A Parenting Nightmare

Question:

How can you and your child get past you walking in on her (7 years old) watching an Adult movie for about 1 hour & 23 minutes  to be exact.  My husband was watching her and fell asleep, so she chose her own movie.

Sincerely,

Eva in San Fransico, CA

Answer:

This is a very sensitive issue and very difficult to answer without having a discussion to sort out the details. My answer is brief but will hopefully lead you in the best direction for how to deal with this unfortunate circumstance:

  • I am in no place to make judgments on the kind of videos you have in your home. However, I will say, first and foremost, you and your husband need to find a discreet place where you can keep Adult movies where they are not accessible to your seven year old child.
  • Your daughter will need help processing her feelings toward what she saw in the video. I strongly suggest you speak with a professional one on one and get some guidance about how to proceed.
  • These types of visual images are too difficult for a child of 7 to comprehend. They were probably quite disturbing to her and with it being her first exposure to visual sexual content, her understanding for what “healthy sexual behaviors” are, is at risk of being skewed. You may start noticing some inappropriate sexual acting out from your daughter as she tries to process what she has witnessed. It may also be advisable that she too has some counseling to make sense of what she saw and put it in a context that will not affect her self-esteem or her attitude toward sex in the future.

Out of the Mouths of Babes-Parenting from a Child's PerspectiveAnswer by Dyan Eybergen, author of Out of the Mouths of Babes: Parenting from a Child’s Perspective. Dyan, a pediatric psychiatric nurse, has more than ten years experience working as a therapist and parent educator.

Dyan and her family were guests on the cable television show “For Kids Sake”, along with parenting expert Barbara Coloroso. Eybergen resides in St. Albert, Alberta, with her husband and three sons.

Comments

  1. Dorothy Caruso says:

    If a child of 7 has spent an hour plus watching an Adult movie, they could not be horrified, or they would have turned it off, the child must have had mixed feelings and thoughts that could have been fueled by curiosity.

    Unfortuantely in our day and age, a lot of movies on mainstream TV verge on porno, and it’s been my exepreince that kids know a lot more than we think.
    I’d ask them what they saw and what they think about what they saw. I’d explain that this is an action that should be between married people. I’d want their input.
    Yes, movies like this should not be available for young children; not at home or on in the mainstream.

    • I agree with Dorothy. I think that as long as your daughter has a chance to talk to you about what she saw and you answer her honestly and calmly, things should work out fine. Not that it’s ideal, but I think I would rather catch my son watching a sex video than a shoot-em-up one.

  2. Sex can always be explained if you are just honest with your child. I would say that the real thing you are going to have to explain to the child is WHY you would have something like that in the first place. I think adults should give up things like drugs and porn BEFORE having children.

  3. Milescent Welsh says:

    Our children are not allowed to watch movies with strong sexual content. It gives suggestions of what sexuality “looks” like. Usually it’s not what is intented or reality. I like to ask “if two people were in the room with you doing the same things your seeing, then what would you think”? Children are usually not comfortable with that thought.

  4. Christina says:

    I would say this is a perfect time for the parent(s) to begin discussing “the birds and bees” with their child. If you’re unsure how to approach the subject, your local library likely has many helpful books on how to talk to your child about sex, adolescent body changes, etc for all age levels. I found the library books very helpful to me when first trying to talk about the subject with my daughter. This will also allow the parent to discuss the content of the movie and clear up any questions she may have. Depending on what type of movies the parents are into, if the movie was more along the “extreme” lines of today’s adult movies, then counseling may not be a bad idea.

    And yes, definitely find a place to keep the adult movies that is not accessible to your child in the future.

  5. First… when I was 7-10 and none of these images at that time were horrifying when I watched them. Of course, I wouldn’t walk away when I watched these movies. I was curious as kids are. As long as you as the parent takes a very pro-active approach at this time and talk to her about what she saw this may help. She can ask questions and you can answer them as best as possible. My perseption of sex has always been messed up. I never knew what it was supposed to be like and ALWAYS thought it was supposed to be like those movies. But then no one talked to me about what a real relationship was like. Those movies can be EXTREMELY degrading towards women and give very negative images. I think if you talk to her and answer all her questions with honesty she may be ok. If this was the only time and not repetitive, and as long as she recognizes what a health relationship between her parents are, she should be ok.

    My son now is NOT allowed to watch ANYTHING inappropriate on TV, in the movies are on video. The rating system is meant to be used and unfortunately so many people think that kids are “more mature” and can handle it. Let them be kids first. They don’t need to see things like this because it’s out there.

