5 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Emotional Health

parentingages and stages

Today, every child needs to be prepared for the time when they’ll accidentally be exposed to pornography, which can cause distress and isolation behaviors in children.   “Crash and tell” is a common method to teach.  But often, children are ashamed of telling or scared of what will happen, so they keep it to themselves.

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5 Ways to Boost Your Child's Emotional Health

Here are five ways to build trust with your child to keep communication open.

1. Change your words from good/bad choices to happy/sad choices.

At its core, addiction is about emotional health.  Being emotionally healthy means being willing to feel emotional pain and deal with it in appropriate ways.  Kids who feel shame (I’m bad), tend to isolate when scared or stressed rather than connect – making them more prone to addiction.  In order to make your home a safe place for communication, start using the words happy and sad choices instead.

For example, when my two-year old son throws a fit, if I say, “Oh, I see you’re making a bad choice,” it’s not that far of a stretch for him to think, I make bad choices, I’m bad. Something’s wrong with me.

Instead, help your child link his choices to his emotions by saying, “Oh, I see you’re making a sad choice.”  Using happy and sad choices will help your child be more willing to identify and talk about their emotions, as well as link their emotions to their behaviors.

2. Know that you can teach kids about pornography before you teach them about sex.

It may sound strange, but pornography doesn’t have much to do with real-life, healthy sex.  Pornography is the exploitation of sexuality for money.  It’s staged, often violent, disturbing, and void of references to marriage, children or long-term relationships.

If we wait to warn children about pornography until after we’ve described how “beautiful” sex is when you’re married, it’s often too late since many kids are exposed to pornography before they can understand healthy sex.  In addition, some pornography portrays abusive, traumatic situations. If you only tell your kids that sex is wonderful, but don’t explain that some pornography shows unhealthy representations of sex, they may be left thinking that sex is a violent, terrifying experience.  Or they might perceive disrespectful, abusive sex as the norm which is just as harmful to their relationships.

3. Teach kids that certain things hurt their brain: alcohol, drugs, and bad pictures.

Young children don’t need details.   Don’t worry, you never need to get more detailed than, “Bad pictures are pictures with people who don’t have clothes on.”  You can add more detail during layered, ongoing conversations as they become ready for more information, but conversations never need to be graphic in order for children to understand.  Because emotional health is the goal, as you prepare them, focus on the feelings that will occur when they encounter pornography: sadness, confusion, fear, and excitement.  The goal should be to connect and help them process those emotions.

4. Teach kids to give people their privacy.

It’s easy to teach kids not to hit or not to steal.  We can also teach our children that they are responsible for what they do with their eyes.  This will give you a way to address inappropriate media you see, anywhere from billboards to magazines to commercials.  A simple, “Oh, that woman isn't dressed, let’s give her privacy,” works great for most situations.

5. Become an excellent example of dealing with emotions in healthy ways.

When parents are suffering from addiction or an unhealthy relationship, kids feel the effects.  One of the best ways to keep your kids safe is to make sure that you are providing a powerful example of emotional health.  If you realize that you’re isolating when stressed, irritable, angry or depressed, seek help.

Research shows that women who are dealing with a spouse’s pornography use and/or infidelity suffer similar symptoms as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  For wives and family members of pornography/sex addicts, it’s called betrayal trauma, and it feels like anxiety, depression, anger, and other emotions.  Know there is help available for wives and families throughout the process of discovery, recovery, the healing of the marriage or divorce, so that you can be emotionally available for your children even during times of extreme difficulty.

What are you doing to boost your child's emotional health?


Polly Scott is the Director of Public Relations for Addo Recovery, an organization that specializes in Betrayal Trauma, Pornography Addiction, Sexual Addiction and related issues.


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