Navigating through the Senior High School Years

The senior years for many teenagers can be daunting and stressful as heck!  After helping three of my own children and counselling countless teenagers and parents through these years, here are my quick 16 tips for parents for the year/s ahead!

Let them know you are here for them. Say something like you know they are incredibly independent and competent, but that you are here if they need you.  And just keep saying it, even if you think they’ve heard it a million times.

  1. Verbal affirmation. If this is not your strong point (particularly dads) try to push past it. Tell your son/daughter that you love them and think they are amazing, they are doing a good job, tell them you are proud of them regularly.

  2. Leave random notes for them around the place – on their bed, in their school bag, wherever; affirming them and letting them know you have their back

  3. Master the art of lingering. When going in to say goodnight, don’t rush out. Kiss/hug them goodnight, ask ‘how’s everything going’? or ‘everything going ok’? and then even when they say ‘yup’… just linger around the room for a bit, looking like you might be just straightening books, or tidying up or something to see if they might talk to you or add anything. Just 30 seconds….you’ll be surprised at what they end up randomly sharing every so often.

  4. Second check. Make the effort to go in and check on them again before you head to bed. Sometimes it’s after ‘official lights out’ that teenagers often secretly get onto technology and may stay on it for hours!

  5. Create ‘spontaneous’ catch-ups. If you think they are not being themselves and might need to talk, create an excuse to take them out just you and them. For girls, invite her to join you for a coffee or milkshake after shopping.  For boys, a long drive in the car (over 45 min) sitting in the front with no phone or technology does the trick… but give it half an hour, without pressured questions.  Even if they don’t talk, the point is they have to sit there face to face, or side by side, and they can’t just get up and walk away.  If they don’t talk, you talk. Tell them about your life; times when you are stressed, how you handled school or year 12, what’s happening in your life etc.

  6. Physical health. Make sure they are looking after their body.  They are growing at a rapid rate! Also, perfectionist teenagers tend to push themselves in mind, body, and spirit! Check if they are sleeping properly, eating well, not skipping breakfast/lunch etc. They secretly want you to care about them, even if they say the opposite.

  7. Create permission for imperfection. Create moments where they can see you make mistakes and be OK.  Sometimes I would deliberately leave the dishes or something out of place and make a comment out loud like, ‘oh well, its OK not to be perfect’, or ‘to cut ourselves slack sometimes’ etc.  Kids are pushed so much these days by school and social pressure, they need to know its OK not to be perfect ALL the time. Home needs to be a place of ‘wind down’, not ‘wind up’ – a safe harbour, a refuge.

  8. Set a calming atmosphere. If you are into oils, diffusing lavender or frankincense or calming blends can create an amazing atmosphere of calmness. I’ve seen some parents use this and it works wonders in the living room or bedroom. When my teenagers can’t get to sleep they still come in and ask me for lavender and/or frankincense, which I dab on their temples and back of the neck. Works like magic.

  9. Move from telling to asking. If your emerging adult seems stressed with homework or life, instead of preaching, ‘well that’s because x  & y and you need to do z’, try moving to asking a question: ‘is there anything I can do?’When my teenagers were stressed about exams or assignments in year 11 or 12, I would offer a cup of tea, or a chocolate, offer to wash up when it’s their night, or offer to put on some music while doing their work ,or did they want me to sit with them and do work on my computer beside them, or say a prayer for them etc.

  10. Encourage self-awareness.I’m not sure if your teenager is the type of teenager who fills up more by being by themselves or having others around… (I had one of each and a third for whom that too much of either was exhausting!). But something as simple as figuring out whether your child is introverted or extraverted is a great start for both you and them to know.  It will help them in years to come to recognise when they are getting too full or too empty. I went further with mine and did a few interactive tests which they responded well to – such as the 5 Love LanguagesMyers Briggs, and the Multiple Intelligence test. I found this last one particularly insightful with setting up individual homework environments that work for them and can be done with any school-aged child.

