One big challenge that many parents face is actually getting their teenagers to talk about ANYTHING. This is especially true of “serious” topics and especially, especially true of anything related to sex. The intensity of emotions and feelings related to our sexuality is overwhelming. If there is an element of confusion or shame, as there often is with porn, people tend to shut down rather than engaging in conversation.

Recognizing that we can protect our kids 100% of the time, how do we create an environment where it is safe to talk about pornography?

Interact Regularly with Your Kids

This may seem like the most obvious part of the solution, but it can also be one of the most elusive. Schedules are busy, especially with working parents and school/activities for kids. The time in the car to and from school may be the only regular opportunity during the week. Wherever time can be found, take advantage of it!

If you hope to have the “big” conversations with your children, you have to be committed to the “small” ones as well. It starts when they are really young. “Mommy, look what I can do,” you hear for the thousandth time. “Daddy, swing me!” also for the thousandth time. These small things are laying an important foundation of trust. This may require you to have a conversation about Fortnight (GASP). Or you may have to learn what Pokémon is and how the game works.

A friend of mine talks about how his parents didn’t seem to notice much about what he was interested in. He was drawing and making art all the time, yet his parents put him in band. He drew more and made more art, and they put him in Cub Scouts. These weren’t bad activities; it was just a missed opportunity to connect, because they weren’t paying attention.

If you’ve read this far, chances are you already have a teenager. The good news is that it is never too late to be interested in the things your kids are interested in and to build trust. The difficulty is making time in those busy schedules. It is imperative that you do so. What kind of music are they into? Can you join them in the games they are playing? What are they reading?

Address Technology as a Family

I don’t like this topic, because it highlights my own desire to “check out” from being present to the moment. Many of us our glued to our computers or mobile devices. I remember being at gymnastics practice for my niece a few years ago. There were lots of parents present in the room for the practice, but almost every one of them was looking at their phone. I judged them.

Fast forward a few years to my own daughter’s swimming lessons. Now I’m the guilty parent, looking at my phone almost the whole time. I get that it can be boring and we all need time and space for ourselves, but I also think we can do better. Our kids are emulating what they see. While we may not be watching something inappropriate on our mobile devices in these settings, our kids see us looking at our phones and not at them. What message are they getting from this?

A while ago, I upgraded the software on my iPhone. One of the new features was a weekly “screen time” report that showed me how much time I was looking at my phone. It even broke it down into handy little categories so I could see just how much time I was on social media, news, shopping, etc. I was horrified when I saw the number! Reality check time!

There is a really good book called The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch that offers some really helpful ideas about managing technology as a family. I encourage you to check it out!

Work on Yourself

One of the best things you can do to foster an open environment is to actively address the issues you are struggling with personally. This may be an addiction to your mobile device or to food. Maybe you need to address how you spend money. The issue may even be porn. It really doesn’t matter so much what the issue is. What is really important is that your children see you working to improve yourself.

It is not okay to use your children as your accountability system. This can create some awkward dynamics. You are the parent and they are the child. It is important to maintain those roles. Here are a few ways this could look:

  • Let them know you are in a support group and why (age appropriate).
  • Tell them the things you are learning about yourself through counseling.
  • If you hear a message at church that is particularly convicting, talk to them about this.
  • If you have a fight with your spouse/neighbor/friend, let your kids see how you resolve this.
  • Talk to them about a self-help book you are reading and why you chose the particular topic.

Wrapping Up

You may not struggle with the same things your children are wrestling with, but we all struggle with something. Part of our role as parents is to teach our kids how to struggle well. In my next article, I am going to discuss a few ideas of what to do if your teen is already viewing porn and it is becoming a problem.

Roger Jones

Roger Jones

Executive Director

In the spring of 1995, the conflict Roger felt between his faith and his sexuality, as well as an addiction to pornography, led him to WGA. His personal journey has provided him unique insights into sexuality and the pain of adversity, which he shares through his testimony, facilitation of small groups, writing and public speaking. Roger began working with WGA in October of 1996 as the Assistant office Manager. Since that time, he has worn many hats and served in several different positions, including Assistant Program Director and Operations Director. In April of 2007, Roger assumed the position of Executive Director. Roger attended West Texas A&M University, where he studied Music Business. Much of his training has been “on the job,” where he was mentored by the ministry’s Founder, Mary Heathman, and the Program Director, Scott Kingry. He holds a BA from West Texas A&M University. Roger, his wife Jill, and their daughter Julia and son William, attend Celebration Community Church where Jill serves as Associate Pastor.

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