Talking To Your Kids About Porn - What Every Parent Must Do In Today's World

    When-talking-to-your-kids-about-porn-is-nessecaryThere are a lot of tough talks that we have to have with our children as they grow. Deaths, reproduction, cruelty, are but a few. If you are a parent you may be prepared for some, but it is not likely that you are prepared for talking to your kids about porn.

    Sneaking girly magazines and catching a glimpse of passionate kissing in an R-rated movie are things of the past. With the accessibility of the internet and the many pornographic images and movies available there, children are being exposed to more and more graphic sex at a younger age than ever. This means that we as parents now need to be prepared and willing to talk to our kids about porn.

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    The Dangers of NOT Explaining Porn To Your Kids

    There are a lot of reasons why men and even why women watch porn. Those situations are very different from why a child might look at it. Children are curious by nature. They are curious about everything around them. This is normal and, generally speaking, should be encouraged. From a young age they want to know about their bodies, how they work, where babies come from, and, as they age, sexuality.

    The options in today’s environment for seeing things that are sexually intriguing are enormous. And as much as we try and protect them, we can’t control everything. Almost every child now has access to computers, smart phones, and tablets. And if yours does not, one of their friends definitely does. This means that along the way they are going to be exposed to pornographic material.

    As children and teens, understanding what they are seeing and being able to make sense of it is not likely. There are many side-effects to porn viewing at all ages, but at the young ages there is a distinct risk that they will misinterpret the images they see as being representative of normal sexual behavior. Especially as children enter puberty and are looking for guidance on how to handle their own sexuality and the new feelings that are beginning to emerge, they may see porn as something of a tutorial on what they should do and expect. We know that this could not be further from the truth, but they don’t unless we talk to them about porn and what it is.

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    There is also the danger of children engaging in behaviors whose consequences they do not fully understand. I spoke with a friend recently whose 6th grade class was put into an uproar because a group of girls were taking suggestive pictures of themselves and sending them to one another via group texts. Her daughter was not part of it and knew that it was inappropriate, but she had no idea that it was potentially illegal. And that those images never really go away. And that there are certain people in this world who would covet and exploit these images and potentially harm these girls if given the chance.

    Thankfully my friend has a relationship with her daughter that allowed for an open conversation explaining these things. But, she had never anticipated having to talk to a 12-year old about sexting and internet porn.

    How Do You Talk To Your Child About Porn?

    There is no easy answer to that. Discussing sex in general with your child can be uncomfortable for you both and cause embarrassment. It is, however, necessary. So is explaining pornography to your child, what it is, why it is out there, and why it is dangerous.

    Every family relationship and structure is different, but consider the following when explaining porn to your child (I will confess, as a parent just typing that sentence felt wrong).

    1. Relax – fake it if needed. Your child takes cues from you. If they see you agitated, upset, or so uncomfortable that you are stumbling for words, they will react in kind. This will not set the right environment for an open and trusting conversation. Being relaxed does not mean taking the topic lightly. You can be, and will need to be, clear on the seriousness of what you are discussing.
    2. Ask questions – but not in an accusatory way. If this conversation is spurred by a specific event (like my friend), allow them to talk about it. Ask them what they think about what they have been exposed to, and what they know about pornography in general. You may be unpleasantly surprised by how much they already know about the existence of porn. If the conversation is proactive rather than reactive, use the same approach – ask questions, but not in an accusatory or disapproving manner. If they think they are about to get in trouble children are far less likely to open up.
    3. Explain. This can be tricky. Depending upon the age of your child and what they already know, explaining will look different in each situation. The important parts to cover will include the ideas that porn is not what sex really is, or is all about. It has nothing to do with love and is performed by adult actors. They should know that watching porn can lead to the wrong ideas about sex and love, and porn can hurt the person you love and that relationship. It is something that some adults chose to do, and should never be seen by, or have anything to do with children. Of course you don’t want to scare them, or make them feel like they are bad or in trouble because you are talking to them about porn.
    4. Provide a framework. Even if you have already had “the talk” with your child, taking the time now to discuss intimacy, love, respect and personal standards and expectations is a good idea. You may be reinforcing things you have already said in the past, but the more consistently a child hears things, especially as they are getting old enough to put them in context, the more likely they are to take them to heart.
    5. Leave the lines of communication open. After talking to your child about porn they may feel overwhelmed and/or uncomfortable. The questions they have may not even occur to them until much later. Make sure they know that they can ask you anything, no matter how weird, gross, or uncomfortable it may seem.

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    Talking to your child about pornography is not something any parent wants to do. It can be a difficult conversation to come to terms with. Work with the other parent on the best way to approach this. It may be uncomfortable for you both and possibly bring up feelings that are difficult to deal with, but it is crucial that you are on the same page. Dr. Kurt has counseled couples regarding porn and according to him,

    Porn is a subject that can elicit a wide range of views and feelings. From complete acceptance ('everyone watches it') to 'I'm horrified that people watch that.' It's vital that you sort through your own beliefs, which you may not have had to seriously consider before, and feelings about the subject before speaking to your child about it. In today's smart phone driven world you're going to have to address the subject at some point if you have kids. There's just too much sexual content available everywhere on the internet, social media, and in daily communication that it's going to come up. Being prepared ahead of time is going to be a whole lot better than having to react in the moment of a crisis. In talking to kids it's not so much what we say, but how we say it that makes the biggest difference in how our message is received. So spend some time sorting through you own views first."

    The last thing you want is to fight in front of the kids over a topic that is so important and inherently uncomfortable. But as distasteful as this topic may be, arming your child with knowledge and ensuring that they are clear on your family values is essential. So is making sure they have a healthy respect for themselves and others, their bodies, and the intimacy associated with sex.

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