Thinking about these things can help with the conversation.
Guilt. Shame. Shock. Anger. Confusion. What happens now? (I’m talking about how parents often feel after they catch their teen looking at porn.) You know you are going to have to talk to your teen about porn, but you aren’t sure what you will say or how to have this conversation with your teen in a productive and healthy manner. This conversation is an excellent opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with your teen. You got this!
A few things to think about BEFORE you talk to your teen:
You control the tone of the conversation, and how you approach this conversation is significant.
Your response has the potential to communicate that sex is dirty, being curious about sex is unhealthy, and that your teen is perverted or has something wrong with them. This is NOT the conversation you want to have.
Remember—this is an opportunity. You can have a tone and approach that opens the door for future conversations and draws your teen toward you OR you can have a tone and approach that slams this important door shut and pushes your teen away. (And they won’t be talking to you about anything personal for a long, long time.)
You may have a lot of thoughts and emotions of your own to process. Take your time and make sure you are in the right frame of mind with your emotions in check.
Ask yourself: What are my goals for this conversation?
If you have multiple children using multiple devices, make sure you are not jumping to conclusions about who was looking at what.
Spouses look at pornography too. This isn’t the time to play detective, but make sure you have your facts straight. Nothing feels worse than when someone accuses you of something you didn’t do.
Even if you found something on your teen’s phone, there is still the chance that they were not seeking anything explicit or pornographic.
They may have mistyped a URL, accidentally clicked an ad, or clicked on a trick link. They could have been “Cyber-Flashed.” Some popular apps like Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram leave the door wide open for other users to send things unrequested. The apps themselves sometimes “recommend” explicit content. Facebook is notorious for individuals sending a friend request, followed by explicit material after you accept the friend request. Even a friend or sibling could have been using their phone.
[Any of these scenarios still require a conversation, but one on digital safety. This online class covers all the bases.]
Educate yourself about pornography and its effects.
The website linked at the end will be a big help before you talk to your teen. Understand how pornography affects the brain and the chemistry of addiction.
A few things to think about AS you talk with your teen:
Try to find a time and place that allows for private undistracted, uninterrupted conversation. Here’s an example of a conversation.
Remember the Closer/Further Rule: Are my words, tone, attitude, body language more likely to cause my teen to want to move closer to me or move further away? (Literally and figuratively.) Am I exhibiting a calmness, openness, and compassion to my teen? “It’s safe to move closer to this person.”
Be direct, matter-of-fact, and calm—“I found pornography on your phone, (or tablet, or laptop) and I’d like us to talk about it.” [Be prepared for a variety of possible reactions—guilt, shame, or embarrassment over getting caught, or even anger and resentment for feeling like their privacy has been violated.]
End the conversation by asking if they have any questions, reaffirming that they can always come to you to talk about anything or when they feel tempted. Ask them how you can help them and above all else, tell them you love them no matter what and are willing to walk with them down this path.
Interrogate. Gently ask questions. You probably want to know when they first saw pornography, how often they look at pornography, what they use to view pornography. Ask your teen how they feel after looking at porn. (Keep a good poker face even if you hear some things that make you uncomfortable.) You know your teen. You know how to gauge your teen’s responses.
Lecture. You may have your own reasons why you don’t want your teen viewing pornography. Consider the following reasons as well:
The brain chemistry of addiction. Watching porn releases dopamine (“feel good” chemical) and oxytocin (bonding chemical). Both play a role in addiction.
Because of this, viewing pornography is an escalating behavior. The viewer will feel the need to see more porn and more explicit pornography to get the same chemical “high.”
Porn presents a distorted view of human sexuality and creates false expectations. It also leaves out the relational intimacy that contributes to good, healthy sex.
Pornography affects real-life relationships. Using porn is associated with less satisfaction in relationships, less close relationships, more loneliness, and more depression (Hesse & Floyd, 2019).