  6. First, it is possible that the parents do not leave porn lying around. There ARE cable stations that the child may have found while flipping through the stations.
    Second, she may need some help processing what she saw from a professional, but she just might need to talk about it with her parents. It’s not necessarily going to scar her for life. Making a big deal out of it will have a more profound effect than if it is just discussed as one of those things that are inappropriate for children to see.
    Just my thoughts, FWIW.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I take great issue with the wording of the original question. It suggested that the child had done something wrong, when clearly the parenting (or lack thereof) was the issue.

    Having been subjected to this at the same age, it has affected me in a profound and damaging way. My personal opinion is that parents need to grow up themselves and put their own gratification on a shelf while they are parenting the next generation.

    I would suggest counseling first for the parents, TRAINING for the parents, THEN compenent, compassionate counseling for the child.

    This woman and her husband have, by gross negligence, damaged this child’s impression of what healthy sexuality looks like. I am completely blown away by this sort of irresponsibility… and the way the mother sounds like a hapless victim. Get control of yourselves, first. Then you will have something of value to offer your daughter.

    I strongly suspect this is not the first time this has happened.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    P.S. I also have a creeping suspicion about whether the father was truly asleep. This raises the sorts of questions that truly make my stomach turn.

  9. Adult movies are readily available on cable tv, and if you are not aware of it you should be. Don’t think that because you don’t have them on dvd that your kids won’t come across them. Before I set the parental controls on our cable, the FIRST thing that came up when you pressed “search” in on-demand was the Hustler channel, with five or six movies listed with very entertaining titles. Why that came up first, I have no idea, but it did. So I can see how a kid searching for an on-demand movie might think “Playtime with Bambi” was a kids’ movie.

    The mom here is obviously asking for help, and guilt is not going to help at all. In my parenting, I find that honesty is the best policy, and they should just talk it out with the child and get counseling (maybe counseling for the parents on how to talk to the child) if they think it’s necessary.

    And, for what it’s worth, I can believe that the father was asleep — my husband can fall asleep anywhere, including the dentist chair while getting a tooth filled.

  10. I believe this is very grave indeed, (but GOD). I too as a small child was raised with very little restraints as a child, not just by negligence on my parents part but just ignorance. My parents were very early teens when they had me. They did not know any better. Nevertheless, I grew up very confused with my sexualty. I’ve been in therapy for a long time off and on. All before we had children. You’d think I’d know better, well my 9 year old son had an internet math class and I did not think anything of it. Well he got curious one day (we do not have Tv nor cable, my children own their own videos and dvd’s that we watch as a family) and typed in the word (Butt) and I sit here today the (Christian Minister) that I am very unhappy at the places and sites he saw. Regretfully, my sons innocence has been taken away from him and that hurts, and I can not explain to what degree. He now will have to deal with thoughts and emotions at this stage of his life that some adults are still struggling with. I would not want this for any child. We’ve explained to our son the spiritual implications of what has taken place. And what his part will be. Because now he will be dealing with grown up knowledge. And for a 10 year old, that is very weighty, to say the least. With much prayer and supplication, we cry out for my son. He has his ups, but he has his downs and as parents we have to be right there. To speak truth into their minds, to combat the lies of his senses. This kind is above and beyond youngster curiosity. We live in an information era, where the doors of knowledge are opened up to our children, where they are lead to come and drink of it. Well, I choose to be a doorkeeper for my children, while I can, as much as I can. Please take this accident very serious in deed. Regardless of how much our children seem to know or not know, I believe it is our responsibility to navigate our childrens lives as much as we can, while they are still in our care. I still deal with the ‘ouch’ of my CARELESSNESS, to allow a 9 year old boy his own access to the WORLD WIDE WEB. To God be the glory forever and ever.

  11. Oh, also the Lord had to help me in a big way in the beginning. I could not get passed the thoughts my son would have. One night I was watching a dvd we rented from the library, (Touched by an angel with Maya Angelou on this episode). Well it was a set up from the Lord for me, I believe. The main character was not in agreement with her sons choice for a wife. Well I dont want to be spoiler for anyone who wants to see it. But it was through that episode, that I learned to just love my son. In every conversation there after with him had to be bathed in Love from the Father for him, through me. No matter what the question.

  12. I believe that this is a good time to talk to your daughter about sex and the consequences of unsafe sex. Sex is a natural thing and it is a beautiful thing. Is it ideal that the 7 year old watched a porno? No, but it happens. Kids sneak dirty mags under their beds and into school to share with friends. It happens. Why all this sneaking? Because there is a stigma on sex. Why?

    Many therapists recommend pornos in order to help couples (including the married ones) spice up their sex lives. I do not believe that the pornos should be taken out of the house, but I do believe that they should be locked away from the children.

    What’s done is done. Be honest with your child. Tell her what she saw and that it is natural but it should be done safely and only when she is truly ready (married would be preferable, but let’s be real). I do not think the child would need a therapist unless it was a movie like a snuff film. I think that would be a waste of money. (Which I think was part of the motivation behind the answer.)

    Children look up to their parents more than anyone else and if the parent is honest and non-judgmental, then they will be more honest and more apt to avoid sex or at least be safe.

    Finally, forgive yourself. You cannot carry this burden, you have a child to raise.

  13. I don’t log on very often to this site anymore, but today I did and saw this question? I was stunned by some of the postings that were made. I saw you as a mom who was reaching out for advise from another group of parents who may be able to help. I know that when my son was young, I worried about everything and made mistakes, or accidents happened, that I was sure would scar him for life. I am fortunate, I feel, that I did not post on a site like this and get advise from people who did not have the whole story. I would have been devastated at the assumptions made by most of the people that chose to post, and the judgemental attitude that seemed to be coming through. If I were you, I would be more devastated by the replies to my cry for help than from the actual incident. Parents should support each other without condemnation. I think that you would not have posted this unless you were in need of advise. I have to say that I would never put out a request to this group after reading the answers you received. All I got from this is that most of the members posted here are quite critical and judgemental.

    • Thank you Kim! Your thoughts mirrored my own. Seriously, who can say that they have been the perfect parent? What? No one? Then why are you being so judgemental and critical of someone who admits to making a mistake and asking for help on how to deal with it? I dare any of you who have made this mother feel so lowly about herself to bare your soul and admit mistakes you have made. “Judge not lest ye be judged”…remember??

      Elizabeth…you’re a real piece of work. Actually suggesting that the father set this up intentionally?? Shame on you!! Oh, sorry…you must have been the one person who raised their hand at being a perfect parent. Sheesh!

      Eva, I’m no expert and I’m not perfect (as others seem to deem themselves), but I do have two daughters (ages 6 and 8). And even though I have the “favorites” button set on the remote, there are times they punch in numbers and have ended up on a HBO channel. It happens. Don’t let these critics beat you up. When my girls have seen people kissing or even the “hip thrusts” seen on normal TV commercials, I always look over at them to see what, if any, reaction they give. Even if there isn’t a reaction, I will bring up what was just seen and discuss it with them. This doesn’t mean a 30 minute lecture (trust me, I received those at the age of 6 and after 2 minutes I would tune out or get lost in the conversation). Just talking about kissing and discussing when it is and isn’t okay does a lot for them.

      Unfortunately, it’s no longer a question of when you talk to your daughter about sex but how you do it. My guess is that some of these people who viewed porn at an early age didn’t have parents who TALKED to them about it afterwards and therefore were left with a lot of questions and uneasy feelings. Your job is to help her through those feelings. Obviously, I would talk to an expert about it…not these judgemental parents!

      Take care and God Bless!

    • Jenni Hymoff says:

      GOOD FOR YOU, I was thinking the same as I read down the answers and would have written the same!

      At age 8 my older brother read Portnoy’s Complaint and then discussed it with my mother in front of me. As I became curious, they let me read it. I understood nothing and put it down after the liver and Shabbat dinner chapter. I asked my mother and she calmly explained to me that certain things were for adults because children weren’t ready for them. Like algebra or rocket science…. In any case, I feel she handled the situation very well because my curiosity was deflated and nobody was judgemental or hysterical or suspicious so there is no negative memory. My brother also learned that there are different ways of looking at sex and I think that he benefitted from the situation as well. I reread the book years later and was able to understand it, but have no interest in other books or films like that (erotica or porno) – it is not attractive to me, nor is drinking – nobody turned either of them into a challenge or privilege or forbidden fruit. I brought up my own openly and it worked too.

  14. I too was the unintentional viewer of porn at a very young age. I am 43 now and can still recall exact phrasing and images seen at the tender age of 8. Yes, I was curious, and no, though deeply disturbing, I could not look away. That experience was a watershed moment for me, and not in a good way. After a thousand self-destructive sexual acts in my very young life, I am, what we addicts like to call “sober.” I love my life now and have been blessed, blessed, blessed to be a wife and a mom. But there is hardly a day that goes by when I don’t think of my 13-year-old twins and praise god that they have reached yet another day untouched by the horrors of porn. Anyone who is casual about the effects of porn on children should think again–or maybe go visit the sex-offenders in their local prison or psych ward–way too many of those folks started out at 7 or 8.

