Category: Marriage and Family

A Parent’s Guide to Porn: 5 Ways to Limit the Effects of Porn on Your Kids

By: Daniel Caldwell, CMHC

In October of this year (2015) I was scrolling through the newsfeed on Facebook and I saw an article. The title excited me and I remember thinking “this must be a joke!”  This particular article was a USA Today Article entitled “Playboy to Stop Publishing Nude Photos.”   It took me a minute to register what I was reading.  I am a mental health counselor that works with people who are struggling with unwanted compulsions towards pornography.  From my perspective porn use is at an all time high and only getting worse. At first glance this article caused me to wonder if perhaps a cultural shift was happening and things were changing in that regard.  Although, that seemed unlikely, I had a glimmer of hope.  Perhaps Mr. Hefner had recognized the problems he was causing people and had decided to change his tone.  As I read the article I soon began to realize that my hopes were too good to be true.  The USA Today article reported that The onslaught of Internet pornography has made the nude images in Playboy “passé,” Scott Flanders, the company’s chief executive, told the New York Times. “That battle has been fought and won,” Flanders told the newspaper. “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free.”

I now understood. This was not an indication of a change in attitude, a shift in culture, or a gain in the fight against pornography.  This was the result of, as playboy put it, “that battle has been fought and won”  What battle?  The battle to have pornography become “passé” to become a normal everyday thing in our lives.

Whether we like it or not pornography is now very common and part of our lives and in regards to our kids, the question is no longer “ How do I protect them from seeing porn?” but “How do I limit their exposure and how do I protect them from the effects of that exposure?” A study released in 2008 surveyed 560 college students.  In this study 93% of boys and 62% of girls were exposed to pornography before the age of 18.  This number has likely increased in the past 8 years. The reality is that our kids will see pornography, so how do we keep them safe from it’s effects.  I don’t know that there is any absolute answer to that question,  but I came up with 5 things that I believe can greatly reduce the negative effects of pornography on children and adolescents.  

Talk About Sex

That uncomfortable looming topic that every parent, from before the time they are parents, dread having to talk to their kids about.  Sex is only an uncomfortable topic because we culturally have made it an uncomfortable topic.  As Americans we have developed a culture in which sex is a shameful thing.  This is an even more common problem in religious circles.  Most parents will acknowledge that sex is healthy and beautiful when shared between a husband and wife, but that is not the message our kids are getting.  THe message we send through our comfort level, and openness about the topic is that sex is secretive, dirty, wrong, scary, embarrassing, shameful, and something not to be discussed.  If we are uncomfortable to talk with our kids about sex then our kids will teach themselves and nowadays the internet provides more than a little information on the topic, but does not generally present it in a way that most parents are comfortable with, and that is the first place kids go to answer questions.

As a counselor who works with men having struggles with their sexual impulses and pornography use, I have discovered that many individual’s first introduction to pornography was very innocent.  Many individuals report that they were accidentally exposed and found it intriguing and looked further, others were simply curious about sex. What it is and how it is done? What can I expect with puberty? Are my sexual feelings and desires normal?  Whether explicit or implicit the message was received that mom and dad are not comfortable talking about this so they pick their favorite search engine and start learning.  Even a simple question like “What is sex?” Will quickly lead to extremely sexually explicit material.

The solution?  We need to force ourselves as parents to talk to our kids about sex.  We need to be able to talk about it confidently and maturely and get comfortable with words like penis, erection, vagina, clitoris, intercourse, condom, pornography, etc.  We don’t necessarily need to discuss everything but we should be comfortable talking about everything from oral sex, to homosexuality.  We as parents need to create an environment where a child feels comfortable asking any questions about sex because they know they will not be judged.  This decreases experimentation, and decreases the use of porn use for sexual education.  We as parents need to get rid of the idea that talking about sex will cause my kids to engage in it.  The exact opposite is true.  A teenager is going to be thinking about sex whether you bring it up or not, but let yourself be the teacher rather than friends or the porn industry.

