If you or someone you love is struggling with a pornography or sexual addiction, it’s common to wonder if and when family members, especially children and teenagers, should learn about the addictive behaviors. This is a delicate issue that often requires seeking the counsel of a trusted professional who specializes in treating pornography and sexual addiction.
However, here are a few points to consider when deciding if you should talk with your children about the addictive behaviors:
1. What they already know – Unfortunately, some children discover or learn about a parent’s pornography or sexual acting out behavior on accident. They may walk in on a parent using pornography, overhear a discussion between their parents, or find text messages or other evidence of the problematic behavior. If this is the case, it’s critical to own up to the behaviors they’ve discovered and tell them the truth. You don’t need to add more information, but they need to know that what they saw or discovered was real.
2. The age and gender of the child – Younger children can understand the concept that a parent made a mistake and is getting help for it. Older children can benefit from a parent talking more specifically about the type of help they’re getting. A teenage girl may be traumatized by learning of her father’s pornography use. A teenage son may be more understanding. What to say, if anything, is something that needs careful consideration and consultation.
3. Will it help the child? – If you have a child who struggles with pornography or other sexual behaviors, it can be helpful to let them know that you understand their struggle. You don’t need to disclose any specific details, however, you’re willingness to connect with them about their sexual struggles will help break through their denial and help them feel validated and supported.