  11. Take the pressure down. Sometimes our schools really put undue pressure on senior students, particularly around ‘what subjects they need to doin order to get into the uni course they want’. And sometimes it’s us parents who are loading on the pressure and expectations. Parents, we need to learn to back off. I’m aware this may be challenging, especially if you have desires for your child’s career, but it needs saying. I encouraged my kids that uni life and timetables were not as stressful as year 11 or 12 – and they will always be able to change their career direction if they feel that a certain path is not right for them.  Even though their teachers may be telling them otherwise.

  12. Trust your gut. If you think they are not themselves and you are concerned, take action.  Tell them you want to talk (and if they resist, take them out for that coffee/water/milkshake/drive and tell them they might not want to talk, but you do!) Say that you are concerned and that what you are specifically noticing is not normally them, and see if they respond. Sometimes just sitting and letting them slowly respond is OK.  Be comfortable with the silence, but also say everything you need to say, even if they say nothing. They will definitely think about it and may say something about it at a later time.

  13. Stay in the ring with technology. By now you may be tired and ready to give up this perennial struggle. Let me encourage you – don’t tap out! Wouldn’t that be easier though? Aren’t they now becoming young adults who we should give more freedom to? Of course –but they are still growing young people who are developing under your roof. Your job is not over, so don’t check out early! You still need to keep an eye on who they are talking to, what sites they follow, what movies or TV shows they are watching etc. At the very least it is a big insight into the things that are influencing them.  Intense or sad or emotional TV shows and movies can drain serotonin(our ‘happy hormone’) so keep an eye on that. They need to have downtime and recreation that increases serotonin, things that they enjoy. One thing I used to say to my kids is ‘who’s in your room right now?’ meaning whoever they are talking to, texting, snap-chatting etc, they are basically hanging out with in their room.

  14. A word on porn. This is a particularly big issue for teenage boys, but is affecting more and more teenage girls as well, so don’t be naïve. Porn consumption is proven to have huge effects on teenagers mood and behaviour, let alone warping their view of healthy sexuality. Be on the lookout for behaviour like becoming quiet or withdrawn, being left at home alone for long periods, or developing social anxiety.  Don’t let your teenage boy be alone in the house for days on end!  Even one whole day alone is too long.  Make sure you have filters on your modems and insist their phones or devices not be left in their room at night time. Have a docking station where they put it to charge each night in a public place or in parent’s room.  This will save countless issues and takes the temptation (literally) away from reach, helping them and you to sleep better at night. At the end of the day however, nothing replaces parental engagement. My husband initiated conversations with our son about this area from the time he started high school. I encourage all dads to talk to your sons about pornography with your sons, and mums with your daughters, but get educated about it yourself first. It ‘aint what it used to be!

  15. Get on the phone. If you are concerned about your child and their behaviour, don’t hesitate to seek help! There are countless counsellors and people who work with teenagers out there who can help and advise you on what the best action to take is. That being said, sift through what you hear and do your own research. I shake my head at some of the advice I have heard teenagers and parents receive, so use your internal antennae and talk to a counsellor you trust, one who has experience and bears good fruit with other teenagers.

You may do all these already!  But my main encouragement is to stay engaged. They will thank you one day, but these years may not be that day! There were many times we were able to intercept as a parent just because we stayed alert and aware of what our teenagers were doing or feeling. Our kids absolutely do need us in these years, whether they show us or not.  It’s our turn to be the adult, know they may not reciprocate right now, but they will later.

Good luck – I’ll be praying for you!


The Porn Myth - Book Review

The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography

Matt Fradd (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2017.)

 

The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography, is Matt Fradd’s latest book. It is a well argued, well structured discussion of the porn phenomenon and its effects on people. Matt is an Australian, now based in the United States of America, and is the founder of theporneffect.com. He is currently the Director of Content Development for Integrity Restored and is a best-selling author and speaker.

In this book, Matt goes about debunking many commonly held beliefs about pornography. The book is definitely not a religious treatise. He attempts to avoid religious jargon, and uses rational, fact based arguments to debunk many myths and misconceptions.

As the author states, “the goal of this book is to expose the myth that pornography is good or at least not that bad”. It could be said that Fradd is very Aquinas like in his method as he works towards achieving the book’s goal.  (The author obviously looks up to Thomas Aquinas, judging by the name of his podcast, “Pints with Aquinas”). He does this by methodically stepping the reader through the many arguments or beliefs around pornography that are widely accepted in society.  Chapter headings include: “Porn empowers women”, “only religious people oppose porn”, “I don’t pay for porn, so I’m not contributing to the industry”, “Porn isn’t addictive” and the classic claim “porn is only fantasy: it doesn’t affect our real lives”.

The book is an intelligent and compelling read and creates solid arguments on what is a major issue in society. When it comes to human sexuality some would say it is THE issue of our time. As Fradd cites:

“among millennials (18-30 year olds), 63 percent of men and 21 percent of women say they view pornography at least several times a week – and that says nothing of those who view pornography somewhat less frequently”

The author rigorously argues that sexuality is better and more fulfilling when one is not exposed to a cornucopia of sexual imagery on the internet.

“by placing sex, any kind of sex, into the medium of pornography, we gorge the masses on industrialised, commodified sexuality. This does not celebrate sex at all. It cheapens it.”

Whilst much of the book is built on the above proposition, it is great that Fradd positions sex clearly as something pleasurable and good. In fact, the reader no doubt will benefit from a deeper and richer appreciation of the gift of sex.

Whilst non-religious in tone, the book has a clear moral and theological underpinning. For the amoral, it may not be digestible content, but for someone striving “to be a good person” it certainly will make them think twice before using pornography again. Further than this, the book is so thorough it forms a great reference point for someone working in the growing number of areas affected by this topic. Be it education, counselling, psychology, pastoral or church ministry the book provides both a good reference point, for most common arguments, and also an in depth analysis of each topic.

The topics covered are: porn culture, the porn industry, porn and our sexuality, porn and our relationships and the struggle with porn. The book is heavily referenced, which will appeal to those seeking academic justification for the arguments, and the book includes a significant appendix which further digs down into the science and the plethora of brain studies that backs up the book’s premise.

With the viewing age of pornography getting younger and younger, and the rates of exposure before adulthood nearing 100%, all caring parents should have good knowledge on this topic. Children should be prepared from a young age to deal with porn exposure. In speaking of sex education Fradd says,

“Children and teens need to see that their parents are reliable sources of knowledge about sex, which means that conversations about these matters should be considered normal in the home”.

The author’s experience in working with people (and their spouses) impacted by pornography is obvious. The book also also attempts to help those affected, with helpful advice and encouragement. The reader is reminded that our desire for sexual fulfilment is rooted in something very good and that there is a way out of pornography’s sticky web. Fradd seeks to inspire people to pursue the real love on offer in authentic sexual relationships, rather than the cheap counterfeit that pornography offers.

Fradd’s arguments are insightful, accurate and supported by experts in the fields of neurology, psychology and sociology. Discussions pull back the curtain on an often hidden problem that has even more hidden effects. Drawing from insiders in the sex trade, the realities of the industry and pornography’s sordid history is exposed. Reaching into the personal lives of actors and actresses the fantasies of porn production are exposed; so too is the trail of broken lives that have been left behind. Matt Fradd definitely attempts to leave the reader motivated to fight the pro-porn cultural norm that is widespread in society.

This is definitely a book for the bookshelf if you are someone who seeks to challenge the wave of destruction that pornography is bringing to children, relationships and society. The book however, is probably best in the hands of someone asking the question, “Does porn really hurt anyone”?

