Shedding light on discussing sexuality with children, family

The Register

Manhattan — Childhood is often synonymous with innocence.  It can be easy for parents to look at their bright-eyed child(ren) and want to shelter and protect them in every way.  Even with a religious upbringing and vigilant efforts by parents, Father Kyle Berens says society and culture is highly sexualized. What can often be an unintentional first exposure to sexual images can lead a child down a dark path, he said.  “Pornography, unfortunately, is a very common problem,” Father Berens said. “We need to address it as a common problem.  “To act like nothing is happening is a disservice to countless souls who are suffering. To those souls who think they are the only one who are struggling with pornography use or addiction.”

In order to help educate parents and families about how to discuss sexuality, the Salina Diocese is hosting an event: “Let light shine out of darkness” — Empowering FAMILIES to overcome the darkness of an over sexualized culture.  The event is from 3-5 p.m. March 11 at St. Thomas More Church in Manhattan. It will include talks by Dave DiNuzzo, founder of, and Lori and Eric Doerneman, creators of The Parenting Dare.

Lori Doerneman, the mother of 8 in Wichita, said as a parent, she was doing everything she thought she should to raise Catholic children.  “I didn’t talk to Eric about pornography because ‘Why would he look at that?’ ” she said.  The line is one she hears over and over from mothers. They know pornography is out there, but think their child would never view pornographic images.  She had the same assumption, until she walked into her son, Eric’s, bedroom during high school.  “He couldn’t get out,” she said of her son’s pornography use. “I could see it was an addiction. He could not just step out of it.”

This led to much research and discussion on the best course for her son, who is now 24, to take. He struggled through a decade of porn addiction, and now joins his mother to talk to parents and families, but also high school and college youth about the dangers of pornography.

DiNuzzo, who lives in Beloit, is the father of four young children. He began the True Manhood ministry a decade ago, after expressing frustration to his wife about a lack of resources for Catholic fathers.  “My wife said ‘Stop complaining and do something about it,’ ” he said.  His approach to discussing sexuality is to use St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” as a basis.  “I will talk about human sexuality and how it looks, from the background of scripture and virtue,” he said. “I’ll be talking about the value of the human person and how God created us.”

The discussion is one appropriate for all ages, DiNuzzo said.  “I teach this stuff to kids every day,” he said. “The content will be age-appropriate.  “It’s appropriate to teach the Theology of the Body to a child or adult. There’s something age appropriate to talk about — how they value themselves. If they don’t know who they are and that distinction of male/female, they will never understand they were created for love and to love. They’ll have a skewed view of love in general.”

He said St. John Paul II said the opposite of love is not hate, but use.  “We have a culture of using each other and there is emptiness and despair,” DiNuzzo said.  An important aspect of discussion, especially with children, is the words chosen.  He and his wife, Cathrine, have four children, ranging from age five to 10 years old.  “We can teach little kids that you made a mistake or a bad decision, but that does not make you a bad person,” he said.

Pornography is a relevant topic for families. DiNuzzo said priests tell him the majority of confessions deal with lust relating to pornography.  “I believe pornography is the devil’s No. 1 tool,” he said. “We are so desensitized as a culture to pornography. It’s everywhere.”  As the mother of eight children, Lori Doerneman said it’s essential to have an open line of communication.   “We talk about pornography all the time,” she said. “Every week, I have an alarm set to sit own and talk with each child and ask them ‘Have you seen anything that makes you uncomfortable?’ ”


An important aspect of the discussion is that if a child volunteers information about seeing or seeking sexual images is to be supportive.  “I didn’t shame Eric,” Lori said when she talks about learning of his pornography addiction. “We worked together to figure it out.”  While many offer a simple suggestion to pray about it and go to Confession when one falls back into pornography viewing, Lori said it’s essential to have more tools in play. The issue is that pornography is often an addiction, and the mind has to be re-trained.

For the Doerneman’s talk, Lori said it is aimed at families and youth are welcome, but “I don’t want this to be the first time their child hears the word ‘masturbation’ or ‘pornography,’ ” she said.  “Our whole hope is to help parents understand the problems and equip them with how to handle it,” Lori added. “We give away a lot of resources to parents.”

For parents with young children, she recommends using the book “Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids” by Kristen A Jenson, MA, and Gail Poyner.  Families are invited to attend, and child care will be available. For parents who wish to utilize child care, please RSVP by March 7 to St. Thomas More at (785) 776-5151 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

This event is sponsored by the Family Life Office of the Salina Diocese. Additional sponsorship is provided by One Body Family and Fertility Clinic in Salina. There is no charge to attend the event, and donations are gladly accepted.  Eric Doerneman will also be addressing college students at the St. Robert Bellarmine Parish - St. Isidore Catholic Student Center in Manhattan at 7:30 p.m. March 11.