No matter what we have been through, most of us tend to want the very best for our kids! Either we work harder to give them what we didn’t have, or we commit to providing the great experience we did have.
Whatever the situation, when we realize our kids have been harmed—especially by us—it sends distress through our whole body. Many clients I have worked with express that harming their children is their greatest fear.
The reality is that our sexual behavior and mental health will influence how we behave—particularly if we have an addiction.
Denial, self-focus, distraction, and deception are common in a sexual addiction and affect how we relate to everyone around us, even though we may not be aware of this impact.
Sexual addiction treatment is crucial to help end destructive relational dynamics and to protect your kids. When you are one of the families in recovery, there are a number of things to consider. Let’s explore them together so that you can heal your family as you heal yourself.
Age Appropriate Disclosure
According to your kids developmental stage they will be able to understand and tolerate different levels of information.
A primary question includes: “What information will help my kids feel safer in this family, understand what has happened around them, and know they don’t have to carry the burden?”
These questions are a tall order to answer alone, but you shouldn’t neglect it!
Traumatizing, confusing or burdening your kids further is the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
Consult a developmental text or a trained mental health worker who can help you understand developmentally appropriate discussions. Another resource is “The Whole Brain Child”, a wonderful book by Daniel Siegel.
Checking for Children’s Safety
When addiction enters the home, it is very common for children to be exposed to sexual or troublesome materials, conversations and mysteries. These can be found on the computer, overheard, stumbled upon and many more.
Carefully consider where and how addiction could have “leaked” into the family home and clean up whatever mess has been left that could impact your children.
For example, have an expert clean out your computer, ask the children if they have been troubled or confused by anything (and let them know they aren’t in trouble for it!), and block phone numbers, etc.
With the help of your sexual addiction treatment providers, assess any damage you may have inflicted on your kids. Be specific and remember the age appropriateness rule.
Once you have defined what transgressions need apologizing, speak about it with the children. Do it in an open, honest, calm moment where you own all of your wrong doing and do not blame shift.
You will be modeling healthy behavior, accountability, and starting to rebuild trust. Again, do not disclose too much that may cause insecurity, confusion or fear in the children.
An example for younger kids may look like the following: “Kids, I want to deeply apologize that I (dad) have not spent as much time with you as I want to, and you need. I have behaved selfishly and made myself more important than you, which is wrong. I made your mom very sad and upset because I treated other women like they were your mom. It wasn’t right, and it has hurt our family. I am very sorry.”
Giving Them Space for Emotional Reactions
Kids will have emotional reactions that span a wide range and may seem odd to us as adults. It is crucial to respect and allow their expression.
I would encourage you not to abandon your normal family rules, but to be flexible and patient as kids come to terms with what you have told them. You must validate their reactions and let them know it is okay to be hurt, confused, sad, angry and more.
Expecting Continued Questions
Remember, you are now one of the families in recovery! Not just a solo! Kids will have questions and emotions that pop up at different times and in different ways.
Let them know their questions, emotions, and everything else is ok, and you are willing to make space for them. This is vital in rebuilding trust and safety.
The questions may come at the worst moments but make space! You need a child-friendly time line for reconciliation and healing.
Don’t Play Pretend
Don’t blame shift, pretend it isn’t a big deal, or treat kids as stupid. It is vital to their mental health that they get to be heard and known, and your mental health that you enact trustworthy, healthy attitudes towards loved ones.
If you don’t know how to respond, seek professional advice and support.
I for example (the author), welcome questions and concerns that I can help with in this area.
Build Healthy Family Practices
Finally, build back family time, shared experiences and fun! Families with addiction lose these connections and cohesion. Children will thrive as they experience a wider range of emotions and activities in their family.
About the author: Paul Loosemore, MA PLPC, author of “21 Movements Towards Life” – The step-by-step guide to recovering from sexual addiction or pornography. Paul works as a mental health counselor, and consults with those who wish to recover from Sexual Addiction—both individuals and couples. He is the founder of Stop Sexual Addiction where you can find his guide, or contact him.
: Maltz, W., & Maltz, L. (2010). The porn trap: the essential guide to overcoming problems caused by pornography. New York: Harper.
: Bowman, T. (2013). Angry birds & killer bees: talking to your kids about sex. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.
: Freeman, R., Abel, D., Cowper-Smith, M., & Stein, L. (2005). Reconnecting Children With Absent Parents. Family Court Review, 42(3), 439-459. doi:10.1111/j.174-1617.2004.tb00662.x
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on August 17, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 17, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com