How Parents Can Help Children to Overcome Porn Addiction

How Parents Can Help Children to Overcome Porn Addiction

 

Mary Ann Benson, M.S.W., L.S.W.

Addiction has been defined as:

  “A primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. It is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.” (ASAM, n.d.)

In our culture, when physical symptoms occur, we make an appointment with our primary care physician to address our concerns. Addiction is often rooted in emotional or mental symptoms that we feel unable to cure because they seem to be less concrete. So we ignore them and engage in addictive behaviors to alleviate those symptoms. Unfortunately, our behaviors are only temporary respites from our emotional upset. We have not gotten to the true source of our emotional imbalance and the cycle of addiction continues, and usually escalates. As parents of children who are struggling to overcome porn addiction, there are some simple steps you can take to assist your child on his or her path to recovery.

  1.  Acknowledge the addiction. There need to be ongoing, candid discussions about the nature of the addiction that your child initiates. This is often the most difficult step in the process of recovery, and should be responded to in a sensitive and positive manner. Your child should be commended for coming forth with such difficult information.
  2. Offer unconditional love and support. Your child needs to know that you will be available to assist him or her no matter what the recovery process turns out to be. That means that you will remain supportive if relapses occur, which are often likely.
  3. Facilitate exploration of treatment options, including individual counseling and/or addiction recovery meetings. Your child should have the opportunity to participate in the choice of a counselor that he or she may engage with, having your input to insure that the professional has the necessary credentials and experience to meet your child’s needs. If the child is young (under 12 years of age), the parent should have the responsibility of picking the therapist. Addiction recovery meetings may not be appropriate for young children, and that issue could be explored with the therapist.
  4. Refrain from making your child feel guilty or ashamed. Shame and blame have no place in the recovery process. They are counterproductive to progress and will only sabotage your child’s success in overcoming the addictive behavior.
  5. Explore emotional needs that are being met by your child’s involvement with pornography. Ask your child what prompted him or her to engage in viewing pornographic material for the first time. Was it to fill some emotional deficit? Did it work?
  6. Explore alternate, healthy behaviors that could meet your child’s emotional needs. Help your child to discover the variety of healthy, positive activities and hobbies that can satisfy one’s emotional needs and contribute to one’s emotional health.
  7. Respect your child’s privacy. This deeply personal issue should remain a private matter that is shared selectively and only with your child’s permission. Recovery can be compromised if someone feels that everyone is watching them and waiting for them to fail. There needs to be a limited circle of people involved in the day-to-day dynamics of your child’s recovery.
  8. Teach your child self-regulation, which is the ability to modulate the nervous system (emotions). This task must be learned in childhood or adolescence. This is a challenging task when children are typically impulsive and are looking for instant rewards, which has a strong link to addiction. More than any other factor, self-regulation is correlated with a successful life. (Laird, R., n.d.)
  9. Create a positive reinforcement system (that does not involve money or food) that will validate your child’s efforts and progress. Having incentives for positive behavior are powerful, and planning a special outing or activity as your child progresses can be a meaningful motivator for change.
  10. Keep talking. Be in constant touch with your child’s feelings as they go through the difficult process of overcoming an addiction. A process occurs one, small step at a time. Walk beside your child as he or she takes this challenging journey to recovery and peace. Sharing this profound experience with your child will create a bond that will be extremely meaningful to both of you.

Citations:

Definition of Addiction. (n.d.). Retrieved January 22, 2015 from http://www.asam.org/for-the-public/definition-of-addiction

Laird, R. (n.d.) Americans and Technology, Ideas for Parents and Kids, Retrieved January 22, 2015.

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