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How Honest Should I Be With My Child About My Own Sexual Sin?

Last Updated: October 30, 2020

When you know your child has been wrapped up in sexual sin—like watching pornography—as a parent, you may fear talking to your children because you don’t know how much to divulge about your own past.

Dr. David Currie addressed this issue with me in a recent interview.

Principle #1: Authenticity is Good

You do not sacrifice your parental authority by being honest about your mistakes and sins. Moreover, authenticity places you in a position to identify with your son or daughter as a fellow sinner. As you see your child bombarded by temptations, you can come alongside them and say, “This is a battle I’ve faced as well. It is a battle I continue to face. I’m in this with you.”

As I say in my book, When Your Child is Looking at Porn, “Contrary to popular belief, by sharing our weaknesses, we are not giving license to our kids to make the same mistakes we did. We are not the standard for our kids. Christ is the only standard of perfection” (p.44).

Give your child the gift of your experiences. Through your own confession, you can shine a light on the dark places that can so easily trip up your child.

Principle #2: Emphasize Grace, Not Your Sin

Authenticity is good, but there’s no need to get into all the gory details of your sexual sin. First, your child won’t benefit from the details they are unable to process or understand. Second, your confession is an opportunity not to aggrandize the sin but to (1) model repentance, and (2) talk about how God rescued you.

“If you used to watch porn, it is appropriate to say so, and it is appropriate to talk about how difficult it was for you. But in the end, the focus should be on how God, in His grace, has forgiven and transformed you. You want to impress on your son or daughter your desire for a pure heart and a pure marriage and that pornography is not the answer” (When Your Child is Looking at Porn, p.45).

  1. This article is very well written, and I am sure that all parents will appreciate this artice.

  2. This is a wonderfully written article. I found it to be very relevant, and I really like the way you recommended broaching such a sensitive topic, for parents whose child is affected by pornography. I further liked how you emphasized how parents can talk candidly about their past sexual sins, in a Christian-way, that glories how God delivered the parent from their past sexual sins. Be it pornography, impure thoughts, or other sexual sins.

  3. Thomas Brian Carney

    Great article.

    What though if your child does not look at porn (we have asked her if she is involved in sex or porn and she says no; seems honest about it but I know there is no guarentee) and I was a porn addict though been in sobriety over 18 years?

    My daughter is now a senior in High school, 18 years old. I am wondering if now is the time to tell her. She may suspect because of the ministry I have been involved in, but the subject has never been discussed regarding my personal involvement with porn in the past.

    Thanks and God bless you

    Thomas Brian Carney
    Fort Worth, Texas

    • Good question. I’ll tell you how I plan to handle this.

      I plan on telling my son about my temptations as I notice the sexual temptations he encounters. There are plenty of titillating things in media, and as he enters adolescence, I plan on using stories of my own sins as a way to talk to my son about the importance of guarding his eyes. He’s only 9 right now, so his need for my stories is not as pressing as it will be when he’s an adolescent.

      The best way to talk about it is in the context of normal life. I wouldn’t bother sitting my child down with the agenda of saying, “Okay, son, time to talk about Daddy’s dirty past.”

      Your daughter has a sex drive, so as relationships and dating boundaries come up, use those as opportunities to share some of your experiences. For a daughter (who doesn’t watch porn herself) I would use your story to talk about the temptations boys face and the importance of not dating a boy who hasn’t come to grips with how to battle those temptations.

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