by John Fort
Director of Training
Most of the parenting blogs here at Be Broken are about some aspect of talking with your child about sex. This time will be different! In this blog, I will discuss things you should do before you talk with your kids about sex.
If parents jump into conversations about sex with their children before the parents are ready to do that, the conversation will not go well. We will look at a couple of things you can do to help you be more prepared when the time comes for a conversation about sex.
The Baggage You Carry
Everyone has some level of baggage related to sex from their past. I’ve never met anyone who did not. Baggage from your youth or childhood can come in a lot of different forms.
Some examples include:
Such experiences can result in a mixture of confusing emotions, including confusion, fear, disgust, excitement, arousal, and alarm. When excitement or arousal occurs at the same time you experience fear, disgust, or confusion, the result is almost always to feel shame. To experience excitement and disgust at the same event can make a person feel broken and ashamed of themselves.
Baggage and Parent Reactions
As I’ve mentioned in other posts (see Responding to Children in Anger) when you or I carry baggage related to our sexuality it can make it hard to react calmly to our children’s questions about sex.
Trying to teach a child about sex when the parent has unresolved sexual baggage is a recipe for chaos. A parent cannot be expected to talk calmly with their child about sex when they see themselves in their child and recall their own past sexual baggage. This is an unfair situation to place a parent—or yourself—in.
Children need parents to remain calm during discussions about sex and sexuality. Fortunately, there are things parents can do to make that possible!
Processing the Past
There are lots of things you could do to make discussions about sex feel less threatening, but I will list just two here.
1. Talk with Someone Close
Pick someone to talk with. This may be your spouse or another friend, preferably one who is a parent themselves. Set some ground rules to make the conversation feel safe, which may include:
By sharing past experiences you bring them into the light. Assuming the person you share with is loving, this will be a positive and affirming experience. It will take away some of the sting and shame from those memories. This will make your past less likely to cause problems when it is time to talk with your kids about sex.
2. Getting Help with Trauma
Some readers may need more help than just talking to a friend or spouse. Talking with a friend will still help, but some readers have more trauma in their past than just a conversation alone can heal.
I was a parent in this category. I tried to tell myself that my past was not traumatic and that I did not need help from a counselor. It was a matter of pride to me. However, when things started falling apart I realized I did need professional-level help with my past.
Before seeing a counselor I viewed my childhood to include sexual experimentation, which I considered entirely my fault. However, a counselor helped me see that I was sexually abused. My counselor and I spent months going over my past and realigning my feelings about my past. This helped me let go of a lot of lies I had come to believe about myself, my sexuality, and the safety of other people. I was able to let go of a tremendous amount of shame.
Seeking professional help made me a better parent than before. I was increasingly able to talk to my children about sex in a calm and rational manner. My own past did not need to make me feel ashamed and I could better focus on my children.
I strongly suggest talking with your spouse or a close friend about your own past before you talk with your children about sex. Seek professional help as well if you think that would be helpful.
This will make having conversations with your kids about sex much easier. You will react better. You will remain calm and help your children feel safe.
But this requires practice! You probably need to talk with a friend or your spouse more than one time for this to feel safe for you. Perhaps just share a little at a time and come back to the conversation once a week or so.
This not only helps you react better to your children but it makes the task of teaching your children God’s design for sex easier to do. Your children will benefit greatly if you are willing to practice talking with an adult first.
by John Fort
Director of Training
I have done it and if you are a parent I am fairly certain you have as well. My child does something inappropriate and I react in anger. When it comes to a child engaging in some kind of problematic sexual behavior—such as pornography use—the anger response can be even stronger. However, responding to a child in anger when they seek out sexualized content is not helpful.
Anger is not the only unhelpful way a parent can react. When a parent learns their child has been exposed to some kind of sexual information or content, a common response is for the parent to react in panic. For a child, however, seeing their parent panic when the child is already confused only makes things worse.
The Reason for Anger & Panic
Why do parents sometimes react in anger at children’s behavior? I believe the primary reason for my anger in these situations is mostly anger toward myself. Learning my child has seen pornography—whether by accident or on purpose—leaves me feeling like I failed at protecting them. I am angry at myself for not protecting my child, but I take it out on them.
I might raise my voice to my child if I discover they have been accessing porn, but I am actually raising my voice to myself as if to say, “How could you not see the danger signs? Why did you fail to make internet devices safer?” I might also be angry at myself for believing that whatever conversations I have had with my kids about safety were not good enough, and my kid would not have accessed inappropriate material if I had used the right words.
On the other hand, reactions of panic come mostly from fear. When I react in frantic agitation to learn my child has been exposed to something sexual, it is more about my own baggage than it is what my kid has seen. Learning my child has been exposed to something sexual will bring back memories of my own past. Hyperventilating, in this case, is more likely about my own past than my child’s situation.
A Parent’s Baggage
When I was nine I heard some teenagers talking about something I realized was about sex but I didn’t understand what they meant. I asked my mother what a word meant that I overheard and she became frantic. Her voice went up an octave, she waved her hands and acted with clear agitation. I don’t remember exactly what she said, I mainly remember her reaction. I felt scared seeing her react so strongly to my question.
I imagine many parents today had negative interactions with parents about sexual topics. That is a kind of baggage. It makes it harder not to react the same way my parents did since that was the only example I had. In such a case a parent might act in panic, not anger, but seeing a parent panic is not comforting to a child. When my mother panicked at my question about sex I decided never to ask either parent a question about sex again. Instead, I turned to local teenagers, which did not end well for me.
