Do not grant the wicked their desires, Lord; do not let their plans succeed. – Psalm 140:8
Purity is a message that culture is not communicating with young people. Discussing difficult topics with your child early provides the best chance for your child to receive information in the proper Biblical context. Look for natural opportunities to teach your child to identify the lies culture teaches.
If you are watching a movie or TV show that shows a couple living together outside of marriage, press pause and talk about that lifestyle choice. If you are in the car and a song comes on the radio that is demeaning or uses negative language, embrace the opportunity to talk about the issue discussed in the lyrics. If you see a commercial with an immodestly dressed man or woman on the screen, talk to your child about the message that the individual is portraying by what they are wearing. What are some consequences that could result from communicating that message? Is the outfit he or she is wearing encouraging respect from and for others?
As you engage in conversations with your child, be prepared to answer difficult and sometimes unexpected questions. A thoughtful, age-appropriate answer to your child’s question is better than not answering at all. If a child is asking a specific question, chances are they are ready to hear an age-appropriate answer, though there are exceptions. Most children become even more curious when a parent does not offer an answer to a question. The child will likely go looking for an answer elsewhere. For that reason, a parent must always be prepared to take a deep breath, gauge their facial expression, and think through a thoughtful response.
There is no specific age to address difficult topics, and each child is different. Recognize that a level of sheltering and protection is warranted in a young child’s life. St. John Paul II called this time the latency period, stating that during this stage most questions do not require extreme detail or direct answers.
While it is important to protect young children from hearing or seeing too much too soon, many children are not offered that protection. In today’s world, even parents who are proactive in teaching online safety to children will be confronted with unforeseen circumstances online. The U.S. Department of Justice states, “Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent (and obscene) material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions.” According to the American Psychological Association, the average age a child is exposed to pornography is between the ages of eight and ten. With technology so readily available, many children are unintentionally exposed to harmful content.
If your child has been exposed to pornography:
- Do not blame your child or yourself.
- Be sure to acknowledge that this situation is not his or her fault. Despite your child’s curiosity, he or she wasn’t seeking the reality of what pornography is.
- Be a team. Use inclusive pronouns like “we” and “us” when discussing your child’s experience.
- Seek professional counseling for your son or daughter if needed.
As you commit to praying for children who are exposed to harmful content through radical sex education and pornography, pray for Christ-like wisdom to rule and reign in the hearts of parents as they engage in difficult conversations. Whether a child is online or in a classroom, may God graciously extend protection over the young hearts, minds and souls of our nation’s children.
Download the entire 7-day devotional, Praying for Our Nation's Youth, here: