family members may lack respect for their own bodies by dressing provocatively.
Kids who don’t understand sexual boundaries don’t know the difference between healthy and unhealthy touch. They are less likely to try to stop it if it’s happening and less likely to tell you about it. They are also more likely to cross sexual boundaries with others. As children this may involve damaging sexual play with siblings or other children. As adults it might include crossing lines that will destroy their marriages, families, and even their health.
Sexual boundaries also include understanding what pornography is and why it is harmful. Kids who don’t know the difference between good pictures and bad pictures are less likely to stay away from porn or tell you if they’ve been exposed.
Instead of modeling loose sexual boundaries, create an atmosphere in your home that fosters purity.
5. Don’t admit when you make a mistake.
This way you don’t improve your relationship with your kids, making you a safe person for them to be honest with. You also won’t be modeling how to take responsibility, apologize, and learn from mistakes so they won’t repeat them.
In his book, How to Keep Your Kids on Your Team, Charles Stanley states, “Children naturally take their cue from you. When you cover up your mistakes by deceiving your family or by silencing them, you are in effect saying, ‘The way to deal with failure is to deny it and to silence those who see things differently.’ Part of teaching your children how to master life is teaching them how to deal successfully with failure, and this can occur only if you are willing to admit failure in the first place.”
Instead of pretending you never make mistakes, admit when you are wrong.
6. Don’t put filters on all electronic devices or monitor TV watching.
Early and frequent exposure to pornographic images affects a young person’s brain development. It can awaken their body to feelings and experiences they aren’t ready for. A child doesn’t often have access to alcohol or drugs, but masturbation and porn is another way to escape stress, especially when the child hasn’t been taught healthy ways of coping with those emotions. It can quickly go from curiosity to compulsion.
Instead of letting them roam the Internet with no boundaries, learn how to protect your kids online with accountability and filtering.
Remember this no matter what.
If you are already the parent of someone struggling with compulsive sexual behavior, please don’t beat yourself up. You loved your child. You probably did the best you could with what you knew. Maybe you had a role to play in the development of their issue or maybe it would have happened anyway. Either way, it’s not too late to use some of the tips above.
Let your kids know you are there for them no matter what (even if they’re 45). Respect their privacy, but if they come to you, please listen and don’t get angry or defensive. Don’t make this about you. No matter how old we get, we still crave our parents’ acceptance and affirmation.