Parents can have other kinds of baggage as well. Some parents experienced sexual abuse as kids. Some read erotic novels or viewed pornography as teenagers. Some had family members who engaged in pornography or promiscuity and watched how destructive that was. Some were teased or objectified in sexual ways as kids. All of these kinds of baggage produce shame.
When a parent learns their own child was exposed to something sexual, all this panic, shame, and fear come surging back all at once. The result can feel overwhelming and agitation can be very difficult to hold back. Anger can also come from a parent’s baggage as anger is often just a mask for fear.
Your Child is not You
Like most parents today, I had no one to help me navigate what I was exposed to as a child. I felt lost and confused. Fortunately, my child is not me. My child, and your child, do have someone to help them work through anything they are exposed to. Children who have someone to talk about what they experience are not nearly as negatively impacted as children who do not.
The good news is that your children can have someone to help them through anything they are exposed to and even things that they get themselves into. You do not have to react the same way your parents reacted. You can react in ways that help your child stay safer in the future.
Alternatives to Anger
Anger is never the best response to a child’s exposure to, or involvement in, inappropriate sexual situations. Anger creates distance between a parent and child when a child needs to be drawn in closer.
Initial exposure to sexualized content and situations is usually accidental or because someone else showed them. Why do children seek out sexualized media on their own? Often out of God-given curiosity. Why do children return to sexually stimulating behaviors? Because it feels good, or it makes bad feelings go away, or to fit in with their peers.
Rather than look at these situations as something to be angry or upset about, you can see these as opportunities to bond with your children.
Whether your child is accidentally exposed, purposefully indulges, or repeatedly returns to sexual scenarios, their insides will feel chaotic. What your child needs in that situation is not more agitation.
When a child encounters inappropriate sexual situations, children need us to invite them into our calm, not for us to join them in their chaos.
1. Here are two really good first sentences to memorize for when you learn your child has been exposed to something sexual.
3. Make your discussion about discovery rather than punishment. What happened? How did it happen? If they sought it out, what drove them? Was it curiosity, peer pressure, trying to medicate a hard feeling, to get a “buzz”? You will need to ask these questions slowly and refrain from any accusing facial expressions or words. This is not an interrogation, just talking about what happened. Share your past if you have had any similar experiences. Notice there is no lecture involved.
4. Plan for next time. Finally, discuss together what the family can do in the future to help avoid this. You might put this part of the conversation off for a different day if steps 1-3 seem to be a lot for you or your child. You don’t have to resolve everything all at once.
Mistakes will be Made
It is okay if you sometimes react in anger. I did from time to time, and my kids forgave me when I apologized. It is okay if you fail at trying to act calm when learning what your child has gotten into. Your kids understand that people do not always react in the most appropriate way, just own up to it. Making mistakes as parents can make us more approachable and relatable to our kids, as long as we apologize.
And if you have already made mistakes, this is an excellent opportunity to connect with your child. You can start by saying, “Remember when I acted this way? I don’t think that was the best way to react. Can we talk?”
You are the right parent for this and your child is in good hands. Give your child better responses than you received.
by Dan Wobschall
Director of Gateway to Freedom
When you hear or read the words "rear-view mirror" what nearly automatically comes to mind?
If you’re like the majority of us it’s the flat surfaced mirror attached to the upper center portion of a car's windshield.
What's the Purpose of a Rear View Mirror?
Have you ever asked yourself what the purpose of the rear-view mirror is? Seems almost silly to ask, right? But is it? What is its purpose?
When I did a Google search to answer that question I received a response of 874,000,000 results in 0.65 seconds. Kind of crazy, right?
Here’s the top answer: Your car's rear-view mirror serves a multitude of purposes that help keep you safe as a driver. The rear-view mirror promotes an alert driving experience by allowing you to see behind your vehicle without turning your head. By checking the rear-view mirror, you can monitor traffic and prepare for any potential dangers. (
Our cars also typically have two outside rear-view mirrors also. I’ll admit I don’t often think of them as rear-view mirrors, but they indeed are, but from a different perspective or viewpoint. Nonetheless, they have a rearward view and help us see blind spots the center rear-view mirror cannot see.
Here are two more questions to consider: How often do you and I check those mirrors and how frequently is it recommended that we do?
Here’s the answer from the same article mentioned above: Most driving instructors suggest checking your mirrors every five to eight seconds with a glance. A glance does not mean studying the mirrors, but more along the lines of a quick check. It’s important not to stare off into your rear-view mirror as you can miss hazards in front of you.
How is a Rear-View Mirror Connected to Recovery?
I can imagine a number of you wondering where in the world I’m going with this and what it has anything to do with sexual integrity recovery and a transformational path ahead. Hang with me.
Dr. Eddie Capparucci writes in his book, Going Deeper - How the Inner Child Impacts Your Sexual Addiction, this discovery; “the road to recovery from sexual addiction goes through your childhood.”
Dr. Capparucci came to this observational conclusion while undertaking a 10 year study of the men he worked with.
Taking this observation and then applying it to sexual addiction recovery, it is going to require a man to look back on his childhood for some critical answers. Sounds a bit like looking in a rear-view mirror doesn’t it?
Taking the time to look back reflectively on my own childhood continues to reveal dangers and hazards I ‘ran over’ along the way. In transparency I’ve recently discovered the answer to a repeating struggle in my own life.
I’ll spare you all the details of the discovery but In looking back, after reading Dr. Eddie’s book and conversations with my bride, that I had not properly identified a childhood wound, how it was impacting me yet today.
This new discovery from my "rear-view mirror" is enabling me to step into the grieving and healing process to release the grip of my ill response to perceiving or feeling I’ve been disrespected. It wasn’t a pleasant revelation, but I’m glad to have made it.
This is a real and recent lesson for me from the rear-view mirror.
Why You Must Look Back to Move Forward
Looking back on our childhood can be very difficult and for some of you reading this it may be incredibly painful, even to the point of your mind blocking much of it out. The memories for most are still there, yet buried deep.
The road to recovery from sexual addiction goes through your childhood. The wounds that give us the need to seek a broken medication cycle must be sought out and identified to enable us to treat, grieve and heal.
Without the preceding process being undertaken, finding real and lasting transformation and freedom will be practically impossible.
I’m not leaving God out of the equation of this process.
In fact, our Helper and Counselor, Holy Spirit, is vital in the journey of discovery. See we get really good at locking the doors to those dark and dingy rooms of our lives where all this painful crud resides. Some of this junk has been there for so long, we forgot where we stuffed it.
When Hope Comes Into View
When we choose to submit to the Holy Spirit’s authority and desire to help us heal toward transformation and healing, life changing things can begin to happen.
Hope begins to rebirth. And when hope comes back into view we can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. (Likely a long tunnel…but there’s light at the end.)
The Apostle Paul wrote a lot of the New Testament. As I read the verses below I see a metaphorical picture of the hope within Paul as he wrote of our imputed righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV) “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Paul acknowledges he’s not made this journey on his own. Jesus has given him new hope and strength to have obtained this righteousness. We too can obtain this freedom birthing righteousness in and from Christ on this journey to sexual wholeness and integrity.
While Paul is fully aware of his past and humbly speaks of his condition, he also encourages us how to see.
Paul has looked in the rear-view mirror and seen his past, learned from it but chose to leave it behind. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Paul also wrote in Galatians 5:1 that “it is for freedom that Christ set us free.” Let us choose to not look back on the bondage of slavery. Use the rear-view mirror to locate those dangers that linger and even creep up on us from the past. Then use those discoveries to strain forward to what lies ahead. Jesus, the Author and perfecter of your faith.
We use the rear-view mirror to look for dangers that pursue us, but not to live in and with those dangers that are no longer a threat.
Learn from what’s behind, but leave it behind.
Cut the bondage rope. Use all of our rear-view mirrors to be aware of the blind spots and trust God to reveal any unseen dangers.
Learn from your past, but let’s not live there. Live in the forward moving vision of transformation and freedom, not the bondage of the past.
by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder & President of Be Broken
Recently in a support group I lead (going on 20+ years now) we had a great discussion about the power of words, especially the power of spoken words. The main point I was pressing was that the fullness of a word's power is only realized when it is spoken, not merely thought, because you and I were made for relationship. A "thought" word never connects with another person.
For example, if I think the words "I love you" about my wife but never say them, how great is their impact? Certainly thinking such words is good. Those thoughts can have an impact on my behaviors and attitude toward my wife. But until I speak them, the fullness of their power is not realized.
Words Come from God
What if God merely thought about all that currently exists? Galaxies, stars, mountains, oceans, trees, animals, and human beings. If all such ideas merely existed in the mind of God, none would exist. For God himself showed us that the power of the Word is when it is spoken.
"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." -Gen. 1:3 (emphasis added)
Words originated with God. He is the Creator of all things, including language. He spoke and everything that exists, all matter, came into being. He also made human beings in His image with the capacity to speak and interact with Him and one another through words.
From the very beginning words have been part of God's creation. They were intended to be used for good and the flourishing of life. But sin didn't only distort man's desires, it also distorted the good and holy use of words.
Sin's Negative Impact on Words
Think of the negative power that words have as a result of sin. What happens to a person when they hear statements like:
It stings to even write those words. But many of us have felt more than just the sting of writing them; we have felt their soul-crushing weight when someone said them to us. Words have power, for good and for evil.
Redeeming Words for Good
The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that through faith in Him we can be forgiven and restored to a right relationship with our heavenly Father, God. This restoration is not only spiritual; it is a restoration of our whole lives, words included.
Before I began my road to recovery from sexual addiction back in 1999, I had a severe anger problem (addictions often cause problems in multiple areas of life). You might even say I was a 'rage-aholic.' My temper could be triggered in the blink of an eye. And oftentimes many foul words accompanied such anger.
When I started my recovery, God did an amazing healing work on my anger, which resulted in a merciful transformation of my language. Rather than using my words to fuel my fury, I began to learn to use my words bless and heal. God was redeeming not just my sexual brokenness, but also my sinful use of words.
4 Keys Areas to Speak Out Words of Truth
Spoken words have power -- even when spoken over yourself. (Yes, self-talk is a healthy Christian practice; read Psalm 42, 43:5, 62:5, and 103.)
You may be wondering what practical steps you can take to engage your use of words in a more Christ-like way. Here are four key areas to speak out words of truth over your own soul as you pursue a life of faithfulness to God.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
2 Cor. 7:10
You and I have sinned against God (probably several times just today!). We need to properly admit (confess) these sins and seek the correction of God's Word and His Spirit. This is called repentance.
