From parents who are supporting a loved one
(Note: for ease of writing, we are using the “he” pronoun in this article, but both boys and girls can struggle with pornography challenges.)
One of the hardest things to find out as a parent is that your child has a pornography problem.
You feel hurt, angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, and helpless… all at the same time! You feel like it’s all your fault, that if you had done something different, been more observant, had more filters, etc, etc, etc, then you could have avoided this.
And now, you feel an overwhelming desire to DO SOMETHING!
You can’t just sit back and let your child continue down this path, but you really don’t know what to do.
You start by taking your child’s phone away and put extra filters on all the computers.
Your child promises to never do it again, and for a little while, you feel better.
But then you find out it is still happening, he is still accessing and viewing pornography. And even worse, you find out he has been lying to you about it for a long time.
You want to be helpful, but you can’t be everywhere all the time and you can’t police him all the time. You really need someone to tell you what to do, and you need HELP!
Mothers Who Know is an organization of Latter-day Saint women who understand. We have all been there. We get it! We know what you may be feeling (because we have felt the same way!) and we are fighting the same battles.
All moms are welcome to join our free weekly meetings where we learn from each other and provide connection, support and training.
Recently, we asked our group of over 3000 mothers what advice they would give other moms who are in this situation:
Here are the top 10 ways to support a child struggling with pornography from “Mothers Who Know.”
- Love and love and love some more. This does not mean condoning or making light of wrong choices, but genuinely letting your child know you love him… NO MATTER WHAT!
- Encourage your child to reach out to a select few trusted family members or friends they can be accountable to or just feel comfortable talking to. Grandparents, close siblings, and church leaders can be a great and loving resource and are not as naïve as we might think.
- Guide your child to professional resources such as addiction recovery meetings or counseling with regular scheduled times that keep him accountable for behavior. (“My husband attended 12 step with my son for a while and now that he has moved away he feels comfortable enough to go alone.”) We highly recommend the Sons of Helaman program for young men and the Daughters of Light program for young women.
- Continue to enjoy your child as someone other than his addiction. “Go on a trip together and make happy memories. These are what sustain us in darker times.” Don’t make all your conversations about his addiction or how he is doing. Get to know him and all the other things he is interested in. Your child is NOT his addiction. Both you and he need to know that!
- Make daily contact with your child. “Our son lives away from home now and either my husband or I contact him daily. We usually don’t talk about his addiction but we check in and make sure he is okay. He will tell us if he’s not. This is also an opportunity to tell him we love and believe in him.”
- Point out your child’s strengths when you have the opportunity and help him to see his talents and potential. Do not DEFINE him by his addiction. “No one wants to be judged for their worst problems.”
- Express, at the right time, how your child’s addiction hurts you as a parent. “I have not done this often, but when my son has been in an especially difficult cycle of addiction, I have told him how much it hurts me as a mother and we have cried together. This has often acted as a reset for his behavior and he has improved afterward. I think it’s okay to not feel that we have to be invincible for our kids. It’s okay for them to see us hurting. My son does not want to hurt others and sometimes I think it’s okay for them to realize, that is exactly what they are doing.”
- Reach out to your family, friends, and community and help educate on the dangers of pornography. “I have become chair of an annual White Ribbon Week at my other kids’ school and my husband and I hosted and presented a parent education night. We have not shared our son’s story because it is still too painful and private, but we are willing to talk about porn and how to teach our kids to recognize and reject it. It has been healing for us to be proactive.”
- Radiate goodness that your child will gravitate to. “My husband and I have often felt during this five years that sometimes all we can do is ‘be the goodness.’ As my son no longer lives at home, he comes home about one weekend a month to see us because he feels happy at our home. Being the goodness means that we laugh, have fun, eat good food, tease, dance, play with the dog, visit grandparents, serve others, worship, recreate, and create a nurturing environment as much as we can. That does not mean that our house is perfect, far from it most days! It just means that we abide in love and do our best to allow light and happiness to fill our hearts and souls.”
- Teach your children to serve others. This creates empathy. When our children have feelings for others, they are less likely to engage in behaviors that hurt others such as porn. Sensitive hearts can be healed. “We have done many family service projects together. Service allows our minds and hearts to be consumed by the needs of others instead of our own. Service fights pornography addiction because it is everything porn isn’t. It is helpful, unselfish, engaging, and fosters connection with others.”
Our final piece of advice to all mothers—get support for YOU!
One of the best things you can do to support your children is to take care of yourself, especially mentally.
When a child is battling pornography, it can be a roller coaster ride emotionally. Make sure you have put on your seatbelt and have support for YOU!
Take the FREE Mom Power Training course and learn skills that will help you as you move forward and navigate this bumpy road.
Read Momma Trauma and learn steadfast strategies to stay centered on Jesus Christ.
Read Like Dragons Did They Fight and better understand the cycle of addiction and what is really going on in your child’s mind.
Finally, Mothers, if you only get one thing from this article, we want you to hear this: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!
Your child’s choices are his own. You cannot control him. You cannot take away his agency.
You have to give him to God, and then “cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.” (Doctrine and Covenants 123:17)
Stronger together, we are truly “Mothers Who Know.”