The book absolutely does what the title suggests and exposes not just the “porn myth”, but it systematically removes the scaffolding that pro-porn arguments are built on.  This book clearly contributes to the conversation on the harmful effects of pornography and I would suggest it is the most comprehensive discussion I have seen.  If you are looking for a book that thoroughly scrutinizes the pro-porn arguments and encourages individuals, parents and communities to work to reject the influence of porn, then look no further.

Starting High School

Starting high school is exciting and scary! Even more so this year in QLD, where many 11-turning-12 year olds entered the high school yard for the first time. As pictures of all the kids heading off to school filled facebook and instagram last term, I thought about how exciting a new year of school can be. And, as I sent my son off to first year of high school this year, I was reminded of my eldest girls first semester of high school and the transitioning that happens. 

Here are 5 tips for you as parents and carers to set your new high schooler off to a good start:

1. Be available to talk and debrief
Even though they have probably been waiting for this moment for a long time, starting high school can be scary! Going from being ‘the oldest’ to suddenly ‘the youngest’ can be a challenge. Adjusting to high school teachers when you are used to being cared for by one teacher can be difficult too. Try to set time in your own schedule to ask how its going. Some kids like to talk straight after school, some at dinner, and some just before bed. Being available as a parent to talk or debrief or just showing you are there for them can be a huge support for them. This is the year you don’t want to lose communication! With so much going on internally growing up in their body and brain, there is a lot going on externally too, and this is the time to learn creative ways as a parent to engage with them. Sometime cooking a yummy afternoon or dinner is enough to entice any teenager to hang around a little longer to chat. ☺

2. Encouragement
These guys and girls need encouragement. Writing a little note in their lunch box, tidying their room with a note on their pillow or other small gestures can show them you are there for them. Saying to them ‘I’m so proud of you!’ and ‘This is a big time of so many changes, which are both exciting and scary all at the same time, and you are doing so well in adapting to them all’ can go along way. One time in the first semester, my first-year-of-high-school daughter was feeling so overwhelmed, I cleaned her room for her and put a note of encouragement on her bed. It spoke volumes for her, and encouraged her in this time of adjustment.

3. Empowerment
One of the biggest changes from primary to high school is independence. You are expected at high school to know where to go, what books you need, what uniform you need to wear, how to catch public transport etc etc. Its hard to go from a primary school where the teacher takes responsibility for you, to a high school where YOU take responsibility for you! It can feel scary and lonely. BUT… this is a great time of empowerment! Resist the urge to do everything for them.

Help them to remember, NOT take over

Its ok in the first few weeks to remind them or help them out, but you really need to empower them to start thinking for themselves. If they are forgetting things, encourage them to do up their own personal checklist the night before. Things like ‘have I put my laptop and phone on charge?’ or ‘have I got my uniforms ready?’ ‘do I need to be at school early for anything tomorrow?’ There’s lots to remember and its important at this time to help them remember, NOT take over. On the other hand, it’s also important to let them know, as they learn independence, that they are not alone and you have their back.

4. Friendships
Some kids look around at school and expect to be ‘best friends’ by the end of the first week! Whilst some people click instantly, some kids know its takes time to develop lasting friendships. Just because people ‘act like BFFs’ after meeting a week ago, doesn’t mean it will last. It’s hard to explain this to your young teenager, as they look around and think ‘Am I the only one who doesn’t have a new best friend?”. If your teenager is feeling alone or wondering these things, reassure them. One of the things I’ve always said to my kids is, ’If you wanna make a friend, be a friend.’ It’s one of the sure ways of making friends.

‘If you wanna make a friend, be a friend.’

5. Don’t take it out on them!
The change is not only big for them, its big for you too! Your new highschooler can go from being that fun, over-communicative pre-teen to a moody, hard to love teenager. Remember, just because they don’t act like they need you, doesn’t mean they don’t! They need you more than EVER. Communication between you and them is even more key to a successful high school transition. Research shows that teenagers around 14 and up express parent-child conflict as one of their greatest concerns, so now is the time to invest in this relationship – moody or not – to keep communication channels open. Having a once a week coffee/catch up is just the ingredient for this. Even if not much is said during this time, creating a culture of ‘opportunity to share’ will be worth it in the coming years.

