This is the second in a six-article series to help parents respond to a child’s accidental porn exposure or purposeful seeking it out. The first article in the series is Your Child Has Viewed Porn, Now What? 5 SMART Tips for Parents.

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The SMART Plan: 5 Tips for Parents

  • Stay calm
  • Make a plan
  • Assist your kids to sort out their feelings
  • Regularly check in with your kids
  • Train your family

Stay calm

You’ve just found Internet searches for porn on a mobile device your child uses. Or maybe on the family computer. Or maybe your child is that rare bird who tells you soon after an unwanted exposure happens.

Of course, you feel anything but calm. Especially if you see some of the graphic and illicit images they’ve just been exposed to. (Or you find out their cousin was the one who exposed them.) Take a deep breath and go to your happy place.

TWO TIPS for Keeping Your Cool

After discovering a child’s exposure to porn, try to:

  1. Delay reacting
  2. Take time to deal with your own emotions first

Delay Reacting

It’s understandable that parents are devastated when they find their child has been looking at pornography. Even if the child came across it accidentally (as a victim of the predatory porn industry), you may feel guilty because you couldn’t protect them. Or angry. Or betrayed. Or all of the above.

In our introduction to our read-aloud book Good Pictures Bad Pictures, we advise parents to:

“Remain calm. Shame and secrecy only increase the power of porn. If your kids reveal a past exposure to pornography, this is a good opportunity to find how much they’ve seen, read, or listened to.”

My advice is to cry or punch your pillow in private. Or find some beautiful, sandy beach and meditate. Whatever it takes.

Why? To help your kids feel safe.

Jeffrey J. Ford, MS, LMFT and author of the online article Creating a Safe Place to Talk About Dangerous Things, advises:

“Showing your son or daughter that what they share with you isn’t going to send you over the emotional edge creates a lot of safety and encourages them to share more.”

sad hispanic woman with hands on mouthAdditionally, Ford cautions parents to be careful how they label people with pornography addictions, and shares this story he heard from a teenager:

“Whenever the subject of pornography comes up, my parents talk about how sick and wrong people are who look at it! Well, I look at it, so they will not love me if I tell them.”

Ford explains that scolding a child and forbidding them to ever look at it again may be counterproductive. If kids are in a habit of viewing pornography, just stopping may not be possible. One young man that Ford worked with said,Regretful young man

“I had already tried to stop and I couldn’t do it. How do they expect me to just turn it off? So I just stopped talking about it with them, because I didn’t want to disappoint them anymore.”

This is the danger you run by reacting with emotion and imposing threats. You may cause your child to work harder at hiding his or her problem.

Deal with Your Own Emotions Before You Deal with Your Child

Take the time you need to sort out your feelings. If you’ve discovered porn on a device your child uses, there’s no reason you have to confront your child immediately.

Just breathe.

Talk to your spouse or a close family member or friend. Or get in your car and talk to yourself! Many of us process our feelings better when we can hear ourselves talk. (Or go to that tropical happy place!)

Serious talkIf a child tells you about a porn exposure, thank them and praise them for coming and telling you. Many children find this very difficult and confusing—it may be a big deal for them to confide in you.

If you walk in on a child viewing porn on a computer or device, here’s a possible response (said with a calm tone of voice…OK, I know I’m asking a lot here!):

“I see what you’re doing. Please turn it off (and give  me the device). I need some time to think about this. I want you to know that I love you, and we are going to work through this together.”

Try to remember two facts:

  • The porn is the enemy. You can hate the porn.
  • You love your child. You and your child are on the same team.

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Next SMART Step: Make a Plan

Once you’ve processed the shock and calmed yourself, you’ll be ready for the next SMART task: Make a Plan. Every successful battle requires a plan.

The porn industry is a foe that should not be underestimated.

With a plan, you’ll be able to better listen and gather crucial information from your child, as well as persuade them that their future happiness lies in their ability to reject pornography of all kinds.

Do you have any other ideas for staying calm when confronted by the shocking discovery of your child’s pornography exposure? Please share!

Here’s the next article in this SMART Parent series: SMART Parents Make a Plan to Address Pornography Exposure

Every child deserves a defense against the porn industry! 

Can you think of a parent who might benefit from the information offered here at PornProof Kids or in our book Good Pictures Bad Pictures? If so, please forward this post to them with a personal message. 

Here’s a note I recently received:

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Click on cover to purchase

“I know it is important to teach our children when they are young. We are a family who… monitors Internet access very carefully. I thought we were safe, but last year we discovered that some pornography had slipped by into our home. Seeing it made me want to throw up and cry at the same time. 

“I am so thankful for your book so that I can prepare my younger children for if they are ever placed in that kind of situation. Before our experience I didn’t want to bring it up with my kids and I wouldn’t have known what to say anyway. Just ‘pornography’s bad, don’t look at it.’ Because of your book, we had a wonderful discussion. THANK YOU!” 

Kristen Jenson
Kristen A. Jenson is the founder of Protect Young Minds and author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids. Kristen enjoys speaking, writing and anything else that will help empower kids to reject pornography. Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, watching Masterpiece Theater, and taking long walks with friends who tolerate her incessant talking about you know what. Above all else, her husband and three children are her greatest treasures.
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