Saturday, September 9, 2017

I Found Porn on My Teen's Phone--What Do I Do Now?

You feel like you've been kicked in the gut. You've discovered that your teenager has been viewing pornography---a lot of it. And using their phone or the family computer---devices you've provided for their education and entertainment! You wonder how this could have been going on right under your nose.

As you review the evidence, you feel even sicker. You didn't want your children exposed to this dark world at their age---or ever, for that matter! If only you could rewind time and somehow spare them. But you're stuck here, mourning the loss of your child's innocence, knowing you can't make them un-see all the smut they've been exposed to. 

It can feel devastating.

But then you ask yourself, "What do I do now? How do we handle it from here? To begin with, How do I bring it up to my child? How do we start the dialogue?" These are extremely important questions!

You know best your child's personality and needs, but right now it's understandable if you feel a bit confused and perhaps even at a loss about how to proceed. Therefore, even though there's no one right way to go about it, we thought it would be helpful for us to demonstrate how parents can approach an initial conversation. 

Since it's likely to be an emotional discussion, it might help to take in a list of talking points. Here are a few to consider:
  • We love you! We always will. You're our son (or daughter) and nothing will ever change that---no matter what you struggle with, no matter what we have to work out and work through together. You're the same person we gave birth to (or adopted), cherished, nurtured, snuggled, delighted in, and adored throughout your entire life so far. Working together on this over the coming weeks and months will strengthen our relationship, not weaken it. 
This reassurance will be comforting since they might be afraid that they've let you down, offended you, or done irreparable harm to your opinion of them by breaking the rules about accessing inappropriate content. 
  • We're so sorry you've been dealing with this on your own! We are glad we now know about it so that we can help you manage your feelings and better avoid setbacks. We're here to help! You're not alone in this anymore! 
They've likely been afraid that they'd be punished if their behavior was discovered. And indeed you may decide to take away devices and/or restrict internet access. Nonetheless, it will relieve them to have their struggle out in the open and know that you have their back and will be providing ongoing support. 
  • Managing sexuality can be a challenge for all of us! Sex is amazing and wonderful, and it's an extremely potent drive that can feel overwhelming and can be quite a lot to manage. Fortunately, we've been dealing with sex for decades longer than you have and have learned a lot. We're looking forward to sharing that wisdom with you. 
You don't have to go into detail about your own experience. Thoughtfully consider how much sharing will be helpful vs. which details might leave them feeling awkward. But be sure to let them know that these kinds of struggles are common and that you and/or other adults they admire have dealt with them to varying degrees. Knowing that pornography is a difficult temptation for many good people to resist will reduce the shame they feel about having gotten caught up in it. 
  • You can do it! We're confident that eventually, your pride over managing this challenge successfully will outweigh any shame over dealing with it in the first place. Still, we know it can be quite a challenge to kick a pornography habit---and especially to keep it kicked. We are here for you and willing to do everything we can to help. 
This conversation will open a dialogue, but it's just the beginning of the work you and your teen will do together to help them get---and stay---on a healthier path. 

Our hearts are with you as you move forward in supporting your teenager. We've given you a few ideas here, but we would love to hear what else you feel impressed to include in the discussion you end up having.