Here are my notes from Episode 005: The Critical Questions Our Kids Want Answered, Part 2
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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.
I too have been asked countless questions by people all around the world, especially Gen Zs. There are a multitude of voices working to attract the attention of our kids. And, literally at their fingertips is a relentless expanse of content on any topic imaginable!
Much of this information can leave my kids and yours 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.
In the episode Part 1 of: The Critical Questions Our Kids Want Answered, I covered the 5 critical questions you need to be prepared to answer for your kids.
Question #1: Is It Okay That I Long to Belong?
Question #2: What If I’m Not Perfect Enough?
This is such an important one. My kids and yours are growing up in a culture that is telling them “you will never be enough – pretty enough, skinny enough, strong enough, smart enough, accepted enough…you’ll never be enough! We have to answer this question for our kids AND really…we need to be answering it long before they are even asking it! For parents listening who have young kids, this one is so good to start answering when your kids are young. How? By telling them, and telling them, and telling them statements such as…
“You are beautiful.”
“You are the exact person God made you to be.”
“You are loved.”
“I am so glad God let me be your parent!” – – And in SO MANY MORE WAYS!
Question #3: Will Mom and Dad Make It?
Question #4: If God Loves Me, Why Does He Allow Bad Things to Happen?
Question #5: How Do I Know God’s Purpose for My Life?
If you missed this episode, I encourage Family Strong With Jeffrey Dean Season 1 Episode 4: The Critical Questions Our Kids Want Answered you: Listen to Episode #4 of Family Strong. Make notes of these questions, discuss them with your wife or husband, talk about this with other parents, and create moments of conversation to discuss these critical questions with your kids.
Of course to help you, I have my notes from each episode on my website: jeffreydean.com. So for last weeks episode of Part 1: The Critical Questions Our Kids Want Answered, you can get my notes here.
Okay, let’s jump in to Part 2 of The Critical Questions Our Kids Want Answered. These questions are just as important as the first 5. So, here we go:
Question #6: If I’m Good, Will I Go to Heaven?
Shannon is a freshman who lives in California. I first met her when I was speaking at a camp she attended. Upon returning home she wrote:
“My best friend is a really good person. She isn’t a Christian, but she lives better than most Christians I know. Do you think she will get to go to heaven one day? She loves everyone so much and is the nicest person I know.”
I’m asked similar questions like this all of the time, from people of all ages. Now, if I try to answer this question letting my emotions lead me…then it’s going to be a tough one to answer. Because, my emotions tell me:
“If you are a nice person or a GOOD person, then surely you get to go to Heaven, right?”
If we aren’t careful, we can allow our emotions and our love for family or a friend, like Shannon is, to dictate our beliefs. You know, one way our enemy works is to convince us that access to heaven is determined by what a person does rather than what a person believes. According to Satan’s lies, God wouldn’t send a nice person to hell.
This is why everything we discuss on the Family Strong Podcast begins with the Word of God. Our emotions can mislead us, especially when the eternity of some one close to us is on the line. But, God’s Word will NEVER mislead. It is constant, true and unmovable. This is also why I keep encouraging you to spend time in the Word with your family.
Look, you know this – if we don’t have a gauge by which we can keep our emotions in -check, we will just go through life believing whatever our emotions lead us to believe from moment to moment. The Word of God IS the gauge! Especially when we are talking about eternity!
We have to help our children see past the emotion to the truth of Scripture.
“You have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God. It was not the result of your own efforts, so you cannot brag about it.” In John 14:6 Jesus Himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”- Ephesians 2:8–9
Jesus Christ came to earth, lived a sinless life, died on a cross for every sin ever committed, conquered sin and death, came back to life, and now offers a personal relationship with Him and access to heaven for anyone who chooses to receive Him as savior. It is your responsibility to reinforce this truth in your child’s mind and heart. The ONLY way to heaven is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ!
This question is THE most important question you need to answer for your family and specifically for your kids. This is such an important one, I have an entire episode about heaven, eternity and the questions about it all that we need to help our kids work through. Be watching for this episode later this season. It’s going to be a great one for families.
Question #7: How Should I Deal with My Secret Struggles?”
This one is most likely going to be one for parents of tweens, teens, and college students. If your kids are younger, keep listening. You’ll be here before you know it!
Look, we ALL have secrets – – EVERY ONE of us!
I have talked with countless, seriously, COUNTLESS people who harbor secrets about their bodies, their pasts, their families, and their choices. I’m amazed at the number of people who have entrusted some of the most intimate parts of their lives to me.
I am almost 100% certain your kids have secrets too.
