Teaching A Child With a Porn Addicted Parent

Teaching A Child With a Porn Addicted Parent

By Thatcher Himmel

I have a nephew, let’s say his name is Sam. Sam is 8 years old and is one of the coolest, funniest, and nicest kids around. Like any kid, he can be a giant pain in the butt, but also like any kid, you can see how curious he is about everything around him. That curiosity is a driving force in how he looks at everything in the world and it is amazing to see how much he absorbs around him.

While I was visiting my sister’s family a few months ago, I got to pick Sam up from school and spend the afternoon with him while my sister and brother-in-law were still at work. All Sam wanted to do was watch the latest superhero movie I brought for us to watch. I planned on making the whole afternoon like a day at the movies. I bought candy, popcorn and soda. It was going to be just us, while my sister’s other two children were at a babysitter. I told Sam to go start the movie while I popped the popcorn and poured glasses of Soda. Within a minute or two, Sam walked around the corner into the kitchen holding a DVD in his hands that he had to remove in order to put in our movie disk. He asked innocently where he should put it, and I quickly walked over to take it from him. But this disk wasn’t any normal DVD. On the top of the disk, was a picture of a naked woman portrayed in a sexual act. Sam stared wide eyed at the top of this disk. I took it away and suggested that he and I sit down and talk about what he saw. Sam admitted that mom and dad would sometimes watch this movie after he and his siblings went to bed. He shared that late one night he couldn’t sleep and wandered out of bed and witnessed from the hallway images he could not comprehend nor did he know how to explain. He seemed uncomfortable as he shared these stories, concluding with a time he pulled the disk out of the DVD player and asked his mom what it was. She quietly took the disk telling Sam to never look at that disk and then proceeded down the hallway to loudly criticize Sam’s father for leaving the disk in the player. Sam only knew that his dad watched these videos – but he that he wasn’t sure what was on them. Here I am as his uncle attempting to deal with the issue in the best way I can. I began by asking him how the images made him feel and he responded that they made him feel weird and awkward. In Chapter 13 of Educate and Empower Kids’ 30 Days of Sex Talks (for Ages 3-7), It states “You Have Instincts That Keep You Safe.” I used this to explain to Sam that these feelings were meant to keep him safe from something that could potentially be bad for him. His next question broke my heart: “If watching those things is bad, why does my Dad watch them?” I explained that grown-ups sometimes do things that aren’t good for them I assured him his Dad is a good Dad, which Sam agreed with, and told him I would always be there to answer his questions honestly and fully. Sam’s original face of fear had now melted to the calm and curious 8 year old I had picked up from school. We were then able to enjoy our movie together.

However, the better lesson of that day was for me. My brother-in-law struggled with a porn addiction and my sister didn’t take the time to talk about it with Sam because of the negative effect she thought it would have on him. I figured she avoided the topic because she too was uncomfortable with her husband’s porn addiction, but also because my brother-in-law might’ve been uncomfortable answering Sam’s questions about sex.

In talking to a child with a porn addicted parent, we should be open and honest with them, having discussions that will empower that child to make good decisions in the future. It is when you attempt to conceal or guilt-shame behavior that children internalize feelings and began to act on those negative feelings instead of positive, empowering ones. I took those few minutes to connect with Sam on his level and allow him to express his feelings. This gave him a chance to share his concerns and I think he felt like he could ask or say anything about his own curiosities. I am glad that I got to spend that time with Sam, if for no other reason than to be able to teach him a lesson that I know will empower him to make healthy decisions in the future.

For more information on this subject, check out our book How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography. It is also available in Spanish. And see our book 30 Days of Sex Talks  for ages 3-7, 8-11 and 12+ to find ways to start conversations about topics like this; including lessons and activities to empower your child with knowledge of sexual intimacy!