Research shows that teenagers around 14 and up express parent-child conflict as one of their greatest concerns

I remember that first shock as a parent of a high school kid. I remember looking back, just 12 months later and thinking ‘wow! So much has changed between the end of primary school and the first year of high school.’ It was like I was holding on to my hat and going on for the ride. Being an engaged, attentive parent will help your child know he/she is not alone and has the back up they need. Empowerment, not taking over. Encouragement, not criticism.

Keep going parents, you can DO this! And the good news is that YOU are not alone in this journey either. We are all in it together.

Fighting for your Teens – Boycotting Fifty Shades of Grey

So, I’m doing the school run this morning when my 16 year old turns to me, “Mum, have you read 50 Shades of Grey?”
“Um, no… and I don’t want you to either.”
My 16 year old continues: “Well everyone is talking about it, and the trailor came out yesterday… What’s it about anyway?” My 15 year old leans in to join the conversation.
I take a breath in, then decide to be honest and just put it out there.
“Well, it’s… well… its basically porn for women.”
Silence.
‘Ok, I’ll tell you the story… it’s about this girl, and she meets this guy, and he gets her to sign this contract that he can pretty much do whatever he wants with her sexually, including chains, blindfolds and whips etc, then he pretty much seduces her and uses her for his own gratification’.

It was this conversation then watching the trailer myself that sparked me to write this blog. As a parent, I do not want my teenage daughters to watch this movie, to feel pressure from their friends to watch this movie, or to believe that this 50 Shades of Grey is now the expected norm in love, sex and relationships.

If you want, you can check out the trailer for yourself here

Now some of you may be thinking, “Come on Kym, you’re not the moral police; Fifty Shades is not that bad, we read it ourselves and we love it!” Ok, so, I’d like to debunk 3 of the most common excuses supporting FSOG that I’ve heard so far:

One: It’s not porn, it’s just a bit of fun.

The reason I am calling Fifty Shades ‘pornography for women’ is because it really is just that. The definition of pornography is ‘Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement. ‘ (Oxford Dictionary) 50 Shades definitely does that, but goes further by romanticising sadistic and masochistic sex as ‘enlightenment’ – which it definitely isn’t.

Bearing this definition in mind, 50 Shades author, ‘E.L. James’ told the Huffington Post; “Well to be honest, it was mostly curiosity. I had just read some stuff about BDSM [bondage-domination-sadism-masochism] and found it really, really hot — an arousing kind of hot. And I got to thinking, ‘What if you met somebody who was in this kind of relationship, in this lifestyle, and who knew nothing about it and probably didn’t want to do it? What would happen next?’ And I just took it from there, really.” (1)

Hmmm. Interesting.

It’s also interesting that the genre of these books is called ‘erotica’ so it’s clearly not light reading for general consumption.

Two: It’s not harmful, it’s female sexual liberation

Australian research shows that by 16 years of age, 100% of boys have been exposed to pornography, with the current average age of exposure to boys being around 11-12 years of age. There are varying studies and statistics regarding female exposure, with some research showing girls reporting a 97% exposure of porn by the age of 16. (2)

In a recent study by the Australian Institute, it reveals the findings of how exposure occurs:

“Boys and girls follow different paths to exposure to pornography. Typically, girls watched pornography only once, because a boyfriend or somebody wanted them to or because they were curious, and then did not watch again. The majority of boys are also exposed to pornography for the first time through the encouragement of others, but it is more likely to be by male friends.” (3)

Now while these stats may be surprising to some, they cannot and must not be palmed off as “Well that’s just the world we live in now.” The unfortunate reality is that because porn has become so common and viewed as ‘normal’, and we are saturated by the media with women’s bodies and the increase of sexualisation of women in the media, some of us are now thinking that BDSM is now part of a normal sex life. I can assure you, it isn’t.

