Talking to teens about pornography
This was first published on KSL.com
I just found out that my teenage son is viewing pornography with his friends. I am so upset about this I can't sleep or eat, but I am really nervous about bringing it up because I'm pretty sure he will just deny it and get mad at me. Do you have any tips on how to handle a conversation about this the right way and how I can protect my son?
First of all, don't put it off any longer. You must start having conversations about pornography with all your school-aged children and doing it often. Studies are showing that because of smartphones, children are being exposed to pornography as early as 7 years old at school. So, it must become a topic that is addressed often with all your kids.Read this KSL article to learn more.
Second, don’t panic and react to this problem emotionally. When you react, you will always do so from a place of fear instead of love. It is very important (especially when dealing with your children) that your response be based in love and wisdom, not fear. I'd like to share with you a process (we teach our coaching clients) for finding the most appropriate response to any problem or situation. I think it would be helpful here.
Any response that is emotional and includes yelling at or berating someone is a fear-based response. Fear-based responses don't work, because they are selfish, disrespectful and focused on making you feel better, not giving your child what he needs. They also tend to cast the other person as a "bad person" or "less than" you, which will make them feel unloved and unvalued.
Also, if you respond with fear, your child will miss the lesson completely, because all his attention will be on one thing only — the fact that he has a mean parent.
You must choose a love-based response that keeps the focus on your child and the lesson. This response must come without judgment and make him feel loved and valued. Remember, your teen is not a bad person because he has been viewing pornorgraphy. He is a normal person who has been exposed to porn because of a very natural curiosity. What he needs is some education about why this could hurt him and his life down the road.
Here are some of your options in this case:
1) You can let him know you are really disappointed in him and get quiet and cold towards him for a while, to get the point across, which will basically shame him. This is an immature, manipulative, fear-based response. Your cold shoulder will make it very clear that you see him as worse than you, and this kind of behavior will destroy any connection you had. It is also a selfish, disrespectful approach, which sends a message loud and clear that your love is conditional.
2) You can get angry, blow up, yell, take away privileges, lecture, or respond emotionally. This kind of response is, again, all about your fears. I know you are scared. You are afraid that your child will get into trouble, stray from the right path in life or become a bad person — and all of this would reflect badly on you. But if you make this about you and your fear, your child will resent you for it. This kind of response will again take the focus off the issue (that he is curious about sex and looking for answers) and again make it all about mean parents.
You will also remain in the dark about what is really going on with your child, because this response creates a place where your child will not feel comfortable talking to you about his thoughts and feelings and why this happened in the first place.
The other problem with taking away privileges and punishing him is that it won’t stop the behavior. If he wants to look at pornography, he will have many opportunities to do so when you aren’t around. So trying to force good behavior won’t really work. You must handle this in a way that will help him decide this behavior isn’t right for himself so he won’t do it, even when you aren’t there.
3) You could have a mutually validating conversation with him. If you don't know how to do this, there is aworksheet on my website that explains the steps. Basically this is a conversation where both parties end up feeling valued, respected and heard. Before you have this conversation, you must check your fears at the door and make sure your focus is on listening and validating him first.
You must also make a conscious decision to see him as the same as you — a struggling, scared but divine, amazing human being in process, learning and growing every day. You must not come from a place of judgment and see him as less than you. You must give him permission to be human, make mistakes and be less than perfect and still deserve your love and respect.
Then, you must spend some time asking questions and listening to him (as much as he will talk to you). You can learn important things about your child when you create a safe space where they can share their real thoughts with you. To do this you must come from a place without judgment and listen more than you talk. You must ask questions about what he thinks and feels about porn and his experiences with it, and just listen. You must make sure the number one goal of this conversation is making sure he knows you love him unconditionally, value him and think he is an amazing and good person. The secondary goal will be sharing your thoughts about porn and why it's a problem. But you must put love and understanding first or it won't work.
You might ask him questions about his curiosity and let him know that is normal. You can ask him what he thinks about porn and why it might be dangerous. Ask if he understands how it could affect his relationships later in life. The more questions you ask — which give him the opportunity to express exactly what you were going to tell him anyway — the better.
After you have really listened to him and he feels loved, you could ask if he would be open to hearing your concerns about porn. You can explain why you don’t view it, how it can change the way you see girls and why that's a problem, how it creates unrealistic expectations around sex and can even become addictive. This is your chance to share your values and why you have decided to live the way you do. There is a great blog post about the long-term effects of pornography that may help you understand what to teach your child.
You must help your son see why he should not want to view pornography. You cannot protect him because you will not always be around. He has to understand the dangers and decide to protect himself.
I realize that the love-based approach I described above requires a great deal of maturity, wisdom, love and compassion — but you can do it. You can set aside your fears around this and talk to him from love. If you do this, he may handle it better than you think.
If he does react in anger, understand it is his shame and pain talking. Let it go and don't take it personally. It's not about you. Just keep telling him you love him no matter what, believe in him, and are here if he ever wants to talk.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a life coach and speaker.