A few things to think about AFTER you talk to your teen about looking at porn:
Follow up. Teens often freeze-up when they are uncomfortable. They may need a day or two to process your conversation. Their thoughts, feelings, and questions might take a few days to form, so it’s a good idea to follow up a couple of days later with, “Now that you’ve had some time to think about our conversation, what thoughts or questions do you have?”
Talking to your teen about sex and looking at porn is not a one-time talk. As a parent, you want this to be an ongoing conversation. Be an “askable” parent. Cultivate a relationship with your teen where they feel comfortable talking to you about hard topics and asking you questions.
You may want to make some practical changes in how you use technology in your home. (Electronic devices used in common areas of the house, devices charged in your bedroom at bedtime, etc.)
You are the best app to protect your teen online. If you choose to install apps or programs that restrict or report content on a device remember, teens find workarounds. Ultimately, the battle against pornography is won by knowing the truth and character development. Your relationship with your teen is the first and best line of defense.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/AdobeStock_272538101-1-scaled-e1598293869368.jpeg245450John Daumhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJohn Daum2020-08-17 14:32:032022-01-07 12:14:50What to Do When You Catch Your Teen Looking at Porn
People have sometimes said to me, “Chris, you have two daughters. Aren’t you scared to death of when they start dating?“
I like to reply with an answer that really throws them for a spin: “Actually, I can’t WAIT for when my child dates!” (I usually either get a look like I have three heads or just a headshake-of-pity as they slowly turn and walk away with a “tsk-tsk…”).
“Why can’t you wait?” you may ask. I know when my daughters begin to date, they’ll be entering a new phase in their social and emotional development, a period in their lives that will have life-transforming experiences. What they do in their early dating lives is going to shape who they marry, if they choose that route. And that’s exciting to me. (Not to mention, I’m chomping at the bit for that first you-can’t-go-on-a-date-with-my-daughter-until-I-interrogate-you meeting. I like to call it the “First Date Inquisition.”)
Now, despite my gusto for dating, even I know there’s a healthy point for this phase to happen. Typically, when children and teens go through different stages of development, what happens in one stage plays a major role in how well they’ll get through the next. So, I want my daughters to enter into the dating stage of their lives as fully equipped and prepared as possible.
So when should I let my child date?
That’s a hard question to answer. But, given all that I just shared, I can tell you when I won’t let my kids date.
When they can’t yet articulate to me a good purpose for dating.
Let’s be honest—when my daughter walks out of the house to meet someone for a date, the first thing on her mind probably isn’t, okay, I’m doing this because… She just wants to have fun, talk to someone who is as interested in her as she is in them. However, before that day comes, I do want her to have in her head why, overall, she wants to date. Because at the end of the day, there are good reasons and bad reasons to date. I don’t know that there’s a single right answer for all families to the question, “What’s the purpose for dating?” Parents and teens need to talk together to determine some positive purposes, with parents being the voices of wisdom.
In our house, we talk about how dating:
Prepares you to know better the kind of person you want to marry (if that’s something in the cards).
Is something that helps a young person grow into the person they are.
Develops healthy social skills that are beyond friendship relationships.
When they cannot yet grasp that their value doesn’t come from whether or who they date.
I want my girls to know that a romantic partner does not make them more of a person. They aren’t somehow “not enough” without a boyfriend. And that, despite what other people their age might be doing or saying, dating isn’t something you need to do because it helps you feel more accepted in your friend group. In other words, I want them to develop self-confidence and the beginnings of a firm identity beyond their dating life.
When a teen knows this, it can protect them from adolescent dating risks. Research tells us that teens who have a healthy amount of self-efficacy, or self-assurance, are less likely to experience dating violence, use drugs or alcohol on dates, or cave into sexual pressures.
If they don’t feel like they can communicate with me or their mom if something is wrong.
I’m just going to lay it out there for you: as much as it may pain you, when your kids begin dating, they will experience heartbreak, pressures, and temptation. They are going through the mental and emotional gymnastics of development. And they are going to come to points, many times, when they are stuck and need a voice of wisdom. That’s you. I want my daughters to know they can call me if they are at a place they don’t want to be and I’ll be there to get them. And I want them to feel comfortable to open up about what they are feeling or experiencing in a dating relationship. Despite popular belief, this is very possible.