Here are some words you can speak (out loud) over your soul as you repent:
Speak out words of repentance when you sin. Then listen for God's response. Have your Bible handy since He likely will want to point you to a particular verse or passage of Scripture to remind you that "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Ps. 51:17; emphasis added)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9
It is vital to remember that when we confess our sins God is faithful to forgive. O, how we need this reminder! And how I have learned over the years that it is often not enough (for me, anyway) to merely think this truth, but to speak it out LOUD!
Here are some words you can speak (out loud) to remind your soul of God's rich and abundant forgiveness:
Speak out words of God's forgiveness when you have strayed. Marinate in the love that God has for you. There is nothing you can do to cause God to love you less or abandon your or shame you. You are His beloved child, securely adopted into His eternal family. No one can snatch you out of His hand! (Jn. 10:28-30)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
What good news it is that we are called children of God! You have an identity in Christ that is precious and permanent. And it doesn't start after you die -- it is true right now.
With all the other voices that are trying to tell you who you are (TV, movies, social media, news outlets, etc.) you must train your ear to listen to words that speak the truth about your identity. And only God knows who you really are.
Here are some words you can speak (out loud) to remind your soul of who you are and to Whom you belong:
Speak out words of your true identity, especially when lies of shame are seeking to attack you and tempt you to believe what is not true about who you are in Christ. You are secure in God's family through faith in Christ. Rest in His love, and use the power of God's Word to strengthen your security in Him.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Your life is not a mistake. You were made by God with a purpose -- to glorify Him by bearing His image in the world. Because it is so easy to get swept away by the meaninglessness of the world's fruitless ways it is essential that you be reminded regularly that your life matters to God and His redemptive plan.
Here are some words you can speak (out loud) to remind your soul of God's good purpose for your life:
Speak out words of your God-given purpose for living. There is joy and peace in fervently pursuing all that God has called you to do in this life. Don't be distracted or dismayed by the clashing voices of a godless culture. Stay attuned to the clear, steady voice of the One who calls you His beloved and has entrusted with "the ministry of reconciliation." (2 Cor. 5:18)
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.
One final thought to share on this topic of the power of spoken words. Sometimes it is just as powerful to remain silent as it is to speak, especially when it comes to words that promote sin and evil.
God has called His people to "walk in the light" and not partner with the darkness of evil and wickedness. This means we must grow in wisdom to know when to speak out against such evil and when to hold our tongues when tempted to say things that partner with evil.
Words have power. Use them wisely to promote what is good and true and lovely. To God be the glory.
by John Fort
Director of Training
Summer is almost here and while many of the changes that come with summer are positive for your child, there are also some challenges that may affect their safety. Safety, in this case, is related to a child’s sexual integrity. Here are some things to think about.
SOME CHALLENGES OF SUMMER
Summer usually means increased unstructured time. Children have always had a greater tendency to “get in trouble” in the months they were not involved in structured educational activities. This does not mean children should not have free time or get a break during summer. Children may need help knowing how to use free time well, however.
At first unstructured time feels freeing to a child when summer starts, but often that freedom turns to frustration. I remember laying on the floor as a kid during summer and complaining loudly, “Mom, I’m bored!” Kids sometimes get into trouble in their attempts to cure boredom.
Any form of sexual stimulation, including fantasy, is exciting. It is also easier and faster to look up excitement online than to find excitement in a more healthy way. Quick and easy is attractive when a kid is bored.
Some children may feel disconnected if they are used to seeing other children every day, or at least more often during non-summer months. Children, like everyone else, need interaction with peers. Isolation is not good for anyone, much less children.
Sexualized media can feel like being connected to others, which is compelling if there is a sudden decrease in interaction with friends. It is a lot easier to indulge in sexualized content than to go find friends to play positive games together with.
Filling the Void
Sexual temptation for a child is often just a desire to “fill the void.” The void may be boredom or isolation. During summer months, both boredom and isolation often happen more frequently to a child.
SOME SOLUTIONS FOR SUMMER
Kids do not naturally know how to emotionally regulate themselves. When a child feels upset they do not know how to calm down without help. When a child feels depressed they do not know how to lift their spirits on their own. Parents are a child’s emotional regulator until the child learns how to regulate themselves.
However, you can not always be there when your child needs to regulate emotions. This is why it is better to help your child learn to respond well to negative emotions rather than you always “fixing it” for them.
For example, if your child is bored, rather than come up with something for them to do, help them brainstorm their own solution. Then, the next time they say they are bored you can say, “I showed you how to think of fun things to do. Why don’t you try it on your own this time?” Or, perhaps a stepping stone in the right direction might be, “Why don’t you go make a list of possible things you can do, then come back and tell me what you came up with?”
The more unstructured time your child has the more often they will need to resolve emotions on their own. Don’t expect them to be able to do this very well at first. While you may need to help a lot at first, your goal can be to wean them off of always needing you to be directly involved in helping them find positive things to do.
Teach Time Management
It will help your children if you set some basic guidelines for time management. When are they allowed to use digital devices? When can they go play with their friends? When is reading time during the summer months? When is it time to do chores?
Set up schedules early in the summer, not day by day. It can feel quite unsettling to a kid to wake up during summer, excited to have a day off, then be surprised to learn they have to do a list of chores. It would be helpful if the child knew ahead of time about the chore instead of being surprised by it.
If your child is eight or older, it is good for them to have some days where you are not deciding their schedule. You may have a couple of hours of the day that you have planned for them, but they do need to learn how to structure their own time.
