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Pornography. Even the word fills most parents with a sense of dread. Questions come streaming in. How do I talk to my children about the dangers of pornography? Has my child been exposed to it already? And the big question: What do I do if my child tells me they have seen pornography?

Porn is confusing! Two conflicting feelings occur at the same time when a child comes across it for the first time. One response may be a pleasurable, physical response and the other may be an emotionally upset or horrified response. If a child is left to figure out those emotions on their own, they may be tempted to seek out more porn to try and solve their bewildering feelings.

Three Simple Steps to Help Children Make Sense of Their Feelings

Jeffrey J. Ford, a licensed marriage and family therapist, teaches three steps to take to help your child after he or she has seen pornography.

  1. The first step is to ask: How did your body feel when you saw the pornography? Parents need to recognize that pornography arouses sexual feelings which physically feels good. That is normal! Acknowledging that sexual arousal feels good will avoid shaming your child about having normal sexual feelings.
  2. The second step is to ask: How do you feel emotionally? Many kids often say that their stomach feels “yucky” after seeing pornography. That is confusing! How can it make my body feel good but my emotions feel bad at the same time?
  3. The third step is to explain that there is an appropriate time and place to feel sexual feelings. When they grow up and find someone that they love and trust, their bodies and their emotions can feel good. Sexual feelings are good and normal! They are made to bring two people together and keep them in a loving relationship such as marriage.

By helping children sort out their feelings will help them train their brains to reject pornography and recognize that porn isn’t natural. It helps children understand that sex isn’t about using someone else but is about connecting and showing kindness and love to someone they are committed to.

View Jeffrey J. Ford’s video, The Five Cs: What If My Child Has Been Exposed.

Parents can learn more about preparing their children to successfully manage encounters with pornography at the Utah Coalition Against Pornography Stronger Together Conference on March 12, 2016 in Salt Lake City.

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Author Rachel Denton has her undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University in Early Child Education and Child Development. She is currently working towards her Masters in Social Work. Rachel is from Portland, Oregon and is the oldest of five children.

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