Most kids today understand the digital world much better than their parents because they’ve grown up surrounded by it. They’re “digital natives.” My young granddaughter rarely gets to hold an iPhone, but when she does, one of two things happens. She either presses the home button (which prompts a confused Siri) or she swipes across the screen. She’s barely one.

While today’s kids may be advanced digitally, they still need parental guidance to grow emotionally. Why does emotional maturity matter? Because emotions are an integral and important aspect of being human. Emotions are indicators of what lies beneath the surface. They’re not meant to be stuffed, ignored, or minimized; they’re meant to be felt, acknowledged, and managed.

A child who learns to feel, express, process, and manage emotions will likely grow up to be a secure, resilient, and confident adult. By contrast, many children learn to stuff emotions, or they may grow up feeling afraid or ashamed of them. Without emotional maturity, they may become adults unable to handle the struggles and disappointments of life. Some will seek out unhealthy coping mechanisms to numb the pain they never processed.

When a child or adult discovers something as powerful as porn, it can quickly become an “escape” from unresolved pain. While food, shopping, unhealthy relationships, drugs, and alcohol can also numb inner pain, porn is especially concerning since it’s so prevalent and available even to children. Also, porn preys on the natural tendency we all have to notice and even be aroused by sexual sights or experiences.

John Fort is a friend of mine. He’s also the author of Honest Talk: A New Perspective on Talking to Your Kids About Sex, which I highly recommend. John says,

Emotions are tightly intertwined with our sexuality. As such, it is ineffective to try to guide our children toward sexual purity without teaching them to understand and effectively resolve their emotions. Without resilience or strength in handling emotions, a child will be unable to make progress in their sexual wholeness…

There are two primary reasons we need to talk frequently with our children about emotions. The first is that it prepares them to have conversations about sex. The second is that it helps them avoid sexual temptation when they are teenagers.[1]

John goes on to say that sexuality and emotions are very personal. If we help our children learn early to talk about their feelings, they will be more inclined to talk with us later about topics related to sex and sexuality.

John also reveals how emotions that are uncomfortable and unresolved can eventually lead to lustful thoughts, fantasy, or destructive behaviors because unpleasant emotions can essentially make a child want to escape. Once a child discovers a numbing agent like porn or masturbation, he or she can develop a habit of turning to these diversions to avoid dealing with their unpleasant emotions.

Because of the way the brain responds to sexual images or experiences (by releasing the feel-good brain chemical dopamine), a desire to repeat the feeling usually occurs. Over time, addiction to the feelings that porn or masturbation bring about can happen quite naturally in both children and adults. The “emotional native” child will be at an advantage when he or she discovers porn (or other destructive behaviors). This child (or teen) will be more practiced in discussing personal topics and at the same time less inclined to “escape” by way of the destructive behavior.

Order John’s book and learn more about having honest conversations about sex with your kids throughout your parenting years. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did! Honest Talk is for parents of toddlers through teens.

Helping your child become an “emotional native” is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give them. Though it may take some practice on your part, it will be worth the time and energy spent. And along the way you may even find yourself growing in emotional maturity also.

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Anne Kerr

Founder and CEO, TrueNorth Freedom Project, Atlanta, GA.

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[1] John Fort, Honest Talk: A New Perspective on Talking to Your Kids About Sex (Garden Ridge, Be Broken Ministries, 2019), 24-25.