Know What Your Kids are Doing
Extra unstructured time also gives a lot more opportunities for your child to get into things that can be harmful to them. Harmful situations often occur in the digital world, such as phones, tablets, TV, YouTube, electronic games, and so on. However, I will not discuss that here.
You can learn about digital safety at home here: A Family Digital Safety Plan
The only thing I will add here is that summer is not a time for your child to suddenly increase his or her use of digital devices. Whatever limits you have in place for digital devices during the school year should remain in place all summer. The extra free time in summer is not for your kids to play more video games or watch more movies.
What parents sometimes forget, however, is that the Internet is not the only place kids are exposed to sexual scenarios. The second most common source children are introduced to sexual topics and situations are other kids. This includes siblings, relatives, and kids in the neighborhood.
The scenarios include hearing sexual jokes, sexual stories, learning sexual terms, sexual experimentation, and potentially sexual abuse. Children introduced inappropriate sexual ideas and situations to each other long before the Internet existed.
I do not want you to suddenly be afraid for your child to spend time with other kids. Isolation is not healthy for any child. However, it is good to know where your child is, who they are with, and what they are doing.
Here are some family rules to consider:
I did say it is important to teach children how to come up with things to fill time on their own. That does not mean you should not help now and then. Your kids should get to do something really fun a few times during summer. Sometimes kids need a little help expanding their thinking.
Make a Family Calendar
A family calendar is where you put all the ideas in this blog together in one place. I would highly suggest using a large desk calendar rather than a digital one. These have lots of space to write and kids can see an entire month at a time. This helps kids see when something exciting is coming up if it is more than a week away. Put the calendar somewhere that everyone sees frequently.
Get the entire family together and create the first month together. To get by in from the kids, start by writing in a few fun things they want to do instead of starting with chores. Let them see when they get to do things they are really looking forward to.
Here are some things you might add next:
These are just a few ideas to get you started.
Your Child’s Free Time Schedule
You might have your child brainstorm a list of things they want to do during free time. If they want help, you can make a few suggestions, but try to help them come up with most of the ideas. Then, when free time comes have them get their free time list and pick something to do.
Help your child balance alone time with other children and even adults. Some children will gravitate toward time alone and others will want to always be with friends. Kids need some of both. If your child’s list is all alone activities or all group activities, challenge them to come up with some ideas on both sides.
This may sound overly structured, and it may be for some children, but it is a good place to start. If you see your child is doing well after a while you can ease off and see how they do on their own, without your reminders.
There will be Mistakes
No matter what you do, it is likely that your child will make mistakes during the summer. They might hear a sexual joke. They might see an inappropriate image. There is no reason to panic about this.
When something like this happens it is not because your child is a monster. Your child, like all other children, will sometimes make poor choices. When a child makes a poor choice it is an opportunity to teach them how to make better choices in the future.
Prepare for a Great Summer
Get started today!
You are the right parent to do this with your kids. You can do this. Now is a great time to plan for a safer summer!
by John Fort & Anne Kerr
Starting with Your Childhood
John: In my book, Honest Talk, I challenge parents to share with each other things about their past that they may have never shared with anyone. I ask couples to share something their parents did not tell them about sex that negatively influenced them. I also ask them to share with each other how they imagined God viewed sex when they were teenagers. Shortly after the book was first published a young couple told me that they had never talked about what shaped their sexuality when they were young with each other. They shared how much it helped their marriage to be able to talk about their childhood past. They learned things about each other they never knew and could better understand each other.
Anne: Sexuality is a central and integral part of being human. Sexuality is shaped over a lifetime beginning with the emotional bonds parents form (or don't form) as infants. Because of the ways past sexual encounters impact you, they can shape your views of yourself, your view of others, your world, and God.
Because sexuality is so significant to your life and because sexual experiences impact you so deeply, sexuality can also be an area of significant growth for you. An important part of that growth involves acknowledging the experiences and encounters that helped shape you.
Your stories matter. In many cases, they hold the key to healing from sexual wounding or finding freedom from recurring sexual struggles. As you think about your childhood experiences you can then respond with compassion to the child within you. This will then help you respond with grace and compassion to your own children and identify with the challenges they may face.
Preparing to Help Your Child: Remember what Childhood is Like
John: We are inviting you to take some time alone with God to think about some of the ways your sexuality has been shaped, starting in childhood. What messages did you hear about sex when you were young? Was sex portrayed as dirty or beautiful? Did you encounter pornography and what was your reaction if that happened? Did people refer to you in sexualized ways or objectify you? Did you come across a sexualized story or hear a sexual joke? Did you have other encounters or experiences with sex?
It is important to remember that most of these situations were beyond your control. Even those that you may have had control over, you certainly did not understand how to navigate them as a child. Make a list, mentally or in writing, of all the things that affected how you viewed sex and what your feelings were about sex as a child and teenager.
Anne: I hope and pray that you’ll consider doing this exercise, though it may not be easy. As you do, be kind to your younger self. Don't criticize or condemn. Remember that you were a child with limited information as sexual things began to enter your world. Perhaps you weren't protected or loved well. You likely experienced feelings of pleasure related to sexual encounters, which is completely normal. It may be helpful to let this inner child speak freely now. Often children are silenced in their most vulnerable moments by fear, threats, guilt, or shame.
I'd like to share some things to consider and pray about before you begin this exercise: Knowing your sexual history can be helpful but it may also be difficult to process or express. Deep feelings are often attached to these memories and you'll likely need to address some of the beliefs that surfaced from your experiences. Often it is not the trauma itself that causes the most damage but the lies or beliefs we adopt as a result of it. Such beliefs may be related to identity or worth. Ephesians 1:1-2:10 contains beautiful truths related to our true identity in Christ.