Understand Current Media

It doesn’t matter if you were a teenager 5 years ago or 60 years ago, the media that you had as a teenager has changed drastically.  For today’s teenagers media is a very integral part of their lives, they love it and they know it better than you.  Therefore one of your child’s greatest defences against pornography is you being a few steps ahead of them in the technology department.  You need to know the media they know and use the media they use.  You need to be researching the media they use and know what all the apps on their phones are for.  The truth is that unless you have a “dumb phone” it is almost impossible to limit all access to pornography on a phone.  An app that looks innocent might not be.  An app that is innocent might not stay that way.  There is a way to access pornography through almost any app on your child’s phone and if they want it, they will figure out how to get it.  Knowing devices and technology better than your child will help you to be able to keep them safe.

Don’t Shame

The fuel of addiction is shame.  Nothing will create more problems when it comes to addictive or compulsive behavior than shame. Shame is often used as a method of education and or punishment.  Often as parents we innocently confuse shame with guilt.  Guilt is helpful and healing, but shame is destructive.   So what’s the difference?  Guilt is the idea that “I made a mistake and THAT WAS BAD.”   Shame is “I made a mistake and therefore I AM BAD” Shame is the idea that I am a bad (Throw any negative adjective in there) person, and is an extremely damaging emotion and thought.  As parents it is easy to unintentionally shame a child when we are only meaning to give guidance.  When discussing sex, or addressing pornography use it is important to make sure the child understands their actions do not equal who they are.  Letting them know that while porn is bad you do not see them as a “bad person.”  This is harder than it sounds.  A comment as innocent as “I am disappointed in you”  can leave the child or teen with the message of “I am a disappointment.”  Instant shame!  A better way to say this is “I am disappointed in your choice.” Followed by sincere love, and a genuine desire to understand what they are feeling and needing from you.

Limit Exposure

This can be difficult.  Notice I didn’t say “stop exposure.” the reality is that you cannot stop the exposure.  Whether you like it or not their is a very good chance that your child will be exposed to pornography and that it will happen before the age of 13.  However; as parents there is a lot we can do to limit that exposure.  We obviously can’t control the internet access at friends houses, and on friends devices, and we can’t completely eliminate the ability to access it at home  without complete and total lockdown, which you might feel you need to do.  However; we can greatly limit access, in our own homes, which will decrease the chance that your child will develop a dependency or compulsion towards pornography. Things like accountability programs, limited access to apps, internet filters etc.  are all ways to limit the access.

Be involved

Lastly and I would say the best way to protect your children against pornography is to stay involved in their lives.  Know their friends and their friend’s parents.  Know where they are, get them involved in extracurricular activities and support them in those endeavors.  Talk with them!  I cannot emphasis the importance of this.  Talk with them, with an open mind, validate their concerns and worries and frustrations even if, from your adult perspective, you don’t understand what the big deal is.  The more they feel listened to, validated, unjudged, and un-shamed by you the more you will know about what they are doing and the more they will open up to you.  Often times the use of pornography is a result of feeling a lack of intimate connection with people in our lives. All humans need intimate connection, they need to feel loved, valued, and seen.  If we don’t have that we will search for that in any way we can and unfortunately pornography is an easy way to inauthentically get that.  Although inauthentic, it feels better than loneliness.

To recap.  Your kids will be exposed to pornography but the question is how much they will be exposed and how that exposure will affect them.  Much of that is up to you as a lot of it comes down to you being confident enough to talk to your kids about hard things, confronting them on things they might not want to talk about, not shaming them but listening to them, and being involved in their lives.

 

85 Years Married and Going Strong

By: Christopher D. Adams, MFT

In 2009, the record was set for the longest marriage; Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher had been married for 85 years.  When I heard this I was so impressed and so I began to search to find how they have been so successful. Marriage is hard for every couple at one point or another and I wanted to hear how they got through the hard times.

In an interview that they gave on Valentines Day, they answered 14 questions about their relationship and how their marriage could survive that long. As I read up on their journey I heard them discuss arguments that they have had over the years. Zelmyra cited a way toward success for them was “learning to bend, not break.”

