Awkward. Uncomfortable. Unplanned.
The conversation might be triggered by a 9-year-old Googling “boobs” or by a 15-year-old who visits graphic “shock sites” because he or she thinks they’re hilarious. but parents who may be ready to have a traditional talk about sex often can feel unsure about how to respond when they discover their children have looked at pornography.
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“There’s a technical word for the conversations that adults have with their kids when the parents are uncomfortable: parenting,” said Marty Klein, a sex and family therapist and author of “Sexual Intelligence”. He stressed that there’s no big secret for parents who have to talk to their children about sexual topics. but a general sense of how the conversation can unfold can make the topic easier to broach.
How do you respond in the moment?“Kids listen to how we say things almost more than what we actually say,” said Elizabeth Schroeder, the executive director of Answer. Don’t freak out. Take a deep breath. React calmly. Talk it over with a spouse or friend, and then choose a calm moment to follow up.
How do you actually start the conversation about pornography?Let your children know that they can ask you about anything they might have seen. Even if they have no questions, start the conversation with feelings, Mr. Klein suggested, by asking: “how did you feel about what you saw? was it scary? Exciting? Confusing?” Assure children that whatever they’re feeling does not make them a bad person.
How do you talk to children of different ages about pornography?“If a 4-year-old is looking at sexually explicit material, it’s probably making no impact on them whatsoever,” Mr. Klein said. a number of parents said in interviews that their children had searched for sexual terms when they were as young as 8 or 9, usually to better understand sex. The best response at that age? Honest sex education that reflects a parent’s values. Teenagers, on the other hand, have a greater need for understanding what is real versus what is produced for entertainment, Mr. Klein said.
What if your children don’t want to talk about what they’ve seen? some children might not have any specific questions, or shy away from talking to their parents about explicit materials they’ve seen, but that doesn’t mean they’re not curious or don’t have questions. An incident can present an opportunity for parents to provide guidance as children develop their ideas about sex, said Mr. Klein.
How have other parents handled this conversation? on the following pages you can read five stories of how parents have handled the profusion of explicit content available to their children, as well as expert advice for handling different situations. Begin with the story of Jeanne Sager, and what happened when she left her 6-year-old daughter alone with a “My Little Pony” video in “The Accidental Click.”