If they are dealing with depression or anxiety.
The bad news is that, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 30% of adolescents experience some kind of anxiety, and Pew research tells us that 13% of adolescents in 2017 experienced at least one major depressive episode. The good news is, the vast majority of these issues in teens are very treatable. If my daughters experience any kind of depression or anxiety, I’m confident we can work through it over time. However, I don’t want a boyfriend or an active dating life to be the coping mechanism they use to deal with these things. Bad things happen when the “other person” is made the emotional crutch.
When they can’t separate their dating life from their compassion for others.
What I mean here is sort of the reverse of the previous bullet point. Both of my daughters are very compassionate people; they’d gladly give everything they have to help someone who’s down and out. However, we’ve all seen relationships where one person stays because they feel the need to help the other deal with some issue. And this brings the fear that if you were to break it off, the other person might go off the deep end somehow. This is “martyr dating,” and it’s not healthy. I want my daughters to understand that dating is not the avenue to walk people through their problems.
A couple of caveats need to be made with the above points:
Now, if I were to wait until my kids had all these things down in their development to let them date, well, they may be living in my house a verrrrrrry long time. Obviously, they won’t have it all together in their teen years. But the idea is to know my kids well enough to know that they are well on the road toward these developmental traits.
These developmental lessons begin well before teens are anywhere close to dating age. As a matter of fact, they begin with a close, connected relationship between parent and child. Parents need to be in the pocket, having ongoing conversations on these ideas with their kids. This is how children build self-confidence and trust to go to their parents with problems, even when they are older. Ongoing conversations help teens cope with anxiety and other emotional issues. And it helps them come to a good understanding as to the purpose of dating.
There is no magic age a child should be allowed to date. It really depends on the child and where they are in their thinking and development. But one thing is for certain: parents need to become a student of their kids, continually learning more and more about how they’re thinking, what they’re feeling, and getting a sense of the direction of their development. This is the best way that we as parents can prepare our kids for a healthy dating life.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/pexels-elly-fairytale-3893732-scaled-e1597687453960.jpg222450Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2020-08-17 14:05:042020-09-22 16:20:08When Should I Let My Child Date
From rolling their eyes and being argumentative, to defiantly shouting “No” right in your face, if you have a teenager, you have undoubtedly experienced some form of disrespectful behavior along the way. But how do you respond in a constructive way as a parent?
We’ve come to accept that despite our best parenting efforts, the teenage years invariably come with some friction. Developmentally, their biology is undergoing tectonic shifts. Their brains and bodies, including hormones and other body chemistry, are all being completely overhauled.
Psychologically, they are transitioning from childhood dependence to adult independence. They’re also learning how to process the new emotional loads they are experiencing in their changing bodies. There is a built-in tension between their need for a healthy space to become an individual and their need to stay connected to their parental guides. So, we know our teenager has a lot going on…
But still… we want our teens to understand the importance of respect as a character quality that will impact their success as adults. As they are growing into a future that includes navigating adult relationships in their educational and career training, occupation, and a future family of their own, we know as present adults how important learning how to respect yourself and others will be. Research indicating that disrespectful teenagers grow up to be rude adults is really no surprise. And nobody likes being around rude people. So how can we address respect in the lives of our teens in a healthy way for our today and their tomorrow?
Here are four things to keep in mind when parenting a disrespectful teenager:
Model the behavior you want to see. It always starts with our example as parents. This can’t be stressed enough: as a person and as a parent, make sure you respect and take care of yourself, and model respect toward others. Your life has a “live audience” 24/7 in the form of your teen and more is caught than taught. You are modeling how to respect yourself and respect everyone around you and your teen catches everything. Probably one of the biggest opportunities we have to teach is when our teen is disrespectful towardus and we choose not respond disrespectfully in return.