Of course, it’s extremely important to note: not all secrets are sin. I meet many have secrets about dreams and goals for life, people they love, questions about the future, and so much more.
But, most of the people who share secrets with me, share about moments of regret, pain, and more.
“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” – Proverbs 28:13
Secrets can be powerful. Secrets can weigh a person down in regret, worry, doubt, and fear.
I know this – – sin THRIVES in darkness. Whenever we expose secrets, however, we take away the power they exert over our families. And, this is why I’ve included this question in this episode. As parents, it’s up to us to keep the lines of communication open with our kids, especially when it comes to secrets.
It is important to help them understand that God can bring light to the darkness in a way that is freeing. The tiniest bit of faith can transform a desperate situation into an opportunity for His amazing grace to come in, cleanse, and restore. God can make right the things in your kid’s past that seem impossible to repair.
Now, you know this, but let me remind you: Satan wants your son or daughter to believe that his or her secrets are something to feel ashamed of. He wants them to believe they should NEVER talk to anyone about them, particularly Mom and Dad. He wants to convince your child that no one will understand, that they will be mad, laugh, be disgusted, or disappointed…he will lie anyway he can to keep them quite about their secrets. Why?
1. Satan knows that if he can keep your son or daughter quite about their struggles, he might very well keep them trapped in a place of loneliness, isolation, and misery…all in an attempt to persuade them to turn to the world – a coping mechanism, a drug, self-harm, sex, porn…whatever to mask the pain.
2. If Satan can convince your child to keep you in the dark about something going on in his or her life, then he knows the negative impact this can have on your relationship with them. Look, Satan will do whatever he thinks he can to keep your son or daughter in a dark place while also working to keep you IN the dark about it all.
Here’s a great conversation starter with your kids:
Your son or daughter may have never come to you about a secret. So, bring it to them with such a statement as:
“You know honey, or champ (or whatever name you have for them), I want you to know that dad and I are always here for you if you need to talk. We don’t judge and we don’t point fingers when it comes to secrets. We all have them…I’ve had them. And, I know this…once you bring them into the light, it can be very freeing.”
Let them know:
“If you have secrets, you are not weird, dysfunctional, or a freak. You are normal! We all have secrets. The difference between people who overcome their problems and those who stay trapped by them is belief that God’s truth is stronger than Satan’s lies.”
Look for ways to start a conversation with your son or daughter, to keep asking questions, and to help them see that YOU are a safe place for answers.
At the same time, remember, the safest place is in God’s Word. God knows what’s happening in their heart and life.
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” – Psalm 68:19
That’s a powerful verse! And, you may know this one:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11
Before I move to the next questions, I want to take remind you:
If you suspect your son’ or daughter’s secrets are harming them, start with the truth that God knows all secrets.
“Would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?” – Psalm 44:21.
God sees your daughter as she is, and He loves her.
God sees your son as he is, and He loves him too.
God wants our kids to become all that He intends. Your child might tell you the truth if you ask, but one secret typically leads to another, and they may not give you a straight answer. Almost weekly I hear from at least one Gen Z student (both boys and girls, but especially boys) who struggle with masturbation. When these teens share their secret struggle, they often reveal another secret: an addiction to pornography. I always tell them that the first step to hope and healing is admitting that something needs to change.
If you have a teen, let your teen know that admitting to a problem can be difficult. But once people open up, they often feel a great sense of relief. If you suspect a problem but your teen is unwilling to talk about it, suggest that he approach someone else, such as a school counselor, coach, youth pastor, doctor, or nurse. Or suggest he write you a note if the topic feels too difficult to bring up in conversation. One father told me that his son did exactly this: he wrote him a letter about his secret struggle with porn. The father wrote back and told his son that during college, he struggled with the same secret. This initial note led to a first conversation, that, wasn’t the most comfortable for either of them. But, they discussed their secrets and have grown immensely as dad and son.
PARENTS: THIS IS HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE! Parents talking to their kids about the most intense and personal parts of their lives. Kids entrusting these sensitive issues to the people, other than God, who love them more than anyone!
Satan lies to all parents: “Now that they are older, they don’t need me. The will figure this out on their own. After all, I did.”
Culture lies to our kids: “My parents won’t get it. They won’t understand. And, if I tell them, they’ll just be mad, disappointed, ignore it, or they’ll punish me. I’m better off just keeping quite!”
IT IS YOUR JOB AS A PARENT to hit this stuff with your kids head on! If you don’t who will!!
Here’s another step that can help : Help your kids identify the trouble that triggers the secrets. Harmful outward behavior typically is one way people react to inner emotional tension or pain.
