For someone struggling with porn, opening up to a loved one requires a lot of courage.

If a child tells a parent they’ve been consuming porn and need help, chances are they’ve been trying to find the right words to say and the right time to say them for days, weeks, or longer. The moment of disclosure can be absolutely terrifying and also incredibly liberating for the person who struggles—like a weight has been lifted.

Related: Tips For Opening Up To A Loved One About A Struggle With Porn

But for their loved one, it can feel like that burden has been dumped on them, leaving them at a loss about what to say or do.

Helpful Tips For Parents After Disclosure

How a parent or guardian reacts in a moment of disclosure and in the weeks that follow is hugely important, and can have an impact on the child’s healing path moving forward. We understand that feels like an immense amount of pressure, but it doesn’t have to be as long as everyone involved has the right tools.

If you don’t remember any of the following, remember this: shaming is never helpful.

Related: Ever Wonder How Your Parents Would React If They Knew You Watched Porn?

Acknowledge the significance of opening up. Telling someone they’re struggling with porn can be extremely difficult and uncomfortable. If a child goes to their parent for help, it’s possible they’ve already done a lot of work to overcome it on their own, or at least recognize they need additional support. It also shows their sincere desire and real intent to change. In their moment of vulnerability, validate them and help them feel seen and understood, thanking them for their honesty and bravery in coming forward.

Related: 3 Reasons Why People Who Watch Porn Are Not “Bad” People

Try to put yourself in their shoes. Kids today are immersed in an environment that most parents never had to deal with at the same age. In fact, a lot of kids are exposed to porn for the first time by complete accident.The internet has made porn more affordable, accessible, available, and anonymous than any other time in history. The content in porn is also increasingly more extreme, violent, and degrading.

For pornographers, porn is a business. Views and clicks are transactions. Consumers (including children) are collateral damage; victims in their twisted game. Bottom line: it’s tough to be a kid today living in a pornified society. They need all the support they can get.

Related: Report: Almost Half Of Kids Surveyed Say They Were First Exposed To Porn By Accident

Recognize that curiosity is completely normal. Porn hijacks and exploits natural curiosity about sex in an attempt to create lifetime consumers of their product. But it’s important to understand that the curiosity about bodies and sex itself is totally healthy.

It could help a child to understand that it’s natural to be sexually curious as a human, but porn is not the place to learn about healthy sexuality.

Avoid damaging labels like “porn addict.” In our society, there are many misconceptions about what “addiction” really means. We hear from a lot of parents who, although well-intended, place unnecessary shame on their child’s shoulders by referring to them as a “porn addict.”

Even if a child begins to develop a compulsive habit with porn, premature labeling can fuel shame and exacerbate the issue. Try not to assume that just because it’s possible for someone to develop addictive tendencies toward porn, that automatically means every child falls on the extreme end of the spectrum.

Considering what research shows about porn’s negative impact on self-esteem, try and see how making them feel like something is seriously wrong with them can only make the problem worse.

Related: Is The Word “Addiction” Being Overused?

Demonstrate an increase in love. The opposite of addiction is not actually sobriety, it’s connection, and fostering healthy, loving relationships of all types. Isolation fuels compulsive habits, while connection helps heal. In fact, research shows that teens who have a solid relationship with their parents use porn less and sext less. See this as an opportunity to show greater love and grow closer together.

Learn why porn is harmful and educate your child. Generally, it’s not effective to simply tell someone, “Porn isn’t good for you. Stay away from it.” Knowledge is power, and understanding the science, facts, and personal accounts behind the harmful effects of porn (in an age-appropriate way) can bring clarity and motivation to let go of a porn habit. Gain as much knowledge as you can, and when the time is right, try teaching your child in a shame-free way. Being well informed of the risks can help your child make their own educated decisions for them self when it comes to consuming porn. Check out our very own “Guideline” for helping parents start those conversations about porn with their family.

Related: Huge Survey Reveals Parents Don’t Know About 80% Of What Their Teen Sees Online

Open up and be an example of healthy relationships. Just as important as knowing what we’re fighting against is having something to fight for. A parent can teach their child by word and example the value of healthy relationships. They can try sharing with them their own experiences. Talk with them about why a healthy sexual relationship between two committed individuals is a beautiful thing, and how porn can hijack their ability to experience that. Show them what porn can rob them of and give them something encouraging to fight for.

Related: Parents: If You Don’t Teach Your Kids About Sex, Porn Will

Set goals together and establish accountability. Have open conversations about their core emotions or reasons for consuming porn. Are they most vulnerable when they’re bored? Curious? Lonely? Stressed? Validate those feelings and direct them to healthier behaviors or outlets by setting realistic goals. Try starting the conversation with something like, “I understand, and I’d probably feel that way too if I were in your shoes. What could you do next time you feel that way instead of turning to porn?”

Try to develop a system with them, and see what they would feel supported by. For example, without being overbearing, is it okay to check in with them regularly? Either way, be encouraging when they have setbacks and help them continue moving forward.

Related: Fortify: The New Online Platform That’s Changing Recovery

Provide your child with helpful resources. A child may need more support beyond what can be provided as a parent, and that’s okay. There are a lot of resources out there designed and proven to help those on their journey to recovery. Start by learning more about some, like the recovery platform from our friends at Fortify, and look into local counselors or therapists if necessary.

There Is Hope For Healing And Recovery

When a child opens up about their porn struggle, it’s normal for the listener to feel overwhelmed, upset, or even angry—but it’s possible to work together to direct those feelings toward the real culprit: the porn industry. No matter your story, let it fuel your drive to gain knowledge about the harms of porn, expose the industry for what it really is, and educate others in a positive, proactive way.

Related: For Parents: My 14-Year-Old Daughter’s Experience With Porn Changed Our Lives In Unexpected Ways

When parents and their children fight for love together, they’re fighting for their own happiness. See the moment of disclosure as an opportunity to grow closer together and have healing results that meet a child’s needs through true love and connection. The more a child experiences that, the weaker their connection to porn can become.

All of us have been impacted by porn in some way, but we can be survivors and Fighters, made stronger by our support of one another.

Get Involved

Create your own Abbey, or join our friends at the Fortify platform. SHARE this post to spread the word that shame-free fights against porn are the most effective.

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with an obsession or addiction to pornography, you are not alone. Check out our friends at Fortify, a recovery-focused platform that will allow you take a step toward freedom. Anyone 17 years and younger can apply for a free scholarship to the site, and it's an inexpensive fee for anyone 18 and older. There is hope—sign up today to get the help you need and join with an encouraging community.

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