Remember that this is a difficult phase of your teen’s life. This isn’t to excuse disrespectful behavior, but it is to keep it in context and put it in perspective. This is to help you choose your battles and how you approach them. When you catch yourself saying, “Well, when I was your age…” remember, things really are different today. Your teen is navigating social media and the bombardment of information and opinions. Let’s just say, there are some really unique circumstances in our world at the moment that could legitimately be making your teen’s life more difficult.
Look for any deeper issues beneath the surface of disrespectful behavior. The disrespectful behavior you see might be the expression of deeper issues that you need to address as a parent. This doesn’t mean you ignore your teen’s disrespectful behavior, but you stay dialed in to what it could be connected with. Often, changes in our teen’s behavior are signals to deeper emotional needs or struggles. Open up the door for conversation by asking your teen, “I’ve seen more disrespectful behavior from you lately, are you okay? What can I do to help you?” (Don’t be afraid to seek out professional help for your teen if you feel like you are in over your head as a parent.)
Don’t stop being their parent. You still set the standard for appropriate behavior in your family, and your teen needs healthy boundaries to grow and thrive. Disagreeing may not automatically be disrespecting, but as a parent, you can teach your teen how to disagree respectfully. That is a skill they need to learn to be successful in any relationship. Don’t fall into the trap of ignoring disrespectful behavior to try to become your teen’s “buddy.” As your teen grows as a young adult, they still need you to be an adult.
As a general principle, people can’t give what they don’t have. Take a second to think about that. Help your teen develop a healthy respect for themself. Give them the respect they need as a future adult. In doing these things, you’ll probably get more respect as the present adult and their parent.
★ You can “dial-up” more information about parenting your teenager by clicking these links:
If you think your teenager hates you, please press one.
Please press two if you can’t get your teenager to talk to you.
If you don’t like who your teen is dating, please press three.
If you want to stop fighting with your teen, please press four.
But no matter what, when it comes to your teen—don’t get disconnected. Stay on the line.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/2-boy-sitting-on-brown-floor-while-using-their-smartphone-159395-scaled-e1596213814558.jpg240500John Daumhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJohn Daum2020-07-23 15:46:422022-06-24 13:04:274 Ways To Deal With A Disrespectful Teenager
We are gonna look at your question about teen dating in reverse order—hang in there, but I want you to do something first: empathize.
How do you think your teen feels knowing that their parent(s) don’t like this person who they obviously think is special? That’s hard. If you have a healthy relationship with them, it’s even harder. Your teen doesn’t want static with you while they believe they are just following their heart. Oh, you haven’t expressed your dislike of this person they are dating? Trust me, they know. Which means their significant other probably knows too. Put yourself in their shoes a minute. To them, all they’ve done wrong is to be attracted to the wonderful teen you raised. This is hard all the way around. But it doesn’t have to get any harder.
Question 1: Is your teen actually “dating” this person?
I just have to ask because things have changed so much from when we were teens. It’s a lot more common to hang out with someone. Your teen (at least) might not even have any romantic interest in them. You might not even know about the personthey are interested in romantically because your teen spends hours in their room hanging out with them on FaceTime or some other app on their phone. So, let’s define some terms here.
Just to be sure, ask (don’t interrogate) your teen these questions to make sure they are actually dating:
Do you have romantic feelings for this person?
Are you and the person you’re interested in both looking for an exclusive relationship?
Do you hang out or go on dates without a group of friends?
Is the status of your relationship something you’ve shared with others in person or online, like on social?
Do both people in the relationship agree that it’s exclusive?
Question 2: Your teen is your top priority—are they ready for dating?
