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 Screen accountability.
Related: 6 Easy Ways Your Child Can Bypass Your Internet Filter
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.
Thank you for taking the time to write this excellent article!
You are very welcome. Thanks for the compliment!
Ella, I was raised to be a porn addict. I read this and since age six , my home life had all those elements. Many think this is a boys problem. Even though I’m not any active addict, I walk a thin line. Thank you for this article. It explained how I was primed to be as addict.
I think this is some sort of illnesss,misery and weakness r things that expose us to such bad habits.
Be practicing whatever religion u belong to.
Keep urself busy and be a part of good friends and company, thats the only way stopping me from coming to this addiction for more then year.
All but one of those apply to me. You literally just looked into my childhood and described everything I have lived, despite growing up in a “healthy, Christian home” by most standards. My parents are constantly praised for how they parent and the kids they are creating, and yet they have left all this room for sex addiction to flourish. Even as I’ve begun to see the truth in my childhood and parents, I cannot convince them that they did something wrong. It’s tough to live with that, especially while still in the home. Well-written!
At the end of the day, we’re all responsible for ourselves and our choices. While we may have all sorts of pain from our upbringings, what we each choose to do with that pain is up to us. You might want to find a counselor who can help you process these things and make healthy choices going forward. Peace to you, Kay
Just because the “claim” is Christian does not mean it is. I could teach a parrot to say “I’m a Christian”.. nope, just a bird. Be careful how we say… Christian home, I’ve seen a few & when it’s truly a Christian home, what a site to behold for all involved 💖
We can only blame our parents for so much once we are grown adults and have knowledge and understanding with what we struggle with.
It seems with your view your healing depends on your parents admitting they have faults or are/were bad parents.
I do hope you can overcome your childhood so you can live your adulthood.
Wow this really opened my eyes. I honestly didn’t realize how much of my Husbands upbringing opened the door for porn and lust addiction. Thank you for helping me understand my Man’s struggle just a little better. I think this will help heal some of my wounds too. God always know what we need and when we need it! :)
This describes my childhood perfectly. And I’m a recovering sex addict.however, I’m thankful that I had such a dark childhood bc now I know what NOT to do with my two beautiful children ^-^
Another super article, Ella. Full of truth and grace. You go!
Thank you for sharing. Helping to generate self-awareness like this is always a critical part of understanding the issues and dealing with them. It is a tough problem.
Ella, this article totally explains my ex-husband’s family and childhood. Unfortunately, my ex-husband has never totally healed and still has many mental health issues, which is being passed onto our son (12 years old). I am fighting for my son, by bringing him to weekly therapy, keeping his teachers updated, and learning how to be assertive (or stand up for his needs in a healthy way). At my house, thankfully, none of those exist but all the positive aspects do exist. Of course, I do not want my son to go through the same experiences as his dad and just pray that his dad realizes what he is doing to his son (by treating him similar to how his parents were in his own childhood). Wonderful article! Thank-you!
I took a telephone class from you 8 years ago. Thank You for having that available. In my town you couldn’t find anyone that knew anything like this.
My ex destroyed me and my kids. Finding him master bating in front of kids or I should say they walked into the room. He chased woman that were my kids friends. Stold hundred of dollars every month to go to strip bars.
After this long i finely after meeting a wonderful man I feel pretty normal.
I am in sympathy with many who have posted on this blog. I too was raised the very same way as you described in your article, when I was 11 years old, I did get my hands on my first pornography and remember I am old school here and this was back in 1978 when we didn’t have computers or Iphones at the time. But I struggled too, with bad relationships due to not being able to open about my own feelings and it was generally discouraged. I know I am responsible for my own actions and I learned far better how to deal with issues, but I still struggle with a porn issue, so please pray for me. Thank you.
This is a well researched article and so revealing the realities we live with. It has brought to us the parents the huge responsibility in bringing up our kids in purity sexually. Its not the matter of providing food, shelter, clothing, education and others but the article reminds us of this aspect of bringing up our kids. Thanks
Excellent article! Not exactly related to the topic, but I have a question: I have noticed my older child (a girl, 4 y/o) rubs her genitals (clothes on) against her blanket, and my 2 y/o boy is starting to touch himself inside his diaper. I wanted to ask how exactly I should approach this. I want them to know feeling pleasure is normal but I don’t know if I should discourage what they do or if I should let them do it. I don’t want them to think sexual pleasure is bad, but I don’t want them to become obsessed with masturbation. Can you please give me some advice? Thanks.
Well, it’s perfectly normal, as you said. I would say it’s best to talk openly and early with children about their bodies, naming the parts correctly, and acknowledging that yes, it does feel good when you do that. Also, it’s private! I think kids become obsessed with masturbation most often when there’s sexual trauma, and when there’s shame around it. So keeping things honest and open should be your best way forward. Not easy when many of us where shamed about sexuality as children, but we can do hard things! You might appreciate It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris, to share with your kids.
Peace to you,
I’m a pre-k teacher. This is normal behavior, and they usually grow out of it. Children at this stage are still trying to gain an understanding of themselves and their bodies. Touching their bodies is part of how some explore and learn. Don’t embarrass them, but explain that touching themselves under their clothes like that can spread germs. When you see them do that, gently remind them that we don’t want our hands to get germs. Then wash their hands and move on. They will grow out of this touching stage and move on to new ways of learning. No worries, momma! Hang in there ❤️ Be blessed
I too am mamma of a little girl (3 ½). I can’t help but wonder if your daughter may be having some irritation from a yeast infection or some brands of toilet paper. I struggle with keeping my girl clean and maintaining her independence.
Much love and grace,
is it possible to take down my last post? Something in me feels uneasy… as though I’m taking back the forgiveness that I’ve been given, and that’s detrimental to my own healing.
Hello, Heidi, yes, I’ve taken it down.
Manuel, thank you for your honesty. I will pray for you. Also, you may find tools to help you find freedom at a local Celebrate Recovery.
If only this had been available in the late 80s. My husband would have not been addicted to porn.
Sex was a dirty word. Showing affection between his parents was extremely G rated. He was never told “you should be ashamed of yourself for doing this”. They just kept praying.