Stop fighting about money
This article was first published on KSL.COM
My husband and I have been married about two years and we simply cannot talk about money without it ending in a fight. He gets very angry if I bring up my concerns about our spending habits, but we can't keep going like we are. How do I get him to talk to me about money without him getting angry and attacking me?
Almost everyone fights about money on occasion, because it is a topic that brings out both the fear of loss (the fear of losing money or losing control) and the fear of failure (the fear of making mistakes or not being good enough) and when you or your spouse is functioning from fear, you will tend to be selfish, reactive and unkind.
You must understand your spouse gets upset when you try to talk about money, because he's scared or feels threatened in some way. He may be afraid this conversation is going to end with him looking bad or feeling like a failure. Or he may feel you are trying to take from him at some level. In order to change the way you communicate about money, you must get clear about the specific fears money triggers in each of you. If you understand what he fears, you will also understand what he needs.
Figure the answers to these questions first:
What does money represent to you?
And what does it represent to your spouse?
Here are some ideas about what money represents. See if these are true for either of you.
Then, figure out what each of you are afraid of when it comes to money. Here are some possibilities:
I recommend that you and your husband go over these questions in detail by yourself and then together as a couple. Get really honest about what triggers your fear and what kind of bad behavior you are prone to when these fears show up.
Understand that men, especially, have a great deal of fear of failure and loss around money. If you handle money or conversations about money in a way that triggers these deep and painful fears, the resulting behavior is not going to be good. Scared people aren't very kind. They are focused on one thing only, feeling safer, and if this means lashing back at you, blaming you for the problems or shutting down the entire conversation, that is what they'll do.
If you are going to talk about money you must learn to do it from a place of love and understanding about his fears. You must reassure him that he is admired, respected, appreciated and wanted (and you must do this all the time so the foundation is there long before the conversation about money comes up).
Before you bring up your concerns about money, ask lots of questions about how he feels about it. What are his concerns, needs, wants and plans? Take the time to listen to his thoughts first and validate, honor and respect his right to those ideas even if you don't agree. After you have spent time listening to him, ask if you can share some of your ideas. Make sure you use 'I' statements and talk about yourself and your observations and fears. Avoid 'you' statements, which feel like an attack. You can download my formula for mutually validating conversations from my website.
Then, together as a team, you must create some rules about spending, saving and debt that will lessen both your fears. Make sure both parties agree to following the rules and being honest and loyal to each other.
Here are some other tips that may lessen the conflict:
Never fight about money in the moment when your fear is first triggered. Make it your policy to step back, identify your fears, and make sure you can treat your spouse with respect and love before talking about money.
Listen to and validate each other’s feelings. Having mutually validating conversations is the key to a good marriage. Honor and respect your spouse’s right to see the situation the way they see it. Respectfully ask permission to share your feelings and then do so in a kind, loving way. Focus more on future behavior than past behavior. Ask if they would be open to behaving differently in the future. Create compromises that put both your fears to rest.
Set rules and limits you are both comfortable with. Create a budget and honor it. Make rules about how much you will spend per week on small things. Agree that on purchases (over a certain amount) you will talk to each other first. Rules like these make everyone feel safer.
Keep the rules. This is the most important way you can honor your commitment to your spouse. You cannot have love without trust.
Be honest. Never lie to your spouse. It’s better to tell them what they won’t want to hear, than to lie and destroy the trust in your relationship.
Make a plan to get out of debt and start saving. This creates peace of mind and lessens fear in everyone.
If you or your spouse have so much fear around money that you just can't get past it, I highly recommend you get some professional help with it. It's the best thing you can do for your family.
You can do this.
First published on KSL.COM
You mentioned in one of your recent articles that you suffer some chronic pain. I wondered if you would give us some advice on dealing with chronic illness and staying positive. It is terribly discouraging and depressing to feel sick all the time. How can I find joy when life is one health problem after another?
CC Scott said, “The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” I believe this is true, so the first thing I want you to know is that you can have joy in spite of this, and you can beat discouragement most of the time.
I say “most of the time" because every once in a while it is perfectly normal to have a big old pity party about your pain or illness. I do. I have been diagnosed with Sjogrens syndrome and it's not fun. Chronic illness is tough and it gets discouraging. An occasional fall apart day (or hour) or week is totally acceptable - but you can’t live there.
After you give yourself the chance to mourn, which you will do, because "loss of health" is a loss, you must choose a positive, determined, healthy mindset so you can thrive in spite of the challenge. Vivian Green said, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass...it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” For many of us, the storm isn’t going anywhere, so we need to start dancing.
I asked some other people I know who are battling chronic illness to help me with this article partly because I wanted some more advice on this, too. Hopefully, their ideas will help you as much as they've helped me. Here are our suggestions for making it through chronic illness with as much joy as possible:
Often in life we have no control over our situation, but we always have control over how we will experience the situation. To help me control how I experience illness I read something three times a day to keep me centered in the mindset I’ve chosen. You can download my reading here. Feel free to tweak it to make it work for you. Then read it three times a day until you internalize it.
You can handle this and thrive!
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach and speaker.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.