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“We just found out ____ looked at pornography. We need your help. What do we do now?”

I wish this question wasn’t so common in my line of work (student pastor), but it might be the most common conversation I have with parents.

If you’re reading this because you found out your kid has been viewing pornography or you suspect they are, you are not alone in this battle, it was their sin that got them there, and God is the only one that can provide true, lasting healing. Let that last one sink in for a second. God loves your kid way more than you do, and He wants them to find victory over this sin way more than you do. But you do have a part to play in the healing process.

Pray…No Seriously…Don’t Skip This

It’s cliché, but before you react, call anybody, or imagine how you’re going to destroy all technology in your house, take a breath and pray.

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Ask Him for wisdom on how to deal with this. Here’s the thing, your child didn’t get here overnight; they won’t be healed overnight. This is not something you need to act on right away, in fact, there’s a lot of wisdom in taking a step back and praying as a couple or asking people in your community to be praying for wisdom.  

And then continually and desperately be praying every day for their healing as you walk through this process. The goal of the Christian life isn’t to give us a bunch of tips and techniques to be “good” people, it’s to fall so in love with Jesus that the sin which so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1-2), like porn, becomes less and less attractive.

Approach It with Grace and Truth

Most parents freak out initially, which if you’re reading this after the freak-out, you can still redeem yourself, but over reaction causes your child to correlate confession with shame and punishment. The next time they’re struggling, the last person they’re going to talk to is the person who put their phone in the blender yelling, “Not in my house.” That’s a true story by the way. Is it a big deal? Yes. Is it the end of the world with no hope of healing? No. Healing is possible; it’s a long, uphill battle, but it’s definitely possible. Grace is so necessary in this process. Be continually reminding your child that they are still loved and that this is exactly why Jesus had to come and die. He died for that sin. Remind them that their identity is not as a “porn addict” (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20), but they are a child of God (John 1:12, Romans 8:16). Also, remind them you still love them, aren’t mad at them, and you don’t want them to go down this path because life isn’t found in sin. Sin only brings destruction.

It’s very likely that your child has known that looking at porn is wrong. There’s a reason they are hiding it. I was addicted to pornography myself for eleven years, and there were many nights I prayed my parents would catch me no matter the consequences or how weird and awkward it would be.

Even though most people would say that pornography is wrong, I don’t think they know how damaging it really is, especially adolescent children. Yes, the topic needs to be addressed with grace, but it also needs to be addressed with truth. Our kids need to know that pornography is not a small problem and life isn’t found there. At the bottom of this blog there’s an article (along with other resources) from Focus on the Family that talks about how pornography radically alters the brain. It’s an incredible resource, and I highly recommend it.

Create Open Communication and Boundaries  

Again, pray for wisdom (James 1:5), every parent and kid are different. I know some families that don’t allow cell phones out of the living room or kitchen under any circumstances. I know some families that give their kids free reign of technology because they don’t want to violate their kid’s privacy. I know some families that read all their kid’s text messages and check their search history. This is the cold hard truth: you are their parent, not their friend.

It is going to look different for everyone because there isn’t a perfect formula, but the two biggest motivations I can give parents is this: you’re the parent and talk to your kids. “I just want my kid to trust me,” is the most common phrase I get from parents as I walk with them through this struggle. Yes, we all want people to trust us, but you can’t even trust yourself in addiction. Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is deceitful and desperately sick, who can trust it or understand it? Cut the hand off and gouge the eye out, when Jesus says that in Matthew 5:27-30 it seems pretty serious. It seems like war. Don’t just get by, fight it. Three years ago, I had some guys in my community group tell me they felt like I should delete the internet off my phone. No internet, no apps, nothing. I fought it because I “needed it.” They asked me a question: “What’s more important, the internet on your phone or your purity?” It’s been three years; I have no internet or apps on my phone…crazy, I didn’t need it.

Create open communication with your kid. Let me tell you, it is going to be incredibly weird and awkward to talk to your kid about sexual sin, but I believe it’s weird because the enemy has made it that way. The more taboo it is, the less it’s talked about. The less it’s talked about, the more of a grip it has on people. Our kids need to know that sex is a gift from God, but since we’ve avoided the topic all together people now equate sex to something that is bad. Find out when and where temptation is the greatest for your child. If it’s alone in the bathroom, then tell them to leave all technology out of the bathroom, and then ask them regularly how temptation has been in the places they’re most tempted. Anyone else squirming a little bit? Good. It’s going to be weird, but here’s my question: would you rather it be weird and have it lead to your kid’s healing, or do you want to avoid the subject and continue to allow sexual sin to have a grip on them? Empower them to talk to you about it, and with time it will get less weird and less taboo to talk about it. I now know students in Fellowship Student Ministries that openly talk to their parents about their struggle, they even start the conversation sometimes. It’s weird, but let me tell you, those kids are being empowered to fight.

Empower and Celebrate Confession

Where light is darkness cannot be (John 1:5, Ephesians 5:11-13). It is true that there isn’t a perfect formula for healing. I say this because most of the time when parents are calling, they want to know what they need to do to fix their kid. But God does give us a formula for healing. You confess, people pray for you, and you find healing (James 5:16).

Celebrate when your child confesses to you. That’s a big step in them wanting to find healing, but then help them process how they got there and how they can avoid that in the future. Help them bring it more into the light. Also, empower them to talk to the people in their small groups. We have some amazing small group leaders who are more than equipped to have this conversation with your kid. Most of our small groups actually start their groups (when we used to meet before COVID) with the question: “How was your purity this week?” And we have large amounts of students that are sharing not just how their actions were that week, but how their thoughts were.  

Yes, it takes a village to raise a kid. The local church, small group leaders, and I are here to support you, but this all starts with you, parents. Pornography isn’t the problem; the problem is sin. There isn’t a formula or a one-time fix, it’s a lifetime of fighting. I have been free from pornography for over 3 years, but I still have to fight just as hard today as day one. God is the only one that can provide true, lasting healing, but we do have a role to play. Pray (don’t skip this step), approach this topic with grace and truth, remove access wherever necessary, create open dialogue no matter how weird it may be, and empower a heart of confession. Healing is possible, and I pray that this article encourages you and leads to your kid’s healing.

Below are a few articles and resources that I find helpful for myself and for other people I’m walking with. Part of removing access to pornography can be filters, but the reason I didn’t touch on filters in the article is because a lot of people see filters as the savior. Nope. First, I had filters for two years and found loophole after loophole (why my community encouraged me to get rid of internet access). Second, the problem isn’t porn, it’s sin. If we don’t attack the heart of the issue, we won’t be able to view porn, but will replace it with something else. I recommend filters for sure, but Jesus is the reason we find healing.

You can’t impart what you don’t possess. I have found that as parents start walking with their kids through this struggle, they confess that they are struggling with sexual sin as well. The percentages of people in the Church who view pornography regularly are staggering. We have pastors on staff here that would love to walk you through this. You may want to get involved in community yourself. We’re here for you. Here are some emails of pastors on staff:

  • Tyler Blackburn, Equipping and Community Group Pastor- This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Doug Grimes, Directional Leader- This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Shannon Chung, Global Outreach Pastor- This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Chris Massey, Pastor of Church Ministries- This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Ben Pukas, me- This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Resources:

How Pornography Affects a Teen Brain 

15 Mind-Blowing Statistics about Pornography and the Church 

Best Internet Accountability Software 

Conquer Series- Dads and Sons Can Do This with Other Dads and Sons 

How to Talk to Younger Kids about the Dangers of Porn 

Great Articles about Combating Pornography 


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