John: I suggest showing this post to your spouse if you are married. If you don’t feel safe sharing this information with your spouse, perhaps a close friend of the same gender. Then ask if they would be willing to share their answers with you and you share yours with them. If you can think of no one, consider seeing a counselor to help with this.
The purpose of this sharing is actually not about you, although I expect this process would benefit you. The purpose is so that you can be more helpful to your children as they navigate their own emerging sexual feelings, confusion, and questions. If you have not worked through your own childhood experiences with sexuality it will be difficult for you to have helpful conversations with your children to help them in theirs.
Questions to Discuss
Anne: All of your past experiences can and will be used by God who promises to work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28). Trust God in this. He was there then, He is with you now, and He will guide you into whatever is next for you.
We are hoping that you and your spouse will be able to do this exercise together, but if not, whoever you decide to do this with, here are some things to discuss together:
Be Kind to Yourself so You can be Kind to Your Children
As you look with fresh eyes at the various influences that worked to shape your sexuality, remember to be compassionate and kind to your younger self. Ask God to lead you to the next step in your own recovery and/or redemption journey.
Remember, as difficult as this work may be, you're in a tender place with God. Becoming more comfortable with your stories and finding any needed healing will reap huge dividends as you work to become an ally to your child in today's culture.
Here are some resources for you as a parent that may be helpful in your own journey:
by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder & President of Be Broken
There is a process to recovering fully from sexually addictive patterns. It is simple: Heal --> Grow --> Share. In a previous post I wrote about what healing looks like in this process. In this post I want us to explore the next stage: Growing. This stage focuses on three primary areas of growth: emotional, spiritual, and relational.
No one struggling with sexually addictive patterns is emotionally healthy. You might want to pause and reflect on that statement for a moment. You might even want to argue with it. But in my many years of hearing thousands of life stories of sexually addicted men and women, I have yet to meet one who exhibited emotional health or maturity in conjunction with their addictive lifestyle. Emotional maturity and addiction just don't go together.
Therefore, it is essential that emotional health be a high priority when seeking to grow into a man or woman of sexual integrity. This means "growing up" and leaving childish ways behind.
1 Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man (adult), I gave up childish ways.
Most sexually addicted individuals act like children emotionally. This is largely due to the fact that lust teaches a person to be self-centered, controlling, ill-tempered, angry, and deceptive. Just like a 2-year-old. But in order to be a mature man or woman of integrity, childish ways must be given up.
Often, counseling can be very helpful in understanding and overcoming childishness. Also, getting into a group of mature people can help sharpen these emotional skills.
The bible promises that if we walk by the Spirit of God we will not gratify the lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). But how do we "walk by the Spirit?" By deepening our intimate relationship with God through Jesus. We must grow in our dependence upon God.
Most of us know the things to "do" when it comes to "spiritual growth," but few engage these activities in the way God had in mind. We know to pray, read our bibles, feed the hungry, care for orphans and widows, and serve the poor. But too often we engage in these disciplines with a "box-checking" mentality, not with a heart eager to know God.
Spiritual growth never occurs through activity alone. God is a Person, to be related to intimately, not as something we do, but rather as Someone we know.
"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Spiritual growth is about knowing the Way, not as a religious ritualistic journey, but as one knows a Person. Jesus is THE WAY! On this journey of growth as a man or woman of integrity, you must know Him. May this change how you engage prayer, bible study, and fellowship with others. These are not means to an end, they are ever-present points of contact with the living Jesus.
Every sexually addicted person has damaged relationships. Lust and love are not synonyms. Therefore, in order to move forward to a life of integrity, you must grow healthy relationships. You must learn to relate well with others.
1 Peter 4:8
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Healthy relationships require stuff that doesn't exist in addiction. Stuff like sacrifice, forgiveness, sharing, communication, honesty, faithfulness, patience, and lots and lots of love. These are not characteristics that tend to come naturally, especially if you have had lots of practice being a self-centered addict. But there is good news! These are skills. Therefore, they can be learned.
The best context to grow relationally is -- in relationships! Duh. So, talk to your spouse. Spend time with your kids. Share your story with someone. Connect, connect, connect. Don't worry about "messing it up." There is no such thing as a "perfect" relationship. But you can have healthy ones, if you will work on growing in the area of relating well with others.
Growing is essential in becoming a strong man or woman of integrity. There are no shortcuts on this journey. But from a solid foundation of healing, you can grow into the person you always wanted to be. And from there, well, some pretty amazing things can happen...
Get More Help:
Resources for Men
Resources for Women
by John Fort
Director of Training at Be Broken
Safety for children in our digital world is a concern many parents ask for help with. To be clear, the digital world includes things like smart TVs, video games, tablets, and phones. All of these devices can access the Internet, which opens a Pandora’s box of harmful content to children. However, learning how to use these devices safely is a skill kids need before they turn 18.
The average age a child is first exposed to pornography is 9.66 for girls and 9.95 for boys. (Bentley, Lacy - 2016 - Gender & Childhood Pornography Exposure, Addiction/Brain Science) That means half of all children are being exposed to pornography before they are even ten. However, kids are usually exposed to pornography by accident, not on purpose. Studies show that 62% or more of children are first exposed to pornography while doing homework or some other accidental reason. (British Board of Film Classification, August 2019) Here are a couple of recent quotes to demonstrate this:
“Families say their kids were supposed to be using district-issued computers for schoolwork, but instead, kids were looking at pornography.”