  15. I’m in no place to judge, but I think there is a time for everything….. And in my personal opinion, adult movies are, by no means, to be exposed to a 7 year old…..
    I have a daughter, who is the same age, and she enjoys watching,, dora the explorer …. and when trying to be a grown up, I Carly…… But that is as far she gets….. I don’t know your personal situation, but judging by mine, sex should be introduced, when you have the abilities to cope with it… And by this I mean, phisical, mental and emotional….. Give it a second thought, what would you have gotten out of an adult movie at that age????? My guess, only a very disturbing moment…. With lots of questions, and no awnsers……
    The correct awnser is in you….. Listen to yourself and you will get the correct awnser…..
    Good luck….
    Monica

  16. I must say that it is interesting to read the different ideas that have come up here from blaming the parents to whatever. The mother has said that it was a mistake. She is asking how to deal with the after affect. Blaming her or her husband is useless; it is already done. Many couples use porn to liven up their love lives; they have learned to keep it hidden when children are awake. The letter doesn’t say whether this was a video or cable. We know we can hide videos and put cable channels on parental locks. Why these things weren’t done, no one knows. Regardless, they still have to deal with the aftermath. Hopefully, in the future, they will take more care and implement these safeguards.
    I agree with some of the people above. Talking to your child openly about what she saw is a good start. If she won’t talk to you and her behaviour has changed since this incident, then I would seek professional help. When it is her time, sex should be a beautiful, natural sharing of love between her and her partner. If seeing this video at such a young age is going to mess that up then something definitely must be done.

  17. Lata Shenava says:

    Being a parenting, sorry child-rearing (in India a child has multiple child-rearers) expert, i completely endorse what Dyan has suggested. the only thing i have a problem is with our dependence on experts and professionals rather than the parents, family and significant others in the child’s life to deal with routine child-rearing issues. i also don’t think a big issue needs to be made as the modern generation talking about experiences in the child’s life as traumatic. children are not stupid, if there is communication, co-viewing and monitoring of media content and stability in families they are able to handle issues sensibly. another concern here should be the increased exposure to media of very young children which is never talked about, i presume it was late in the night. i believe children should be in bed by 9 pm and up early as endorsed in Indian health systems, rather than watching TV. lot of our modern day problems (aggression, hyperactivity, lack of ‘purushartha-proactivity, obesity, etc.) are related to increased media exposure and usage and unhealthy lifestyles.

  18. Kate Wilsford says:

    Personally, and spiritually, I find adult movies immoral and offensive. All such materials should be stored in a place that is inassessable for the children. But the problem here is about parental control. Was the child watching TV in his/her bedroom? Children SHOULD NOT have TVs in their bedrooms. A friend told me she woke up and found her 2-yr old and her 11-yr-old watching TV at 2AM! The children in the home should clearly understand that they are NOT allowed to watch anything that has not been approved by the parents. This should be a household rule: Get aproval from Mom or Dad before watching. Sit down and watch the movie, show, etc. WITH your child. Or better yet, have a “game night” (at least) once a week, and turn the elctronics OFF! Your children will LOVE having fun with you.

  19. Quite frankly, I am stunned at some of the responses posted here. I do not recall the question reading, “Please judge me because my husband and I have pornography in our house, and feel free to tell me what a lousy parent I am.”

    Nowhere does this mom ask for an opinion on what happened. However, she is asking for advice on dealing with trust issues. The question states, “How can you and your child get past you walking in on her watching an Adult movie… My husband was watching her and fell asleep, so she chose her own movie.”

    It doesn’t really matter if the “Adult movie” was Nightmare on Elm Street, or Naughty Housewives do Hollywood… the point is that mom trusted husband to care for daughter, and husband fell asleep instead of taking the responsibility seriously. While husband was asleep, daughter was exposed to graphic content inappropriate for a child to view. Mom trusted husband to protect child, and that didn’t happen.

    Now mom is wondering how does she trust husband again?

    Have a candid talk with your daughter about what she saw, how she feels, and explain that it was not appropriate content for a child. Talk to your husband about your trust concerns. Get some counseling… all of you. Consider parenting and life skills classes. And for God’s sake, don’t force yourself to trust.

    The safety and protection of your daughter come first, and if you see that you cannot trust your husband and he refuses to work with you to repair & build trust, maybe you need to consider if this relationship is healthy & should continue.