I can’t tell you the number of teenage girls who come to me and say; “My boyfriend wants me to do this (insert weird, kinky and potential harmful sexual act) but I don’t feel comfortable with it…” Then they lean in, full of self-doubt and anxiety and ask, “Is there something wrong with me?” How tragic. What type of world do we live in when a young woman questions her own gut instincts? Why isn’t she instead questioning the sexual act being forced upon her, or the guy asking her to perform these acts? This is not women’s liberation, but actually the opposite.

It makes me so angry and sad that teenage girls are questioning themselves and thinking something is wrong with them for not wanting to do those things. This book romanticises these acts, and that is not real life.

Three: If she consented, it’s fine. It’s none of your business!

Ok then. Let me apply this same logic to domestic violence. As a counselor, many DV clients often say; “Its fine, its my fault, I deserved it. I forgive him.” The emotional manipulation women are susceptible to, especially by men, cannot be comprehended or underestimated. The female heart desires to love and give ALL, to lay her life down and sacrifice everything for the man she loves. Many words of manipulation have caused women to go far beyond this natural desire, into accepting sexual violence in the bedroom, all because he says ‘he wants it.’ This is not OK! Just because someone consents, doesn’t make it right. No one has the right to harm anyone, even if they supposedly ‘ask for it’.

Let me share an interesting story a friend told me recently. He has a friend who catches the train every day to work. On this particular week, his friend noticed a woman reading Fifty Shades of Grey sitting in the same seat near him for 3 days in a row. On the fourth day he bought a Penthouse magazine, sat close by the woman as usual, and began to read the magazine. The woman looked up and said, “Excuse me; that’s offensive”. The guy nodded towards Fifty Shades of Grey and responded “So’s that.”

Parents Speak Up
I encourage all parents to join me and take a stand with their teenage daughters (and sons) to avoid 50 Shades of Grey when it comes out. You could use the opportunity instead as an opportunity to talk about the subtle influence of pornography in twisting a healthy respect for the opposite sex. Parents, we need to share with our teenagers that sex is about giving and not taking. That sex is an act of love and selflessness, an expression of total love and faithfulness. That sex is not a sadistic sport or activity entered in to for selfish pleasure. As I said to my daughters in the car; “You don’t ask people you love if you can hurt them for your own pleasure and gain.”
Let me encourage parents out there to speak to your teenage children about this movie and why they won’t be going with their friends to watch it. It is time for us to stand up to this porn saturated society that is objectifying women and telling our daughters that it is ok to accept this type of treatment from a man.

I will certainly be fighting for my children’s dignity. Will you?

Sources:

(1) Interview with E.L. James, author of FSOG.

(2) A snapshot of the book “Sex Lives of Teenagers’ by Joan Sauer.

(3) Youth and Pornography in Australia: Evidence on the extent of exposure and likely effects.  The Australian Institute.

The Pandemic of Porn

There is a pandemic that is decimating communities the world over. Nobody is immune and more and more people are becoming exposed daily. Once it gets hold it often leads to death and destruction.

Christians are not immune. In fact, I’d suggest that this disease is almost as prevalent in our communities, despite the fact that we have the antidote.

I’m talking of pornography. Pornography damages lives, relationships and society. The same can be said of a casual attitude to relationships and sex in general but the game changer, in today’s technological world, is pornography.

It shocks others when I mention a few statistics that demonstrate how widespread the problem is; that there are estimated to be more porn pages based in Australia than Australian Facebook users is one such statistic.

"There are estimated to be more porn pages based in Australia than Australian Facebook users"

What is more devastating than any statistic is the real people I meet and the impact that an under-regulated, overly accessible porn industry has on their lives.

Take a 13-year-old boy I’ve worked with as an example. He looks at porn daily on his smart phone. Until his struggle was brought into the light his parents probably thought that the worst thing he got up to was “being mean to his sister”.

