Your Child and Porn: The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence: it’s a buzz phrase right now. You may have heard it a number of places: blogs, talk shows, the news, or documentaries. But this evasive phrase is more than just a fad; it is an important skill for children and adults alike!

Emotional intelligence is as important as learning other life skills. Why? Because having a well-developed emotional intellect can help a child handle any situation they may encounter, including pornography. As Prevent Child Abuse America states, “All children deserve a great childhood and exposure to any aspect of pornography gets in the way of that goal.”

What does porn have to do with emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, be aware of, and respond to one’s own feelings and emotions and the skill of navigating interpersonal relationships with compassion and empathy. Emotional intelligence must be taught and modeled for kids. They are like sponges and will soak up these essential skills when they are shown them in everyday situations.

Emotional intelligence can also enhance connection, which is a basic human need. Having connected relationships with our children gives way to authentic honesty and vulnerability, which is vital in feeling unconditionally loved and developing empathy. It can also help to prevent the use and dependence on pornography to fulfill the need for connection and acceptance.

Related: Do You Have the Emotional Intelligence to Quit Porn?

In my work as a Community Nurse, I examine the area of intersection between nursing and public health, ensuring that community populations have access to education, information, various forms of care, and supportive and protective factors. I often encounter really great parents who are involved and informed in their child’s life, but they still feel like their child doesn’t freely share their feelings or emotions with them. They often state, “It’s like pulling teeth to get my child to open up about anything with me.”

When we have open, honest, and connected relationships with our children, they are less likely to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms as a way to handle difficult feelings. We also want them coming to us with sexually-based questions they may be curious about, instead of turning to pornography for answers. Prevent Child Abuse America points out that “children or adolescents may experience autonomic sexual arousal at the sight of pornography, which can confuse them into thinking they ‘like’ what they see, when in fact their bodies are reacting instinctively without the ‘approval’ of their brain.”

We want our children to ask us first about what they are feeling, so we can create a healthy narrative with realistic expectations and appropriate and accurate language  for our kids to navigate these situations.

So, what can you do?

1. Create routines that foster connection.

Have regular family dinners, hold monthly family councils, plan family game nights, and regular check-ins. Kids thrive when routines are implemented. Even better is when those routines are dependable, fun, and helps them to know they have a safe and loving home with parents who are there for them.

Have weekly check-in’s that involve teaching about things like pornography and appropriate, safe media use. Give your kids a chance to ask questions, and as a parent, answer them openly and honestly.

2. Designate safe places for processing emotions.

Have an “Ask Anything Chair” in your home to encourage safe and open processing of confusing emotions for kids. If your child is confused about something they heard from friends or have seen on the internet or other media outlets, the “Ask Anything Chair” is a completely safe place to ask ANYTHING about ANYTHING! We want our children coming to us to ask questions especially about sex and intimacy, instead of turning to peers, pornography, or the internet to get answers.

In our home, we have a Calming Corner for “Time-In’s” instead of Time-Out’s, to manage rough emotions and challenging behaviors. In the Calm Corner, we have a feeling wheel, an emotion faces chart, sensory items like bubbles to help encourage deep breathing, squeezy balls, mermaid sequin pillows, and coloring pages. This has been a great tool for my kids, but it did take practice and reinforcement.

Encouragement is key! This can easily be modified for toddlers all the way to teens. My preschooler uses the Calm Corner regularly; she has learned that emotions are not scary or bad. There are just feelings that need some extra attention sometimes.

3. Enhance one-on-one relationships.

Having four children of my own, my relationship with each one is different, and that is totally okay! Because I want each of my children to feel safe and secure in their relationship with me, I use a variety of tools to make sure that our trust continues to grow and develop. A favorite activity of my son’s is his Sharing Journal, which is essentially just a communication notebook we use to write notes to each other.

He writes in it before he goes to bed and I’ll write a message to him while he is at school. He looks forward to these messages and some of our best conversations have happened in his Sharing Journal. Sometimes, discussing things like pornography can be difficult for kids and even adults, so a Sharing Journal can be one alternative to ease anxiety around this topic.

4. Teach and model ways to cope.

This is probably one of the most difficult things to do. Even as adults, we can struggle with healthy ways to manage emotions. We can feel shame, anger, worry, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, and worthlessness. These feelings can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like turning to pornography as a crux for dealing with stress. Our kids can and do feel these same emotions and can and do turn to pornography for the same reasons.

First, it is important to teach your child that they are not bad for having feelings. Model this by being open about your own feelings with your kids. Show them how you cope with your own emotions. Tell them, “I am going for a jog, because I am feeling frustrated.” If you have a child that frequently has outbursts, help them move through those emotions by providing safe ways for them to express what they are feeling. It is also important to not allow their behaviors to affect your emotional peace or reactions. This models for children that we are responsible for our own emotions and reactions, regardless of the actions of others.

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

Overall, our connection with our children can really help them to develop emotional intelligence and give them important life skills that they can rely on for health, safety, and well-being. When we normalize emotional intelligence for our kids and work to build it within them, we can more easily discuss things like pornography in an open and honest way. We can play an active role in keeping our kids safe and healthy.


Leslie ButterfieldLesley Butterfield is a Community Health Nurse, who strives to implement trauma-informed care across a variety of settings. Lesley holds an RN-BSN and has over ten years of experience as a nurse in the community setting. She is the content-editor at Betrayal Trauma Recovery and has published several articles examining social issues that impact public health and wellness.