Over the last few months I’ve talked to a lot of people about pornography addiction and I get a lot of the same questions over and over. That’s OK, it shows they are the most important. Ironically, the two most popular questions have the same answer. They are: “How do I approach someone about the fact I think they have a porn addiction?” and “How do I talk to my kids about pornography?”
I think the words you use are secondary to the conditions you create. You know the person that you’re talking to better than me, so you probably can figure out how to actually say the words. It’s like firing somebody. Theoretically, we can all do it, but no matter how much you prepare, you don’t always know what’s going to come out of your mouth and how the other person will react.
The two conditions that will allow the most favorable outcome are:
- Create a judgment-free zone: We all have our opinions, biases, likes, dislikes, stereotypes, fears, political views, etc. None of these are important as part of this conversation. Telling a child they are naughty if they look at “dirty” pictures or your brother that you “don’t understand how they can look at that smut” may be two things you absolutely believe, but all they will hear is, “I don’t approve of your actions.” It’s OK to not approve of their actions, but if you’re trying to have a conversation, removing your condemnation in the moment is important.
- Create a safe space for dialogue: Kids want advice and guidance. Addicts want to know you care. If either feels threatened, you’ll be giving a soliloquy, not having a conversation. A good rule for any conversation that may be stressful or you may worry will become combative is to first establish common ground. When the other person feels like you’re on their side, it becomes safer to share information.
The sooner we start working pornography into the “beware of drugs, strangers and look both ways before crossing the street” speech that parents should give their kids, the sooner we’ll be raising a generation who understands the negative power of pornography. The sooner we’re able to address those who have pornography addiction as concerned onlookers, the sooner we’ll be removing the stigma from what is an illness, not an act of moral repugnance.
We need to start talking about pornography addiction as a society, but we also need to do it the right way.