Help your child, especially if he or she is a teen or college student, to think through what might trigger it all.
It could be anger, pressure to be perfect, relationship trouble, a painful loss, or trauma. It might stem from being criticized or mistreated.
And, it VERY WELL COULD BE a direct response to something happening at home that involves YOU…your marriage…your lack of attention…your lack of involvement in their life.
Many kids have trouble figuring this out on their own. So…don’t leave them alone with this. If there is a major issue, a secret living in the dark, it isn’t going to go away on it’s on! It’s just not!
Look, it can be easier to observe pain from a distance than to roll up our sleeves and help. But as parents committed to the best for our kids, we need to be proactive in helping them. It takes a while for most kids, especially teens, to sort through strong feelings and learn better ways of coping with stress. When talking begins, secrets lose their power and healing can start. If you feel as though you need help from a pastor or counselor, get it. Don’t be afraid to reach out and get help for them, for you…for your family! And remember, there is hope. God can make all things beautiful in His time.
Okay…that was a big one…an important one! Let’s move on!
Question #8: Can I Mask My Emotional Pain with Physical Pain?
This one almost always involves a teen. Teens dealing with internal pain often have a slogan: “Mask the pain with pain!”
Eating disorders, the choking game, and cutting are coping mechanisms for many teens who struggle with deep emotional or psychological pain. Countless Gen Zs have showed me their scars from cutting.
One teen boy showed me his cutting scars, which started at his ankle, covered most of his leg, and continued up to his elbow. He told me, “Cutting is my escape. The hurt, the blood, and the whole thing just help me feel better.” I asked, “The first time you cut, did it work? Did it stop the pain?” He said, “Not really.”
Satan wants everyone to believe that their hurts should make them feel ashamed.He doesn’twant my kids or yours to talk to anyone about the pain. He does want our kids to believe that self-inflicted pain will cover the real pain. We have to help our kids find relief from internal pain. This begins with talking, but it may also involve extensive therapy. If you believe that your son or daughter is cutting or inflicting pain upon himself or herself, there are likely much deeper issues. Such issues can be addressed only by a qualified professional. I hope you never lose sight of the powerful role you play in facilitating conversation with your teen. Helping our kids find hope in every area of life begins with teaching them to talk about, rather than be silent about their fears, doubts, and struggles. This is a tough one. We are working on a future episode where we will tackle this tough issues. So stay tuned for that!
Okay, we’ve got to more. Before I give you the next question, you need to know that I’m only going to barely discuss this one here. There is SO MUCH information about this one that we need to tackle. So, this one is for sure going to be a future episode all to it’s own. But I have to include it in this list, because it is the #2 TOP question of all time that I get asked by Gen Z’s. Any idea the topic? You’ve probably guessed it: Sex!
Question #9: Is It Really A Big Deal To Have Sex Before Marriage?
Well, you don’t need me to remind you that sexual messages are everywhere – EVERY WHERE!
There is this incessant culturally lie telling our kids: Anything goes sexually!
I had lunch with a friend last week who told me about a guy his daughter is dating. He really likes this guy and went on for several minutes telling me how great his guy is, is for his daughter…and then he said it…the comment that sadly many parents…even great parents like my friend who are involved in their kids lives, love their kids like crazy, have great marriages and love Jesus – –
“You know Jeffrey, if my daughter chose to sleep with him, at least he’s the kind of guy I’d want her to lose it to.”
Now, I’m not aiming to throw my friend under the bus here. I give you this example because it’s kinda where so many families have gone…it’s this slippery slop of pervasiveness that’s made it’s way into households everywhere.
The enemy wants you and your kids to adopt a middle-of-the-road worldview when it comes to sex. He truly wants your kids to be confused about it all, and especially about God’s plan for their sex life.
He wants your son or daughter to believe that the Bible hasn’t clearly outlined what’s okay and what’s not when it comes to sex. He wants them and you to think there are all kinds of loopholes in God’s plan that give a green light allowing you to do some things that aren’t technically sex. But he’s wrong. Dead wrong. God’s Word is clear: impurity is off limits.
And, if you aren’t committed to being the voice in your child’s life on it all, there just might not be another voice answering the questions on all of this in a God-honoring way.
As I mentioned a few moments ago, this one is such an important one that Gen Z’s struggle with, I’m going to lay it all out in a future episode exclusively squared on this one topic. For now, let me remind you: there are tons of reasons to not cross the purity line until you’re married, and you should clearly – let me say this again – CLEARLY – walk through them all with your kids – reasons like guilt, unwanted pregnancy, STDs, and bed partner comparisons.
