Tuesday, October 9, 2018

My kid found my porn! How to talk to children about sex and pornography, even if they've already seen it

It happens more often than any parent wants to admit. You hide something carefully, you put protections on your computer and phone, but sooner or later it is very likely that your child will stumble across something sexual that you were hoping would not happen for at least 20 more years or maybe would not happen ever.

It's not the end of the world and it doesn't mean you're a bad parent.

I'll start with prevention 
It is every parents' responsibility to make sure that they are managing their child's access to anything sexual whether that be their porn collection, online porn, chat rooms and apps that are welcome environments for sexual predators, etc. Here are some services that provide both filtering and reporting:
https://www.netnanny.com/ , https://www.webchaver.org/index.php, http://www.usanativ.com/

Now for reality -  
Just like the candy or booze that we're sure we've hidden away effectively, our children are bound to come across something we didn't expect them to see and probably always hoped they wouldn't. Just like some children would rather believe that their parents adopted them so they don't have to ever consider the likelihood that their parents ever had sex so too we sometimes wish that our children thought that for the same reason.

And here's the response to your child - 
Don't get angry. Just talk. This is a conversation. The more your children feel that they can come to you with any issue or concern they have, the better. If you get angry you might be trying to convey the message that what they did was wrong. The actual message you're conveying is that they were wrong for coming to tell you in the first place. You might be angry at yourself for not protecting your children enough but that's not your child's fault.
If your child believes you are angry because they came to you then that makes it a lot less likely they will come to you again. That's the last thing that you want.

Current research supports the idea that humans are sexual beings from mommy's tummy all the way until death so while kids won't understand a lot of what they might stumble upon, they will understand the basics of showing love and physical pleasure.
You can explain things a few ways:
1) This is how people who love each other connect and make each other feel good (if it's BDSM you might want to explain that even though it looks like he or she is in pain that person feels good like that and people are all different and feel good in different ways. If that person asked for it to be stopped then they would right away. This is a great segue in to a conversation about consent. (The organization RAINN has a great short piece on the topic here.)

2) Just like you have to be a certain age to be the president, to drive, and to to drink alcohol, you have to be older to be able to watch this or do these activities. It doesn't mean they are bad but it does mean that you are often able to make better choices about these things when you are older.

3) How did it feel for you to see/hear those things? What did you think?

4) If you ever have any thoughts or questions you can ask me. I know it might feel a bit uncomfortable but as your parent I am a big expert and I will teach you and help you figure your feelings out.

You can use a mixture of all of these things. The buzz themes are: make a safe place for your child; you don't have to teach your child any more than he or she needs to know but also try not to leave holes too big that your child will be tempted to seek out a less reputable source like friends to get more info; be real and genuine; encourage your child to speak freely about his or her feelings about what was discovered; and know this: the bigger deal you make out of this by getting upset/excited/spazzy the bigger deal your child will make out of it.

For further info or questions contact me. www.arihoffmantherapy.com

Sunday, May 27, 2018

How to Teach Kids About Memorial Day

One of the primary definitions of good mental health is what the professionals call “affect tolerance”, simply, the ability to experience a range of emotion without being compromised. The ability to feel a wide range of emotions also ensures that we will feel emotions well. If I’ve never been sad how happy could I possibly feel?

As most adults know we seldom experience only one emotion at a time, rather we often experience a number of emotions at one time. And what most adults also know is that one definition of maturity (as told to me by Rabbi Noach Orlowek) is recognizing that the emotion I feel now is not the one I will feel for the rest of my life.

Memorial Day is a great example of a day that ideally should contain multiple emotions and it is a wonderful opportunity to both teach our children the value of experiencing multiple emotions and at the same time teach them about the value of the human lives that have been lost in the service of the United States of America.
Photo Credit: U.S. Army
Since I was a child I cried at the National Anthem. For my grandfather too this nation’s song was a trigger for tears. When I hear the Anthem I think about how fortunate I am that my ancestors came to this country and worked their fingers to the bone to make a life and that every day my children and I benefit from that hard work. And then when the words “and the rockets’ red glare” come forth I think about all of those men and women who, throughout the generations, gave their lives for the ideals of our country which I and my children benefit from every day.

On this Memorial Day my family is going for a hike, maybe we’ll go watch airplanes at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, and we’ll have a BBQ with my wife’s delicious hamburgers. We are also going to stand in silence for one minute at 3:00pm and we are going to visit the military section of our local cemetery. While there we will talk about the fact that the United States is the Land of the Free because of the Brave. 
My kids might see their sentimental father cry a bit and while it’s not the most comfortable experience for me it is important because they will see a model of someone who can experience different emotions even at the same time in a healthy way.

I urge you to take this opportunity to both model good mental health for your children and also teach them what Memorial Day is really about.

For more information about counseling with Ari Hoffman - www.arihoffmantherapy.com

Here are some Memorial Day activities you can do with your kids:

An interesting video for kids about Memorial Day

Stories and info for kids about Memorial Day