If you have a teen that is struggling with sexual sin, I get your pain and your sorrow and your guilt. I am a Catholic mom of eight children, aged 9-24. I have made tons of mistakes in my mothering. It’s not easy raising children in today’s world.
I believe that the biggest temptation facing our children today is the internet. Our children, young and old, are in the midst of massive temptations and pressures.
I have written extensively about two key components needed in this fight.
- You must create a safe home, meaning no open access to the internet.
- We recommend filtering AND accountability in the form of Covenant Eyes and possibly Open DNS.
- You must intentionally talk to your child about love, lust, pornography and sexual temptations.
I didn’t do any of that at first. I thought my child wouldn’t be tempted. Dumb mistake. He had a penis. He was tempted.
I now spend my life teaching parents to be proactive. I help them with the kinds of conversations to have and when to have those conversations.
Safeguarding your home and intentionally educating your child BEFORE exposure to porn is an incredibly effective way to parent in today’s crazy culture.
Many parents nod when I tell them that. Then they whisper to me that they have an older son or a daughter doing some inappropriate things. I feel their pain and even though we aren’t certified sex addiction therapists, there are some basic things that we, the parents, can do to help our older teens.
There are many pieces to this puzzle but the MOST IMPORTANT piece:
Create Real Connection with Your Teen.
I love this because it’s incredibly easy to do! I will warn you, it does go against our natural instinct. But once you learn this skill and why it’s so effective, it will actually become second nature.
First of all, if your child knows right from wrong, they will clearly know when they fall into sin. What I am saying: you don’t have to point it out to them. They know.
They will most likely have an intense love/hate relationship with sin. That’s what sin is about: incredible temptation followed by immense shame.
They may feel a little lost, so they will want your guidance but they won’t want to hurt you so they will avoid talking about this part of their life.
In their mind, you cannot know the truth about them. They would rather pretend than have you see their truth. And Moms and Dads, here is where I pause….I give you each a glass of Merlot and we just take a deep breath together.
Their truth, what they have been doing, might be a little ugly. Or a lot ugly.
We live in a world of massive sexual exploitation. If your child has had open access to the internet, they have probably seen and experienced things that would blow you away. Or make you vomit. Or make you go into the fetal position. Or want to run away.
Here is my question: you gonna just leave them there or go on a rescue mission?
Yes, it sucks. But there is a simple, first step type of thing to do.
You need to build a bridge into their realm. You need to engage. There are many ways to do this. I have found the most effective strategy: empathy.
Empathy, the understanding that we all struggle, is a bridge.
The biggest and best step in guiding your child in this messed up world is to create that bridge.
It sounds harder than it is. Know that your child craves YOU. It’s not something that goes away once they enter their teen years. They love to sit and talk. They want connection.
They want to be understood.
So, however you can get that point across, do it.
I wanted my teenager, struggling with his or her emerging sexuality, to know they had a parent that could understand fully.
I wanted to give “me, too!” as a gift. So I said I knew that they had massive temptations. Then I shared some of my personal struggles from my teen years.
Was that easy? Yes, it was easy. “Honey, I understand everything you are going through. I went through something similar.”
And I shared some details.
In my heart of hearts, I knew that sharing the reality of some of my biggest struggles would let my child KNOW I was on his team and that I truly understood.
When we meet our child in the midst of their struggle, not with our anger or condemnation, but with the gift of understanding, something radical happens.
They KNOW that they don’t have to be “a certain way” to EARN our love.
Our world states emphatically that If You Are This, then I Will Love You.
- If you are an amazing athlete, then I will praise you.
- If you get good grades, then I will approve of you.
- If you obey me, then you’ll be worthy of my love.
Who wants that kind of life?
Raising strong, adult children means loving our children as they are, with all of their imperfections and struggles, even sinful struggles.
Is this scary? Of course it is. A part of me wants to MAKE my kids conform. I want them to be perfect or at least PRETEND TO BE PERFECT. But. That doesn’t really work. And that’s not really living.
In my head, I hear the Voice of Over-Pious Mothers saying, “We have to set the bar high otherwise they will succumb to their base desires.”
Or we can help them understand that they are worthy of love and belonging, which opens the door to real connection so they can get to the place where they will want to channel their base desires.
After all, that’s what authentic adulthood is about: INTEGRATION of their sexuality and spirituality, living in true freedom.
That takes a hot minute. So be patient.
And it’s a tad messy. But in the end, if you just stay the course and be there for your child in real ways, you will figure it out together.
TOGETHER is such a gloriously amazing word.
There is so much more to be said, so keep learning. Your child is worth it.
Take The Triple Dare, our gift to parents. (It’s a free, three-part video series; we go deeper into this realm of How to Create that Connection.)
This is our favorite workbook on addiction, Breaking the Chains. It goes through the process of how addiction happens and then it gives simple techniques to get out.
Fight the New Drug is committed to help teens and young adults get out of porn.
You are an aware, engaged parent. The best is yet to be.