The ultimate reason your kids need to hear and believe that sex until marriage is no good is because: GOD SAID SO!
So, what if this hasn’t been your son’s or daughter’s protocol thus far?
It’s critical to communicate that it’s never too late for to do the right thing. Clearly articulate: If you’ve made wrong sexual choices, you can start over. You can come clean with yourself, come clean with God, and make the choice now that God’s way will be your will from now on.
“If we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.” – 1 John 1:9
Of course, you can’t really talk sex without talking dating. I’ll hit that in a future episode too. So a godly sex life begins with taking an inventory of who it your are dating.
I tell graduating seniors all of the time – – once you get to college, on your next job…wherever life takes you post-high school…there will almost always be someone who is willing to sleep with you.
Being determined to do right doesn’t exempt you from temptation. But it does place you one step ahead of the challenge. I hope you’ll grab the episode notes of Episode 5 at jeffreyean.com/5 and over and again create moments of opportunity to talk with your kids about this. This conversation can really happen early on in your son or daughter’s life. Of course, have far you take the content at their young age is really up to you and your spouse. And, don’t forget, parenting isn’t about what you have or haven’t done in the past. It’s about what you are going to do now and moving forward.
So, be determined to remind your kids…
- Never compromise who you are or who you choose to date.
- Clearly articulate your expectations and intentions for any dating relationship before your first date.
- Decide now what type of parties you won’t go to, movies you won’t watch, and environments you won’t step into.
- Say no!
- Walk away from any relationship that hinders your relationship with God.
Oh, I wish we could keep going with this topic. There is SO MUCH MORE we can unpack. But, know this – this conversation WILL NOT HAPPEN IF YOU DON’T LEAD IT. I’ve never met a Gen Z who has said, Mom, dad let’s talk sex!”
YOU, THE PARENT, have to take the lead!
Okay, with these two episodes, we have tackled 9 critical questions our kids want answered. Every one of these questions is so important. #10…just as important!
Question #10: Do My Past and Present Define My Future?
Our kids are often affected by life’s challenges in ways that can break their spirits. Actually, this can be true of any of us at any age.
I still remember standing on the playground waiting to be chosen as two team captains where assembling their team. This had to be second or third grade, but I vividly remember it as if it were yesterday. One by one my classmates were chosen by the two captains, until only 2 of us were left standing there. There was only one more spot left. I didn’t get it that day. I‘m pretty sure I wasn’t that great of a kickballer anyway. But, it still stung…and I still remember how much it stung almost 30 years later. Isn’t that crazy how our membranes can hold on to that stuff!
A comment from a friend, a bad hair day, not making the starting lineup in basketball (or kickball), or even just looking in the mirror can introduce disappointments, disruptions, and distractions that shape how our kids see life and themselves. This coupled with the regret of past choices can often mislead our children into believing that their pasts limit and define their futures.
Particularly with regret, our kids need to know that the past is the past. Every day is a new day that invites them to begin again. The challenges they face often are beyond our control and theirs. But we can work to rebuild, repair, and replenish their hopes by helping them focus on the future and the beautiful things in their lives.
For boys, this means helping them see that who they are isn’t defined by popularity, how recklessly they drive one day, how fast they run the forty, or how quickly their tweets get retweeted. Instead, their value comes from the truth that God has created them for greatness. Achieving true greatness is a lifelong journey of fully pursuing a life of obedience.
For girls, this means reminding them that regardless of their weight, whether they have a date to prom, and the amount of likes their social media posts attract, working to make God first in all areas of life will be a choice that comes with no regrets and a lifetime of fulfillment.
All of this is easier said than done, I know! And, just simply saying, “God has made you for greatness,” doesn’t make it all simple. I know that too.
Answering your child’s questions is an ongoing process. Today everything may seem great with your child. But Satan is patient. He waits for the right moment to slither into their life. Today it may be all good. The hope is that tomorrow also will be all good. That’s why you need to continue to be all in!
I encourage you to get the notes, get a cup of coffee, get into your quite place and read through these 10 critical questions again. Sure, some are going to be more relevant to your and your family than others. So, start with the relevant ones. Read over my thoughts. Be creative as you think through these questions and develop a plan of action to take these questions to your son or daughter. And, pray! Taking these questions to God first, will better prepare you for whatever is to come with your family.
Our kids want answers to tough questions, so we need to position ourselves as their go-to sources of truth and information. The more we tackle tough issues with them, the more they view us as trustworthy. So keep working to have the answers. Be strategic in asking the right questions. And when you don’t have the answers, let them know that you will work to get the answers they need.
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.