Another confronting example might be the 17-year-old who attends youth group each week but has had 15 sexual partners this year.

These are real people faced with a real but sometimes insidious problem. One thing I have learnt is that when one starts on a diet of pornography it is a very slippery slope from intrigue to dependency.

Porn and Relationships

Musician and Grammy award winner John Mayer in a Playboy magazine interview (2010) openly connected his porn use with being unable to find a satisfying stable relationship. Mayer, who admits to regularly viewing hundreds of porn images before getting out of bed, finds porn easier than discovering someone new. “How does that (porn) not affect the psychology of having a relationship with somebody? It’s got to,” says Mayer.

In the book, Wired for Intimacy, Dr William Struthers discusses how the human person is essentially created for relationship. He argues that the neurological pathways in the brain are designed for relational intimacy, partner bonding and the desire to reproduce. These get hijacked in porn use by an overload of unrealistic images and experiences.

Many that ponder the anthropology of sex and relationships might inadvertently be led in a direction towards a much-condemned, traditionally religious attitude towards sex. Namely, that it is primarily created to be unitive and procreative.

Males who watch porn are less likely to form successful relationships and are more likely to think sexual harassment is acceptable. 

That humans are fundamentally created for relationship is highlighted ever so strongly by our sexuality and our deep desire for fulfilment in this area. It also is highlighted by the deep damage caused by a misuse or abuse of our sexuality.

Exposure to porn is so high that close to 100 per cent of males will encounter it before leaving school, reports Melinda Tankard Reist, researcher, author and activist against violence to women. The pedagogy of pornography is concerning. Porn reinforces that girls and women are merely pleasure centres for men.

What’s even more concerning is what pornography teaches about violence to women.  A 2011 study, by the university of Nevada of five highly popular porn sites found that over 50 per cent of video pornography included acts of violence against women.

In a La Trobe University report, researcher Michael Flood found that males who watch porn are less likely to form successful relationships and are more likely to think sexual harassment is acceptable. Not surprisingly, a 2010 study by the Witherspoon Institute found that 56 per cent of divorce cases involved one or both parties having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.

Feeding the Addiction – The Harm on Health

Recent research has begun to shed light on the addictive nature of pornography. Not only does porn stimulate the pleasure centres of the brain like that of narcotics but it includes a behavioural, visual experience. It is this lethal double combination of chemical highs and behavioural reinforcement that leads to powerful habits and sexual addictions.

Despite the abundance of research indicating the negative outcomes associated with porn use I’m still surprised every time a secular media outlet cottons on to this disease sweeping the advanced world. Most recently, men’s magazine GQ had the article “10 reasons why you should quit watching porn” to warn readers of the negative health effects of Internet pornography

Sexual appetite has become like the relationship between, processed foods, supersize portions, and obesity … if your appetite is stimulated and fed by poor-quality material, it takes more junk to fill you up. – Naomi Wolf

Even third-wave feminist Naomi Wolf, not exactly known for sexual conservatism, with books such as “Promiscuities” writes her concerns about the onslaught of porn. She says that, “It is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as ‘porn worthy’.” Further, “sexual appetite has become like the relationship between, processed foods, supersize portions, and obesity … if your appetite is stimulated and fed by poor-quality material, it takes more junk to fill you up. People are not closer because of porn but further apart; people are not more turned on but less so.” Further to this she says, “The power and charge of sex are maintained when there is some sacredness to it, when it is not on tap all the time.”

Porn is detrimental to people’s mental, physical and spiritual health. It little by little changes the users mindset. As the late Pope John Paul II is often quoted as saying, “the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much but that it shows too little”. Even when I spend just one minute analysing this statement with high school groups they begin to see that perhaps porn does in fact reduce the fullness of the human person to being merely something to use.

