I got the freak-out phone call. A mom crying and yelling about her son. She had found porn on his device, and was heartbroken and enraged. A few years earlier, her husband’s addiction to porn had destroyed and ended their marriage. This mom is a devout and faithful Catholic woman with a deep moral code, trying her best to raise an authentically christian family. Her reaction to her son revealed a sense of profound fear and shame.
Another beautiful Catholic mom spoke to me discouraged, weary and sad regarding the pornified selfies all over her daughter’s phone. Again, fear and shame were a theme of both moms’ struggles.
To the parents out there struggling with feelings of fear and shame regarding their child’s problem with pornography, first, let me say this: porn doesn’t define your kid, nor does it define you as a parent. Don’t remain mired down in that lie, or the two of you will remain stuck, and both of your wounds unhealed.
Second, the revelation that there is a problem with porn in your home also reveals the truth that God wishes to bring you into a deeper relationship with your child, and will, if you’ll allow Him. If you don’t have any faith, then recognize this seemingly apparent obstacle as an opportunity in which you can choose to seek a more substantive relationship with your teenager. Why?
At the heart of every kid seeking porn or taking pornified pics of him or herself is a kid desiring what their heart was made for: intimacy and communion of persons. Genesis 2:18 makes clear, “It is not good for man to be alone.” This longing for communion and intimacy is in our DNA. We’re hard-wired for it. Your child doesn’t know it. You may not have known it, but it’s true and God wants to fulfill that longing. The very first communion of persons intended by God to fulfill that longing in us is our family. Pope Benedict Emeritus XVI spoke of the family as “a school of love.” You may be thinking, well good luck with that. That doesn’t exist. My husband/wife and I are divorced. We’re not a school of love, but a broken family. True, perhaps, but haven’t we all come into this world broken as a result of original sin? Even families with both mom and dad present, are finding porn addicted kids in their families. Why?
A few insights:
Sometimes we fail to protect our kids adequately from easily accessed internet porn. The solution to this is simple. Get Covenant Eyes*. Look it up, contact them today, and get their accountability and filtering software on your devices, all of them! (I don’t mean your toaster, just the ones that access the internet.) And don’t let an inability to pay stand in your way. Tell them Matt Fradd told you to call even if you can’t afford it, (because he has...Watch the video “Parenting in the Internet Generation,” disc three of the extraordinarily perceptive program “Informed,” by Integrity Restored.** Then watch the other three discs. They’re excellent and hopeful!
Besides a responsibility to protect our children, families need to recognize that they are moving at a rat-race pace - too fast, too busy, too many activities, too much time with friends (with whom there is little substantive, emotional intimacy), very little time and quiet for building intimate relationships with mom, dad, or siblings. According to C. S. Lewis, this is precisely the adversary’s plan. In the Screwtape Letters, Uncle Screwtape unfolds his strategy for breaking down the life of the Christian and the Christian family: “I will make of the world a cacophony of noise and busyness.” With schedules full of noise and busyness, we’re likely to settle for the counterfeits of intimacy and true communion. Many parents make the mistake of allowing their kids to be involved in two or three activities, in addition to the six hours of school they attend, and the demands on their time for homework. When are these kids free to build intimate relationships with mom or dad? How is intimacy between parents and children supposed to exist without regular time built in for fostering relationships?
Examine your family’s schedule. Is there time intentionally built in to be a family? If not, that’s where you start. Saying no to an extra activity may be difficult, but it means you’re saying yes to spending time with your child. This is a most loving thing to do, even if your child is initially unable to recognize it. There may be grumbling and pushing away initially. Persevere. Your child will eventually get the message that you are serious about him or her, and your desire for a deeper relationship. Next, protect the extra time you’ve created. Be intentional about planning this time well with your child so you don’t fall prey to the temptation of wasting it away pursuing individual interests, or in front of screens, or in different parts of the house, all of which impede intimacy. Dads, take your daughter(s) out to lunch...one at a time! Invite your son(s) out for food also, or fishing, or whichever activity will make them talk to you. Again, do this individually with each child, because the time you spend alone with them, tells them they’re important to you. Moms, you possess the God given gift of communication and connection. Use it! Make your child set aside their device and talk with you one on one, perhaps over lunch, or their favorite blended coffee drink, or an ice cream cone. Talk to them about their friends, their relationships, struggles, hopes etc.
Now about attending school, and more specifically the school of silence. Is there time for silence in your family/child’s life? Why, you ask? Besides C.S. Lewis, Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta connected for us the need for silence in order to experience authentic love:
“The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace.”
You’ve connected the dots, right? No silence - no prayer. This should disturb us, since prayer is intimate conversation and relationship to God, which every soul needs, craves, was created for. No prayer - no faith; no faith - no love… which every heart longs for and is made for. No love - no service; no service - no peace. It all started with silence, remember? We can boldly conclude then no silence - no peace.
So, we turn to false pleasures in place of authentic happiness.
How many dentists’ doctors’ or orthodontists’ offices have TVs playing in their waiting rooms? How many restaurants, clothing or grocery stores are blaring music while you eat or shop? How many TV’s, computers, iPods, iPads, and iPhones are in use in your family, and with what frequency? No wonder we’re falling for the counterfeits of love and intimacy. The world has little use for silence. The ramifications of this are huge. If Saint Mother Teresa is right, then we can expect little to no peace or love in our world. Look around. She was right, wasn’t she?
Now, examine your family’s schedule. Is there time intentionally built in for quiet? Why? Because it disposes the heart and mind toward prayer, and ultimately peace. Perhaps you feel you don’t have time for quiet. Begin with just five or ten minutes maybe just before or immediately following Sunday mass, or on a short walk. Ask God, if you’re willing, to help you make daily time for silence and prayer, perhaps at the start of your day. And eventually, with God’s grace, make a weekly family holy hour at an adoration chapel near your home. When you experience the effects of that holy hour on your family, you’ll be gratefully amazed by God’s grace!
As a parent, you have so much power to shape/form your child’s life. What were they made for? Love and communion. (They were also made for truth, beauty, and goodness. But, more on that in another post).
Parents, do not be discouraged or afraid! No matter how small or insignificant it may seem, take a first step, to become less busy and less noisy (even five minutes a day is a start). It’s plays a bigger role than you may think in freeing your child from porn and its allurements. Ponder Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” Many of our family’s favorite moments that have come out of the practice of that stillness.
Now, back to that mom and daughter with the pornified selfies on her phone. Mom, dad, and daughter sought out counseling for the daughter’s porn problem. After disclosing the many distressing details of their daughter’s ongoing problem, what do you think the therapist decided to focus their sessions on? Intimacy
**Remember to check out Informed by Integrity Restored.
This is a program that every parent and parish ought to own, watch, rewatch, and share. (A mom whose child recently struggled with pornography watched it over my house this week. Her response was emphatic, “We have to get this to every parent!”) I completely agree.
*Contact Covenant Eyes today to protect your family