Here are my notes from Episode 004: The Critical Questions Our Kids Want Answered
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If you’re like me, you hit the ground running as soon as the alarm goes off. Life is busy is an understatement to say the least, especially if you are a parent.
For the record, I love the turn my life has taken and the fact that my daily schedule often is determined by what my daughters are doing. I know that managing my day and all that comes with being a husband and a father takes a tremendous amount of discipline.
The longer I’ve been a parent, the more I’ve realized that a critical part of parenting is: – – answering questions. Do your kids ask a lot of questions? Mine do! And, even if yours aren’t asking, I can promise – – they’re looking for answers.
A multitude of voices work to attract the attention of our kids, often leaving them with more questions than answers. So, what are your kids asking?
Whatever the questions, you need to have the answers. I’m Jeffrey Dean and I’m going to give you the answers today. That’s the topic of this weeks episode of Family Strong.
A girl named Jamie wrote to me, saying:
“I am a Christian and I do love Jesus and want to live for him. But I have felt guilty for two years because I have been having sex with my boyfriend since I was fourteen. I know it is wrong. I know that God’s Word is clear on all of this. But my boyfriend said he would break up with me if I said no. He told me that this is what a girl should be willing to do with her boyfriend, if she really loves him.”
Sadly, Jamie’s story is not uncommon.
Jason, a high school senior, told me that he sent nude pictures of himself to his girlfriend. He said, “My dad’s a high school principal at a Christian school. I’ve always been raised to know right from wrong, and I know how much my parents love me. But there are times, even when I know what I should and should not do, that I still choose to do things that I hope will make me feel more loved by my girlfriend.”
Another teen boy I know as a Christ follower explained it like this:
“Just because I know what is right doesn’t mean that I always choose right. There are times when I do things with my friends that I absolutely know I shouldn’t. I can look back and clearly see that my choices were selfishly made in an attempt to get and keep the attention of people I want to be accepted by.”
Students I counsel, many of whom are Christians, often confide their strong desire to feel secure and accepted by their peers. The desire to be accepted often is more important to them than their desire to honor God. I believe these teens, possibly not even fully aware, are asking question #1:
Question #1: Is It Okay That I Long to Belong?
This is a question we all ask at one point, or possibly, at many points in life. It’s a normal question to ask. The critical point is – – we have to teach our kids that, though it’s normal to ask this question, it isn’t okay to find the answer in what the world offers. Because, the world’s answers WILL NEVER SATISFY!
Our challenge as parents is to help our kids understand that they were created by a loving Father who wants nothing more than for them to have intimate relationships with Him. Of course, this won’t happen overnight. And, just because you say it, doesn’t mean they will believe it. The world is competing for your kids attention, and will stop at almost nothing to capture it.
A key to helping them learn to find security and significance in what is right – – God’s Word!
As you teach your family to spend time with God, read the Bible, and pray, the confidence that comes from a greater sense of belonging to God can and will help them learn to look to God first for significance. In time, I am confident this can AND WILL help them turn away from the world as the source of security and acceptance. Of course, the process takes time. The critical step for you is to continue creating moments to discuss the normal need your children will have to feel secure and to share the amazing truth that such a need will be fulfilled as they continue to grow in their relationship with God.
Question #2: What If I’m Not Perfect Enough?
Countless messages in our culture spread the lie that our kids just aren’t enough.Many teen girls believe that unless they look and dress like Victoria’s Secret models, they are of little value. Meanwhile, teen boys are also encouraged to get the right body, drive the right car, and learn to party like a rock star in order to have a perfect life.
Last year, I had the privilege of speaking to a locker room full of giants…well, they were giants to me. I was honored to speak to and pray with the East Missouri State football team before they took the field to play one Saturday night. These boys were huge! It was kinda funny sitting in a locker room full of massive college boys, most of whom, were in their underwear and socks, as I shared a bible story with them.
I talked about significance, and the lies of culture working to convince us men that we have to fit the mold to be the guy to be secure. These “man boys” all agreed that there’s this obsession among Gen Zs to be perfect:
Gabe, a wide receiver with East Missouri, explained his and his teammates’ obsession with having perfect bodies:
“Sure, most of us guys are consumed with our bodies. We see NFL players who are cut and are awesome athletes. We all want to have amazing bodies. I guess you could say it’s our obsession.”