As a marriage and family therapist, I spend a lot of time with individuals who are at their breaking point.  The imagery of a straw that breaks the back of the proverbial camel is a visual that is discussed regularly in my office. If you are approaching that break point or you may even feel that you have been broken several times in the past, you deserve some help to know how to bend and not break.  At Connections Counseling Service, we pride ourselves in helping couples to bend and repair their relationships before and after that straw has been placed on tired shoulders.

Herbert and Zelmyra remind us that,  “marriage is not a contest – never keep a score. God has put the two of you together on the same team to win!”

If your marriage has become a contest, if you feel that not only are you loosing the game but that you are just getting too tired to play, please call us and set up a consultation.  It is not too late to give it another shot. Let us help the two of you get back on the same team.

 

Bringing Back the Joy of Marriage

By: Christopher Adams, AMFT

 

In the micro culture of a marriage, we make lots of decisions. There is an entire system of rules and expectations that are consciously and unconsciously decided by our partner and us.  Unfortunately, couples fight and often times it is about this system that isn’t making sense.

In their book, Love that Lasts, Gary and Joy Lundberg talk about how to survive the arguments of marriage.  One of the best things that a couple can do is to make a conscious decision to laugh.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist I have learned the value of helping my clients to see the humor in the arguments that they are having and teaching them to do the same.  This does not mean that I do not take seriously the hurts and betrayals that occur in the marriage relationship.  There are many tears and devastations that come in the course of couples counseling, however, as Marie Osmond has said,  “If you are going to look back at something and laugh, why not do it now.”

Laughter in marriage can have a powerful effect.  It creates chemical releases that allow the human body to bond and to repair hurts both past and present. If you and your spouse have forgotten how to laugh together, come and see us at Connections Counseling Center and let us help you to bring the joy back into your relationship.

You both deserve to laugh, let’s see if you can do it together.

Infidelity in Relationships

By Kyle M. Reid, LMFT

Sexual infidelity in a relationship causes significant distress to the partner that falls victim to it. Sexual infidelity can encompass a variety of behaviors. These behaviors include, but are not limited to, sexually acting out, having an emotional affair with another person outside of the relationship, or viewing pornographic images.

Regardless of the type of infidelity, all may have equally damaging effects on the partner who is victimized.

If the partners want to make things work, seeking counseling is important for the couple and often the family.  Much of the therapy experience, at the beginning, is dedicated to exploring the emotional betrayal and trauma of the injured partner. The ability to express and work through this pain with his or her partner present can be invaluable to the healing process.

However, this can often be a difficult thing to do if the offending partner or the offender is seeking to move on from the infidelity. He or she might not wish to revisit all the hurt and pain that had been caused by the infidelity. They might worry that their partner will not be able to move past it, or that talking about it makes it worse.

When this happens, couples often get stuck in the cycle of the offended partner becoming an anxious and fearful  detective  – always assessing what their partner is doing and where they are going, and the offender feeling controlled and frustrated with their partner for not being able to move on and trusting them again.

In actuality, as the offended partner works through the emotional trauma associated with the infidelity and is able to feel validated and understood by their partner, he or she is able to move on in the relationship much more quickly and come to a place of forgiveness.

However, getting to forgiveness is difficult if the offender continues to commit infidelity in the relationship due to sexual or pornography compulsions. When this happens, much of the work is centered on helping the offended partner establish appropriate boundaries as well as reaching out and leaning on others for support and strength. At the same time, the offender must stay in recovery in order to leave their addiction or compulsion behind and begin to understand the needs that he or she is trying to meet in the process of acting out.

Building a string, loving and healthy attachment bond between the two partners and obtaining long term sobriety from the partner with the addiction or compulsion – is the ultimate goal in this process.   Marriages can become much stronger as result of this tragedy when proper work is done in understanding and healing issues that led the couple came to where they are.  (Examining the relationship prior to the infidelity can also be crucial due to the fact the infidelity often occurs after the relationship starts to get disconnected).

Help through therapy can be an important step in this process.  Many couples in our clinic have discovered a stronger relationship as result of working through the pain and finding individual and couple healing from the infidelity. While some couples have decided to part as result of the infidelity, others have sought to make things work; all can find healing and forgiveness from the pain and betrayal of infidelity.

 


 

Kyle
Kyle is a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in parenting and
individual and family work, including the effects of pornography.