Exposing the Illness

This taboo subject is starting to also gain more exposure in Christian communities. Brisbane based ministry, menALIVE, recently ran an event in Brisbane city on this topic. I was also pleasantly surprised to read a great pastoral letter by Bishop Gerard Holohan, Bishop of Bunbury addressing this topic not only theologically but also practically. For those interested in finding out more may I recommend you read this letter.

The good news is that there is help available and that the more we increase awareness of the problem the more we can help with both the prevention and the cure.  As followers of Christ we are equipped with a power that can overcome all things including the evil of pornography.

Despite the confronting nature of this topic the truth is that Christians have really good news to bring in this area! Just this week I have had multiple young Christians who have shared with me the difference that hearing the awesomeness of God’s plan for their sexuality has made to them and their faith. When the truth and goodness of our sexuality is revealed and understood it can truly be a turning point in people’s lives.

If you would like more info or support you might like to contact paul@realtalkaustralia.comor maconfidential@menalive.org.au

Stay Engaged: Our challenge as parents

The more speaking engagements I do, the more convinced I am of the important role parents play in their teenagers sexual education…in fact, every part of their lives. As a parent of teenagers myself, I feel ‘in the thick’ of it every day; the emotions of their stage of life, the joy and pain, the confusion and the hormones, the importance of friends, of belonging, of boundaries, and the influence of peer pressure. Some days my teenage kids come home with stories of friends who are involved in self-harm, disordered eating, thoughts of suicide, bullying, ‘sexting’, pornography and more. On days like these I am grateful for my training in youth ministry and experience in counselling to be able to guide my own children and provide answers in such full-on and often confusing times.
I also realise that not all parents are youth counsellors or specialists and can often feel lost with how to respond when topics like these come up. Below are two key principles that will put the power back in your court as the parent of a teenager.

1) Stay engaged!
If there is anything we can do as parents, it is to not disengage! There is often a strong temptation around the ages of 8-12 to start to disengage. This is because now that they can feed themselves, dress themselves and go to the toilet by themselves, it seems like they don’t need us as much. This couldn’t be further from the truth. They still need you! Just not in the same way as a toddler or pre-schooler. They now need you more emotionally, to help them make sense of the world, to interpret what happens to them at school, to tell them it’s going to be OK. This is a crucial time when our voices as parents are still louder than that of the media and society, so don’t lose this opportunity to speak to them about all you value and believe. When the teenage years come about, it can be a shock to the system! Suddenly, they are more emotional, more moody, more demanding of attention, and the transition into this new phase is rapid.
I remember thinking ‘I’d better hold onto my hat because this is changing fast!’ It’s at this very point
that it is tempting to disengage. We want to surrender responsibility because it’s either too hard, or we don’t know what to do and it would feel a lot easier to leave them to their own devices. Let me encourage you: don’t disengage! Stay in their space, no matter how hard or crazy it gets. No matter how easy it may seem to walk away…don’t! Keep being available, keep asking questions, be willing to listen and make some compromises, but continue to assert your authority and protection over your teenagers. They need you! They may not act like it or even want it, but they do.

2) Be the adult
One of the big temptations for parents is to let go of emotional control. Whilst helping teach your teenagers to make good choices, it is still important to maintain your right to say ‘no’. Sometimes the intensity of their emotions can feel too much and we end up saying ‘yes’ to something we wouldn’t normally agree to just to keep the peace. Let me encourage you to resist this temptation and stick to your values. They won’t die if they don’t go to ‘that party’ this time!
It is difficult to be ‘the adult’ in the middle of the emotions of teenage-hood. Sometimes we begin to feel ‘triggered’ and hurt ourselves when they are trying to express how they feel (usually not very well!). I have found sometimes, even though I am angry and hurt, that I have had to close my eyes and tell myself: “I am the adult here. They are relying on me to keep calm and make sense of this for them”. This can be a really hard thing to do, but I have found it to be so worth-while that my teenagers actually end up sharing more vulnerability at that moment as I become completely present to them and support them through their time of trial.