This is an email I received from a mother. Unfortunately, her concerns and struggles are very similar to those of other mothers.
Here is the letter and my response…
My son has a pornography/masturbation problem. He has a strong testimony, but has not been able to take the sacrament for over a year! He started out talking to the bishop once a week, but it slowly became longer and longer between times. And now hasn’t seen him in months.
He doesn’t like to talk about it with me, and my husband thinks it will just go away. He is 16 1/2 and I don’t see how anything is going to change since nothing we have done thus far has helped.
Is there online help for him? Can you just help me to know what I should be doing – pressing the issue of counseling or letting it alone. I am very non-judgmental about his situation. I fear for his future and feel like there is no one to talk to about it. Everyone that I can talk to seems to treat it so lightly. My nephew attended your [Sons of Helaman] program and it helped him to get on his mission, but I don’t want to talk to my sister because I don’t want to break a confidence with my son.
Thank you for anything you can help me with.
Dear Typical Mom,
I feel for your pain. I am sad that you are experiencing this dynamic. We have learned that mothers are the most likely to be strongly invested in getting their sons help. This seems to be for two reasons.
First, it is true that fathers have a tendency to down play it. Mostly because men don’t want to insult their sons confidence by telling them, “You aren’t capable of fixing this on your own.”
Instinctually, the father remembers that one of the most important emotional experiences to have as a young man is the acquisition of confidence; the, “I can do anything I put my mind to” sensation.
Also, in many cases with fathers when they were young men, the behavior(s) never hit the addict level. If the father never became an addict, then willpower would have been enough to over come the “bad habit”. Unfortunately, it appears that your son has reached the addict level – where willpower is not enough.
Second, the strong mother instinct to make sure her children are prepared for adult life is burning strong inside of you.
Part of your responsibility is to feel what it is going to be like to be a wife to this young man.
You, 10 times more than either your husband or your Bishop, know how much pain it is going to cause your son’s wife if he doesn’t overpower this addiction before his is married.
Also, you are guessing, with decent accuracy, how he is going to feel if he is unable to serve a mission or has it significantly delayed.
Finally, you sense what years of “lost battles” will do to his confidence if he doesn’t acquire the needed training to win the war.
(A “lost battle” refers to doing something against your value system even when you know you shouldn’t. It is from the book Like Dragons Did They Fight.)
Almost every Bishop I have worked with has great intent and works hard. Their responsibilities are broad and deep. I would not be surprised if the Bishop has gotten overwhelmed with other things and your son has accidentally fallen through the cracks.
I have recommended to other mothers in this situation to make their own appointment with the Bishop and remind him of your concerns. The Bishop should be able to call your son in for a visit without revealing that you have spoken to him.
In the past, I have run your question, “What should I do as a mother?” past my groups of young men and have gotten some interesting responses.
Most of them sound something like, “Konk the kid over the head, drag him in here, throw him in the couch and let him wake up in the middle of a group session. He will be grateful for the rest of his life.”
This may be a little extreme, but the young men agree, once you get past the initial embarrassment (first 5 minutes) [of attending a Sons of Helaman group] the experience of seeing real, quality young men, fighting shoulder to shoulder against a ferocious enemy, will help them build skills and brotherhood to last a lifetime.
She can help resolve concerns and give you ideas.
Two, attend the free Warrior Mothers Who Know support group, a place for all mothers in a similar situation to learn from each other, gain valuable tools, and have access to a therapist Q&A once a month.
Three, set an appointment to meet with one of our clinicians to get your son a quick assessment to see if the problem is bad enough to warrant professional help. Please call our main office to find out how to set this up at 877-437-6877.
Before the appointment tell your son, “I have someone I want you to meet. I was reading about a special training program for young men, and I wanted us both to meet with these people to see if it would be a good idea to follow through on it.” Our clinicians are very experienced and well trained to handle this sensitive transition. In almost every case, once the young man meets the clinician, everything flows. If the clinician recommends something less than Sons of Helaman, you can have confidence in his recommendations.
Finally, do not take it too personally that your son is not confiding in you. This is almost universal.
In two ways it is actually a good sign, developmentally.
One, it means your son has a respect for you as a woman and does not want to contaminate you with the problem.
Second, he is trying to complete his sense of “Competency” development….he wants to prove that he can do something without help.
Part of what we train the young men is that “lost battles” are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of how big of an army Satan is sending against you because he is afraid of what you will become as a full grown man!
We follow that by teaching him that no intelligent military strategist would send one warrior alone against such a large army. This helps him maintain self value and get help at the same time.
I hope this helps.
If you have any follow up questions, please feel free to email our office at firstname.lastname@example.org the Mothers Who Know team at email@example.com.
Maurice Harker, CMHC,