I wouldn’t give my kids an age when they could start dating. It depended on whether my wife and I thought they were mature enough to handle the responsibilities and the dangers—both emotionally and physically—of being in a dating relationship. (Just because the state will give you a driver’s license on a certain date doesn’t mean you’re ready to drive. I’ve told a couple of my kids that the state may think you’re ready—I don’t though…)
Does your teen respect your boundaries in other areas of their life? Have they shown you they are trustworthy? Has your teen shown that they can set up and enforce their own personal boundaries? Have you talked to your teen about the significance and consequences of sex? Have you talked to your teen about the warning signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship? Does their significant other or your teen ever do any of the following bright red flags of abuse:
Checking your cell phone or email without permission
Constantly putting you down
Extreme jealousy or insecurity
Isolating you from family or friends
Making false accusations
Physically hurting you in any way
Telling you what to do
Pressuring or forcing you to have sex or go further physically
Have you set up a “code word or phrase” with your teen, so that if they are on a date and feel uncomfortable for any reason they can call or text you to “check-in” and mention “shopping next week” so you know to get them out of that situation?
Question 3: Who is this person and why don’t you like them?
We have to be careful here and we need to be honest. Does this person just not fit the idealized boyfriend or girlfriend you’ve had in mind for years? Have you idealized your teen and this person just isn’t “good enough” for them, or you think “They could do better?” Have you not just “set the bar” high, but set it impossibly high? No teenager is perfect, and honestly, the teen that seems perfect is probably the one you really want to keep your eye on. Imperfect doesn’t mean dangerous. This might be a “you” thing.
Have you seen changes in your teen that concern you since this person has become a significant part of their life? Are you worried that your teen is “building their world” around this individual and now your teen’s priorities have shifted? Grades slipping? Personality changing? Doesn’t want to be around the family anymore? Doesn’t want to bring their significant other around to hang out with the family? That is concerning behavior! But it could be signaling that your teen just isn’t ready for a dating relationship with anyone right now.
Question 4: What do you do now?
I know you wanted to get here right out of the gate, but we had to do some processing before we took a course of action. We needed to make sure we understood the problem so we could find the right solution.
In general, I always communicated to my children that realistically, marriage is nowhere in your future and you need to be focusing on your educational and career goals, family, friends, and discovering your interests, skills, and passions in life—so now is not the time for a relationship that is a mini-marriage. Those only lead to a mini-divorce and leave scars and baggage you have to carry around the rest of your life.
I always encouraged my kids to do things in groups or have people over to our house. If they were seriously interested in someone, bringing them around the house was not an option, it was a necessity. If their “special interest” wasn’t comfortable coming into my house, then I wasn’t comfortable with my child outside of my house with them. Period. Full stop.
So, here’s where we are:
Is your teen not ready to date?
Are you not ready for your teen to date?
Is the person your teen wants to date dangerous or a bad influence? Emotionally or physically?
Is the person your teen wants to date just a normal, flawed teenager, like your teen?
✭ Bonus Question:What do you believe (and what have you taught your teen) is the purpose of dating at their age?
In his book, The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens, Sean Covey defines the difference between intelligent dating and brainless dating.
“Intelligent dating is dating successfully, being selective about who you date, hanging out and having fun, remaining steady through the natural highs and lows of romance, and keeping your own standards,” says Covey. “Brainless dating is dating ineffectively, dating anyone who has a pulse, becoming centered on your girlfriend or boyfriend, having your heart broken repeatedly, and doing what everyone else seems to be doing.”
Don’t date too young. Dating too young can lead to various problems, including getting taken advantage of, getting physical too soon, or not knowing how to end a relationship.
Date people your own age. Dating someone who is several years older than you isn’t healthy.
Get to know lots of people. Getting too serious too soon can cut you off from other relationships. Don’t be too eager to have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Date a lot of different people and have fun.
Date in groups. Group activities are often more fun, and there is safety in numbers.
Set boundaries. Choose what kind of people you will date BEFORE you start dating. Decide what is off-limits and don’t change your mind for anyone.
Have a plan. Before going on a date, prepare for the unexpected.
Dating “intelligently” is a great way for a teen to learn about how relationships work, learn their likes and dislikes, socialize with their peers, improve interpersonal communication skills, and hopefully have fun with their friends.