Of course, this pervasiveness isn’t reserved solely to football players in Missouri, or to college kids, or just my kids – – it’s everywhere – – a song, movie, commercial, magazine ad, billboard – – countless messages telling kids like Gabe that their money, prestige, body, and social status define them.
Your role is to defuse and deconstruct these messages.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).
Look, I get it! Knowing that God carefully created your son or daughter doesn’t change the fact that she may have pimples or that he may not like his nose. Just because you convey the truth of Psalm 139 doesn’t mean that tomorrow your child will look in the mirror and love what’s there. But such a reality also doesn’t minimize the truth that God created them exactly as He wants them to be.
For our kids to see themselves through God’s eyes, they have to overcome the world’s indoctrination that they see their perceived flaws and nothing else. Their ability to see themselves as God intended requires learning to look beyond the things they don’t like, as well as the things they don’t have. It calls for realizing they have been created exactly the way God wanted.
God has an amazing plan for your children, but Satan works hard to convince them that the reflection in the mirror will never be enough. You must work just as hard to help them see otherwise.
Okay, this next one is more specific to married moms & dads. If you’re not married, keep listening. There’s still good stuff with question #3 for your to apply.
Question #3: Will Mom and Dad Make It?
Every kid asks this question, at least to themselves. Because every kid is wired to find significance from a healthy home life
Your son or daughter wants you and your spouse to remain committed to each other. If you are married, they long to see that your marriage is thriving. I have counseled innumerable Gen Z’s who tell me this is true. Our kids want our marriages to succeed just as much as we do. In almost every conversation I have with students, the conversation turns to their parents’ marriages. When things are tense at home, kids know it. Satan doesn’t want your marriage to make it. This is why he works hard to convince you that prayer with your spouse, date nights, and continued communication with and focus on each other aren’t important. However, you know otherwise. Taking steps every day to say “I love you” in big and small ways can have a profound impact on your marriage. Witnessing this intentionality can give your children confidence that your marriage is healthy and that it will last for the long haul.
If you are divorced, your child needs to be reminded that you and your ex still love them. Continue to remind them that the divorce wasn’t their fault. Work hard not to fight in front of them. Find common ground in how you and your ex raise your child in separate homes. When you are with your children, seize the moment. Strive to not be distracted by mobile devices, a ball game, or issues at work. Even though things didn’t work out in your marriage, do your best to make sure your child feels confident they are the most important person in your life.
This next one is one that we ALL ask. And, it’s a tricky one to answer, because EVERY ONE OF US DEALS WITH PAIN. We’ve all had bad things happen to us before, and there are times when there just isn’t an easy way to reconcile it all.
So many people I meet are dealing with loss, anger, bitterness and pain…especially kids. This is why Question #4 is such an important one for you to answer for your kids. And, remember this – even if they aren’t asking out loud, many of our kids are in search of these answers. This is especially true with this next question.
Question #4: If God Loves Me, Why Does He Allow Bad Things to Happen?
I told you this was an important one.
A high school junior wrote me recently to tell me that her friends had turned on her. She said:
“I’m not even sure what happened. One day they just stopped talking to me. I’ve tried to talk with them and make things right. I’ve even written several of my previous close friends a letter saying ‘I’m sorry if I have done anything to hurt you.’” But, they won’t have anything to do with me. This couldn’t have happened at a worst time,” Jaqueline went on to explain, “because my parents recently got a divorce. So, my home life is pretty much terrible. I really can’t imagine things getting any worse in my life. I used to believe that God would always make everything okay, but now I don’t know.”
I receive emails such as this one almost weekly. Often this important question arises when kids doubt God’s love – – wondering where God is when a friend turns on them, or mom and dad’s marriage crumbles, or they lose someone close to them.
I usually explain that God has given us the gift of free will. We are free to live how we choose, and there are times when we all use our free will to make poor decisions, to hurt others, or, as Jaqueline has sadly experienced, to walk away from relationships and marriages.
Why did God give us this freedom if He knew we could abuse it? Because, He knows that in order for our love for Him to be genuine, it has to be something we choose.
We can decide to love and follow God, or we can go our own way. We have the freedom to choose whether to allow our desires to tempt us to sin. These realities in combination with Satan’s influence in the world result in suffering, pain, and tragedy that God allows. We won’t fully understand why God chooses not to intervene in every instance until we reach heaven. The Bible teaches:
“Who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God”
(1 Corinthians 2:11).
Here’s another verse:
“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things” (Ecclesiastes 11:5).
When something bad happens to you, your child, or someone you know, make sure you process it together – – this is really important. Allow space for grief or questioning. And, Key to it all…read Scripture together. This can be a huge coping mechanism in times of grief. Here’s a great Scripture:
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18).
Times of trial and suffering test our faith, and we often learn in these times what it means to lean on God as we choose to trust Him.
Trust means we give matters to God even when we don’t understand or like the outcome. When you can’t find a good reason for why such things happen, remember that God fully understands your pain. He suffered the greatest injustice of all by allowing His perfect Son, Jesus, to be arrested, beaten, spit on, cursed at, and then nailed to a cross to die. Jesus didn’t deserve such treatment, but He sacrificed Himself for you and for all of us. Even when life is hard, God says in Joshua 1:5, “I will not leave you nor forsake you.”
Question #5. How Do I Know God’s Purpose for My Life?
While growing up, I remember thinking, “One day, I’m going to be an astronaut.” As some point, that dream changed. Then, I wanted to be a professional water skier! Is that even a full-time profession? That dream changed too when I won second place in our school’s talent show performing, “Weekend In New England” by Barry Manilow. It must have been the black parachute pants I wore that swayed the judges that day.
Anyway, that’s when I knew without a doubt I was going to be a rock star!
Well, I’m now 50 and I haven’t been in space, and I haven’t been on my slalom ski since dislocating my shoulder the last time I was on my slalom ski. And, I’m pretty sure the rock star days have passed me by!
Years ago when I dreamed these dreams, if anyone would have told me that I would graduate college and begin traveling the world speaking and writing books, I would have thought they were crazy! I’m sure my college English 101 professor would have thought the same thing, since she was gracious to let me slide by with a “D” for her course my first semester of college.
Have you ever discussed with your son or daughter what it is they want to do in life – who they want to be when they grow up?
Some people have a clear sense at a young age of God’s purpose for them, while others discover slowly over the course of many years what God has uniquely gifted them to do.
If your son or daughter doesn’t yet have a clear vision of what to do with their life, it can be easy for them to begin doubting God. Helping your child understand the journey to discovering God’s purpose in life begins here:
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139).
“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.” (Psalm 138).
God has a purpose for your child and wants to help them fulfill it.
As they are growing up, God will begin to help them connect the dots. While they wait for clarity on their big-picture life purpose, it is important for your to point them towards their daily purpose: which is to let others see God in them.
Amy and I often remind Bailey and Brynnan that their greatest purpose is to be a mirror that reflects Jesus to the world. We might wish God would give us each a road map and daily schedule detailing what we should do, where we should go, to whom we should speak, and what we should avoid. That way we would never second-guess our choices or wonder, What if?
However, knowing the answer to every question about the future soon would become – boring. There would be no wonder, no adventure, or no anticipation. We would never have to figure anything out for ourselves or seek God’s guidance. Life would be routine, robotic, and meaningless.
Thankfully, God didn’t create us to be robots. Instead, He wants us to learn what it means to trust Him, believing He has it all figured out. Finding our purpose isn’t about discovering all the answers today. Instead, it’s about discovering what it means to trust God every step of the way.
This is why YOU have been chosen for the job. Your kids are counting on you to be the one to help them navigate it all. Reminding them that questions are a part of the journey is also a big part of your journey as a parent. AND, being proactive in helping them get to the answers is a big part too.
Has your son or daughter ever talked with you about any of these questions? Based upon their ago, some of these questions will obviously be more relevant than others. I CAN tell you – these are the big questions kids are asking. I know mine are.
And, even if your kids haven’t asked, the still are in pursuit of the answers. So this week, have a talk with son or daughter. Any of these questions can be great dinner-time conversations. Or, on the way home for school or practice, try asking:
“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Try adding some of your story to the conversation. Make it fun. Make it funny.
There is no wrong way here. The important thing is that you MAKE it happen!
In the next episode of Family Strong with Jeffrey Dean podcast, I’m going to give you 5 more questions your kids want answered. So, keep listening (and reading)! Your kids are counting on you to have the answers!
Jeffrey Dean is a family influencer, author, and counselor whose mission is to help build strong families. For information about having Jeffrey speak in your community, contact our office.