    • It was going so well, until you started doing the same thing most people did, judging the father. ughhh!
      Kim and Christel, you’re right on the dot!

  20. Wow, That’s a really rough way to be exposed to sex for the first time!! As a Mom of 3 children, 12, 10, and 8…I can’t imagine what you’re going through. My advise….get rid of it all! Do not keep any porn of any kind in your home from now on, take it as a lesson learned. Pray that God will take away those memories from your child’s mind, he is perfectly capable of doing that….if you are willing to make the necessary changes to your home to prevent that from happening again. As your children get older those kinds of curiosities are only going to grow, so not having those things in your home is a good idea, especially as they become teenagers and can be allowed to be at home alone some. You’d hate for your 13 year old to find something like that…that would be an age for sure that it wouldn’t be forgotten. Pray, pray, pray….God is always the answer and the one to give wisdom of what to do.

  21. Another Elizabeth says:

    Yes, talk to her about sex. Tell her you love her, and that she’s not in trouble. Tell her that real sex is about love and making families, and is for married adults only. That God made sex to be loving, not what she saw. That the movie wasn’t real or good for her, that she should not see that type of thing. Tell her that it was not her fault that she saw it, and that she shouldn’t feel guilty about what she saw. (Ask how she feels first. She may not have guilt unless you mention it. You never know.) Tell her you will talk to Daddy about the MOVIE, not HER, and that it won’t be around anymore. Husbands (and wives, but men, especially), keep it locked up if you’re going to go there!! P.S.-Didn’t realize those movies were that long.

  22. I find it very interesting that the phrase “adult movie” has been automatically associated with pornography. Were I responding responsibly (as was done) I would first ask the inquirer’s definition of “adult movie” is or even what movie it was. Some people may feel that “The Santa Clause” is an adult film due to the fact that Santa is murdered in the beginning of the film. This was brought sharply into focus for me when I had to show the film “Gladiator” in a school for film class and one of the parents reported it as “showing an adult film to minors” And lets remember please that rated R can be for language, violence, gore, nudity, sexual content, sexual situations, and even mature themes. All of which can be classified as “adult movies” as was “Bambi” in Europe and Japan (where it was banned). This conversation is very stimulating but lets really know what we’re talking about before we suggest parental negligence, incest, molestation, rape of a minor child, and psychological trauma.

  23. Yes,

    Talk to her about all the above… Our children know what they are allowed to and not allowed to watch. They are responsible for NOT watching what they know is an adult movie whether we are there are not… and it starts out with them knowing only what they can watch.. if it’s not the ones we have specifically said they can watch… it’s on the NO list already… and the No list has many cartoons on it too, by the way. SO… they are in trouble if they don’t turn it off when something that is not one of their movies comes on… at 7 they are able to know and are responsible. However, after the fact, and after that point of disobedience has been discussed, then I would have her tell what she saw and how she felt about it so that we could discuss that…she may be responsible for leaving the tv on the wrong movie, but she is not responsible for the actions of those on the movie and how it makes her feel and she should learn that is exactly why we have rules about what is to be watched and what isn’t… to protect her from fear, pain, guilt and many other things that are the reasons adult information is not appropriate for children.
    Anyway, the terrible thing is that whether it’s a monster movie, killing or sex, images that go into a child’s mind are not easily forgotten as with an adult, so she has to be able to talk it out and be lead through a way of processing it that will help her deal with it when it does come to mind again. Parents are the best people for this…sometimes as parents we seek the help of professionals to advise, but to send your child to a professional without actually trying to work it out yourself would send the message to your child that she is sick and that it is a bigger deal than it has to be… she will not want to come to you on her own when faced with something else at school which could lead to even bigger problems than this is. I believe that when God gives us children He also provides the grace and wisdom to teach and train them IF WE ASK. Personally, I pray with my children over issues and so we learn together how to get through them and we both answer to a Higher Power!!!

  24. I agree with Karen. My 4 year old knows what he can and can’t watch. I tell him that certain shows are not “for” him. That they are not good for him to watch. When he questions something like that – I talk to him – I tell him they say bad words or they are too violent,or just that he is too young, etc. We talk. Now when something comes on that he is unfamiliar with – he comes to get me to see if it is “appropriate” before he watches.
    I cannot stress the importance of talking to your child. I spank and discipline – but we also talk about what happened and why. That is when all the learning occurs.

  25. Stephanie Tyler says:

    My best advice. Don’t have those things in your home at all!