Tips for Encouraging Healthy Views of Human Sexuality

Posted on February 3rd, 2010

Young adults are reporting having problems with sex, love, and porn addiction in greater numbers than ever before. Though SRI does not treat minors, for the first time we are receiving calls and emails for help and advice from teens as young as 14. We also have noted a marked increase in patients coming to treatment who are 18-25 years old. As many young people still live at home, we are hearing from concerned parents as well. Television shows like Celebrity Sex Rehab on VH-1 and the highly publicized sexual challenges of national figures like Tiger Woods are likely bringing this issue to the attention of a younger generation. While it may be alarming to consider that your child/teen is struggling with problems with porn and sex, they greatly need parental support and acceptance to talk about these issues, be taken seriously and offered treatment, if that type of help is indicated.

While there are myriad factors involved in why young adults are seeking treatment, what differentiates this generation from previous ones is that they were raised entirely in the Digital Age and probably have had greater exposure to pornography (via the Internet) than any other generation. Internet pornography does NOT, in our opinion, constitute a healthy sex education. With the exception of educational websites aimed at teens such as Scarleteen.com, most of the sexual content your teen and young adult views online doesn’t present a balanced view of human sexuality.

Internet porn presents a view of sexuality stripped of the context of true intimacy, closeness, and the health and well being of oneself and partner. If this is your child’s sole sex education, it will be inaccurate and inadequate. Porn presents fantasy that does not take into account the whole person engaged in these sex acts, their stories, their feelings, their relationships; it encourages the viewer to see the human beings involved as objects. Teenagers, who repeatedly turn to sexual content as a means of self-nurturing, distraction and comfort can become addicted to that behavior – and without intervention, carry the problem into adult life.

Tips for Encouraging Healthy Views of Human Sexuality:

*Talk to your children in age-appropriate ways about sexuality. Avoid being invasive and giving too much detail they are not asking for.

*Refrain from shaming your children when they have questions about sex and relationships. If you are uncomfortable talking about the “birds and the bees” with your kids, give them a book that you have read first that presents accurate information. We like Lynda Maderas’ “What’s Happening to My Body?” series for teens. If you don’t know the answers to their questions, do your own research.

*Model self-esteem, self-respect, and a healthy relationship for your kids. Children learn the most from their primary caregivers; you have more influence than you might thing.

*Install a filter on all computers at home, which will block adult content. Make sure it is password protected.

*If your child has viewed Internet pornography and asks you about it, take the time to talk to them about what they’ve seen and put it into context. Do not shame them for having looked or for their curiosity; next time, they may not come to you for help and advice.

*When your children start dating, encourage them to gradually get to know and trust someone before contemplating being physical with them. Get to know the parents of anyone your child is dating.

*Whatever your religion, morals, or ethics are regarding teen sexuality, teens who don’t have responsible adults to educate them about safer sex and birth control will often just turn to their peers and often be misinformed, or worse, not take any precautions against pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) at all.

If you sense that your teen and young adult is already struggling with sex, porn and relationships, or even asks you for help, it is important to connect them with appropriate treatment (a counselor certified in sex addiction treatment is best, see www.iitap.com or www.sash.net for referrals in your area). Because sex addiction is often misunderstood or mysterious, the signs might be overlooked.

Signs Your Teen/Young Adult May Need Evaluation or Treatment:

*A pattern of short, unstable relationships that often overlap (seen more often in girls).

*Falling “in love” often but the relationships last three months or less.

*Complete avoidance of relationships and/or social interaction.

*Refusal to allow a parent to see the history of what has been viewed online or on a smart/cell phone.

*Late nights in front of the computer, or being shut up in a bedroom for many hours at a time.

*Persistent irritability and a tendency to blame others.

*A pattern of dishonesty when confronted about their sexual behavior.

*Over organized bookmarking or filing of pornographic images.

*Avoiding bringing dates or boyfriends/girlfriends home to meet family.

*Shame and anger exhibited when asked about dating life.

*Overly seductive and manipulative behavior.

*Preoccupation with sexual subjects and language.

*Lack of appropriate physical and emotional boundaries.

While some of the examples above can be typical of ‘teen behavior,’ others also apply to a variety of other disorders, including sexual abuse. If three or more of the above are answered in the positive there is likely some cause for concerns. It is essential to calmly and openly talk over your concerns with your teen/young adult and consider a referral to an appropriate therapist for an assessment and evaluation if this remains unresolved.

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