One of the most common questions I get from parents is, “What do I do when I find out my child has been looking at pornography?” This discovery sparks a lot of emotions — anger, sadness, guilt, or feelings of failure. As difficult as it may be, one of the most important things you can do is temper your emotions. Remember, this is about your child’s struggle. Below are six steps you can take to help your child.
Address the issue.
When you discover that your child has visited a pornographic website, engaged in inappropriate searches, or saved pornographic photos on their phone, be intentional about addressing the matter. Don’t assume it was accidental, and don’t turn a blind eye to it.
Engage your child in conversation. Do not allow anger to create distance between you and your child or to close the door to meaningful conversation. Instead, calmly ask them for an explanation and be prepared to express your concerns.
Empathize with them.
Many kids want to tell their parents about their struggle but are not sure how to do so. They may be fearful of angering or disappointing you or worried that you will see them as dirty or messed up. Listen compassionately, try to understand their struggle, and respond wisely. Your child needs your guidance and your grace.
Meet them with grace.
Tell your child that God stands ready to forgive them — and so do you. Explain to them that when we sin against God, He has made provision for us to be cleansed. According to 1 John 1:9, we must first confess our sin. To confess means to say the same thing about our sin that God does. It also means to agree with God about what we must do to avoid that sin in the future. Discuss practical steps your child can take to guard against repeating this sin.
Find out why they are looking at it and how they are accessing it.
Ask your child to tell you why they are drawn to look at pornography. Their answer will give insight into how you can help them establish boundaries. Also, ask them how they are accessing pornographic content, and then agree on practical steps to eliminate those avenues.
Involve them in the action steps to walk in freedom.
Work with your child to establish boundaries. Establishing boundaries may include monitoring their use of technology, taking away their devices for a period of time, limiting where and how long they can use their devices, and adding a content blocker to filter out or report attempts to access inappropriate sites. Helping your child move toward freedom will involve some painful steps that will make it more difficult to yield to temptation.
Keep the lines of communication open.
Remember that helping your child will take time. There are no easy or overnight fixes. Your child will be tempted again and again. So, determine to keep the lines of communication open. Agree to talk daily or weekly about how they are doing in this area of temptation. Assure them that they can and should talk with you often about their struggle. And if they mess up, be prepared to help them get up and start anew.