(Josh Rosenthal, Nov 24, 2020 - Fox 5 News, Washington DC, https://www.fox5dc.com/news/montgomery-county-students-exposed-to-porn-on-school-is-laptops)
“One minute a child could be looking at their favorite toy [online] and the next thing you know there’s porn on the screen.”
(Niki Whitaker, executive director at the Baldwin County Child Advocacy Center, Jan 26, 2021 - https://www.wkrg.com/health/coronavirus/news-5-investigates-online-risks-children-face-with-more-screen-time-during-pandemic/)
Parents are usually not aware when their children are exposed to porn. One study interviewed over 2,000 children and their parents in 2019 and the following was discovered. (British Board of Film Classification, Ibid)
Things to Consider
It is unfair to expect a child to manage digital technology in a safe manner without significant help from parents. A child will not know what to do to avoid exposure to porn or what to do if they are exposed to porn without being taught.
Children have a harder time resisting porn than adults. A child’s sex drive grows to adult levels within two years after puberty but the part of their brain that helps them control their sex drive will not mature until their mid twenties. Expecting a child to resist pornography while at the same time having unrestricted access to smart TVs, video games, tablets, and smartphones is asking more than children are capable of.
Here are a few suggestions to help kids have a safer experience.
Less screen time is better for all of us, children in particular. Here are some guidelines from the Mayo Clinic. (Mayo Clinic, Health & Lifestyle, Children’s Health, Screen Time and Children: How to Guide Your Child. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/screen-time/art-20047952)
I know this is hard. Most kids spend way more than two hours a day on screens, and thinking about reducing that time feels daunting. You probably know what it is like to have a kid melt down when you ask them to stop playing a video game or using a tablet. But an angry reaction to being asked to rejoin the real world should be a warning sign that kids are getting too dependent on the artificial, digital world.
Kids view the digital world as the real world. That is where many kids interact with their friends. It takes more work on your part, but helping your kids meet and spend time face-to-face with other kids is much better for their mental health. Limiting screen time is about much more than avoiding pornography.
When to Give a Child a Device
I’ve talked with a lot of professionals and my personal recommendation to parents is not to give a child their own Internet device until they are at least 14. Before you think I’m too restrictive, consider that the men who created this digital world did the same with their kids. Bill Gates did not allow his children to have cell phones until they were 14 and he strictly limited screen time for them until they were 17.
Steve Jobs prohibited his kids from using an iPad at all before age 18, even though he helped create it. (Chris Weller, “Bill Gates & Steve Jobs Raised Their Kids Tech-Free”, Business Insider, Oct 24, 2017) These men know more than you or I ever will about the digital world and look at what they considered critical for their own kids!
Alternatives to SmartPhones
That does not mean your kids cannot have a phone until 14, however. Today there are several companies that make devices that look like smartphones and smartwatches that have a camera, music, calculator, text service, and a phone, but absolutely no Internet access or ability to host apps. Some of these are better for younger kids and others have things like a map feature that young teens might want.
Rather than take up space here, I will point interested parents to this very recent post that compares these devices to help you decide what might be the best fit for your younger kids.
When it is Time for a SmartPhone
While you want to delay giving a child a smartphone it is best that your child learn how to manage a real smartphone before they leave home. You will have to decide when to allow them to have one as each child is different, but somewhere between the ages of 14 and 18 they need to learn how to use a smartphone safely.
This means locking the phone down at first so your kid cannot add apps on their own. Use something like the Bark app (bark.us) to see how well your child handles being online before allowing them to choose an app. When they are able to go a couple of months without misusing the Internet, allow them to select one app to start with.
When it is time to let them have one app, visit https://protectyoungeyes.com so that you are aware of the potential dangers of the app your child wants. This organization specializes in monitoring what all apps that children might use do and where the pitfalls are.
Other Ways Kids Access the Internet
Children access the Internet through other devices as well. In addition to computers, any smart TV and most video game consoles will allow the user to surf the web. It is smart to have monitoring software, such as Bark or CovenantEyes, on devices that allow them, but no software can monitor all these kinds of devices. If you want to monitor all Internet activity happening in your home you need something that operates from the home router.
I won’t take time here to explain how that works, but one solution is RouterLimits, which is a device you plug into your home router that monitors all Internet activity using your home WIFI network. That would include visitors to your home who you let use your WIFI.
Router Limits can also be used to restrict what times people can access the Internet. This means you could shut the Internet down in your home at night, in case kids try to use the Internet behind your back.
To learn more, visit: https://routerlimits.com
Prevention Science has clearly demonstrated that the three most important things to protect your child from getting involved with pornography (or any other harmful behavior for that matter) are parent-child bonding, healthy beliefs, and clear standards. In addition to bonding with your children and sharing your beliefs, you need to set very clear standards around Internet use in your home.
Here are a few family rules you might consider:
It is very important to note that any rules for children should apply to parents. If your kids don’t take their phones to bed, neither do you. If your child’s Internet history is monitored, so are the Internet histories of parents. I know this creates inconvenience, but there are two very big benefits of doing this:
This is a lot to think about! I would imagine that some of the ideas I am suggesting seem too hard or would require making a lot of adjustments for you, personally. So, rather than suggest you do all of these things, I have a simpler challenge for you.