If your teen is dating someone that falls in that “They Aren’t Dangerous, But I Don’t Like ‘Em” category, remember no rings have been exchanged. See if your teen figures it out. That’s what this time is for.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/hannah-reding-cveIqhsUlh0-unsplash-scaled-e1596211819626.jpg227500John Daumhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJohn Daum2020-07-20 08:43:342020-07-31 12:10:55What to Do When You Don’t Like Who Your Teen is Dating
“When will I be old enough to date?” It’s a question many parents dread. You’ve known it was coming, but you also realize you are crossing over into a whole new world with lots of moving parts, plenty of which you cannot control.
You may reply sarcastically, “When you’re 30!” Or, you may try to be a bit more realistic and really wrestle with the right age for your child to date, which may be different depending on the child.
A study published in The Journal of School Health found that dating during the teen years can help teens learn social skills and grow in emotional intelligence. But guess what? Not dating during these years actually has benefits as well.
Here’s what they found:
The non-dating students had similar or better interpersonal skills than their more frequently dating peers.
While the scores of self-reported positive relationships with friends, at home and at school did not differ between dating and non-dating peers, teachers rated the non-dating students significantly higher for social skills and leadership skills than their dating peers.
The study indicated that students who didn’t date were also less likely to be depressed. Teachers’ scores on the depression scale were significantly lower for the group that reported no dating. And, the proportion of students who self-reported being sad or hopeless was significantly lower within this group as well.
Teen dating relationships today are complicated. Here are just a sample of the thoughts teens have, and the drama that often accompanies dating relationships is a whole other discussion that cannot be disregarded.
“Does she like me?”
“Is he cheating on me?”
“I’m scared of what he will do if I break up with him. I think he might hurt himself.”
“Are his constant questions about where I am, what I am doing, who I am with, and what I am wearing signs of how much he loves me?”
“Do I break up with him because he is mean or stay with him because a bad relationship is better than being in no relationship?”
In an endless sea of questions, some teens feel intense pressure to date and be in the “cool” crowd while others could care less. Either ways, this is a time to pour into your teen the qualities that will help them navigate relationships in a healthy way, whether it is romantic or not.
The following things are important to keep in the forefront of your mind as you seek to teach your teen how to engage in relationships with others.
They still need your guidance. The prefrontal cortex, or the rational part of the brain that helps with planning, decision-making, problem-solving, self-control and thinking about long-term actions and their consequences, is nowhere near fully formed, and it won’t be until age 25 or so. This has huge implications for teen behavior.
Healthy relationship skills don’t come naturally, even if your teen seems super smart. They are the result of intentional teaching and modeling of behavior such as looking someone in the eyes during a conversation, using a respectful versus disrespectful tone of voice, and having high regard for one’s feelings.
What your teen does in high school absolutely will follow them into adulthood and impact future relationships. Set standards, develop a strategy and don’t allow them to believe the lie that how they treat others now (or allow themselves to be treated) won’t impact them later. Unfortunately, this is a harsh reality many have experienced.
Sexual activity affects teens’ mental and emotional health. While the culture often pushes that having sex in the teen years is perfectly normal, plenty of young adults now believe that kind of relationship in high school created more anxiety, stress and depression for them and distracted them from truly enjoying the teen years.
They need to hear from you that their value and worth is not dependent on their relationship status. Friendships can be rich, deep and rewarding. Teens need to know and appreciate that their uniqueness is what makes them individuals.
Experiencing a range of emotions in relationships is normal, and it helps teens build their emotional regulation muscle. It is beneficial to know how they are feeling. Through that, they will learn to handle the intensity of the emotions that come with being in any relationship with others.
So, when will your child be old enough to date?
Great question! It’s definitely something you should consider with great care ahead of time. Waiting until they are 30 for sure isn’t the right answer. Agreed-upon guidelines for when the time is right will be important. And, it may be comforting to you and to your teen to know that in no way does it mean they are missing out if they don’t date at all during the teen years.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/natalie-parham-yPvuYrJ7FGc-unsplash-e1597345544610.jpg175450Julie Baumgardnerhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJulie Baumgardner2019-09-23 00:00:002022-03-04 13:39:08When Should Your Teen Date?