Look through the Things to Consider again, and find one thing you would be willing to try. Just one. Even taking one of these steps will increase digital safety for your children. In fact, if your children can read well, have them join you in selecting one to start with!
This is not too hard, especially if you start with just one change. You can do this. Your children are in the right home, and you are the right parent to help them experience safety in the digital world.
More Family Care Resources
by Andrea Stunz
Wives Care team member
Dear hurting wife, I see you.
I see you because I know you.
I see you because I am you.
I see you your despair behind your cleverly crafted social media posts.
I see your questions because I, too, have questioned.
I see your fears for I, too, have nearly been consumed by my own.
I see your loneliness while standing in the midst of the crowd.
I see your tears when you are alone because you don’t want the kids to see. For if they see then they may also know your pain. You would never wish this on them. Not in a million years.
I see you sitting on your sofa staring out the window longing for life to flutter by and for hope to rise on the horizon.
I see you grasping for anything that is true.
I see you longing for something or someone you can trust.
I see you longing for someone to understand.
I see you wishing someone would validate your anger, because behind that anger is so much pain and sadness that desires connection.
Dear hurting wife, I see you.
I wish I could fix it for you but I can’t. I don’t have solutions.
But I can offer you hope. Even if only a glimmer of hope to keep those last few embers alive.
Dear hurting wife, this page in your story is a comma not a period.
Winston Churchill is quoted to have said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Dear hurting wife, keep going.
Gently wipe that last tear to make room for the next one. It’s okay to cry.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other – even if the steps are small.
Please remember that two steps forward and one step back still leaves you one step forward.
Just like winter miraculously turns to spring through the ache of death and buried seedlings push through barren soil reaching fierce for light, your pain will bear sweet fruit.
Those scars on your heart? They will become the most beautiful flowers in your garden.
Dear hurting wife, I see you.
More importantly, so does your Father.
Redemption may not bear the image your heart longs for, but redemption will come one way or another.
You are not alone.
“He is before all things, in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17 NIV
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 NIV
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
For further reading, you may find great comfort in Isaiah 54.
by Reese Crane
Triggers. Triggers are mysterious. They can be sight, smell, taste, a spoken word, a way you are touched. So in essence, all five senses are affected by triggers. If we have had any form of trauma, abuse, neglect, loss, we continuously attach those moments from the past to other things as time moves on.
For instance, if we were in a serious accident we might hear a screeching tire and freak out. If we lost a child, anytime we see a child their age we can be triggered and feel the loss as if it had just taken place. It usually leads to episodes of anxiety, isolation and for an addict, acting out in their addiction to escape the pain.
Think for a moment about the nation of Israel. They grew prosperous under Joseph in Egypt. (Genesis 41:41) But then after a few hundred years of flourishing and working as shepherds and farmers in Egypt, a pharaoh arose who knew nothing of the legacy of Joseph, the famine, how God rescued them, (Exodus 1:8) and he decided that because Israel was growing too big for his own comfort, they would subdue Israel and make them slaves.
As the story goes God heard their cries for freedom and sent Moses to deliver them. After 10 plagues and Pharaoh losing his firstborn son the Israelites were allowed to leave. God promised to bring them to a land flowing with “milk and honey” and a place they could forever call home. It came with a catch though. They had to go in and subdue the godless nations there before they could claim it. Beat down slaves had to go to war? Seriously?
The First nation they were to face was Jericho. A huge walled city that towered over the land. After a couple months of hanging out in the wilderness, providing for their every need, Moses sent 12 spies into the Promised Land for reconnaissance. Two of the ten, Joshua and Caleb said, "No problemo. We can take these cats with the Lord on our side." (Reese Revised Version) However, the other 10 said "No way, Jose! They are huge! We look like grasshoppers in their sight!"
They were triggered.
These 10 were also in Egypt treated as slaves with whips and forced to build the huge buildings that made up that towering metropolis. In fact, all they saw when looking at Jericho was a city that reminded them of Egypt. They most likely began to relive the pain of the whips, their feet in the clay making bricks and the harsh treatment from Egyptians taskmasters and fear gripped their soul.
And what if they lost the battle? Who knows what Jericho might do to the survivors. Beating? Raping? Other forms of torture? "No way am I going back to that again!" (Funny how later on in the wilderness they complained about their conditions so much they thought going back to Egypt was the lesser of two evils).
That one negative report caused God to say, “Ok you don’t think I can handle these guys after how I set you free from Egypt? Do you not remember that whole parting of the Red Sea where you stepped onto dry ground and crossed over into the land I was giving you and then I completely plundered the entire Egyptian army under water? Then you will stay in the wilderness and the generation to come will go in and take the land." And so it was.
The Israelites stayed in the wilderness for 40 years and the former generation died off except two - Joshua and Caleb. At around 80 years of age or so, they entered the land with the others of the younger generation - now middle aged - fought the battle and defeated Jericho. (Joshua 6) It could’ve happened 40 years earlier but everyone was afraid. Because they were triggered, those 10 spies sewed an incredible amount of fear among the whole nation of Israel - numbering most likely in the millions.
Triggers can prolong our journey to true freedom. Sometimes for decades. If we allow them to loom large over our life, like a walled city, we will never enter into all God has for us to experience. There’s a saying, “It’s always today in Traumaland.” But you can move through to tomorrow by holding fast to a loving Father who will not only carry you through the pain, the fire and the flood (Isaiah 43), He will fight the battle for you. (2 Chronicles 20:15-17).
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