By Dan Martin
I have heard several variations on the topic of our kids’ greatest emotional needs. As I read, ponder, and experience the needs of my own kids, I have come to the conclusion that all of their basic emotional requisites can be summed up in two primary needs: to be fully known, and to be fully loved.
To be fully known: Going back to the Garden, Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:25). God knew them completely and they knew one another completely before…until sin entered the picture. Once they chose to disobey God, immediately they recognized that they were naked and began feeling the need to cover up, to withhold, to hide their true selves. They no longer fully trusted God or one another. God designed us to be fully known, by Him and by those closest to us. Sin has led us to feel ashamed and to put on masks to cover up who we really are. Fully knowing our kids means that we know them intimately, and we understand them in a way that the rest of the world does not; in doing so, we invite them to live authentically and openly with us, despite the pull of the sin nature to hide. It also means we do the hard work of getting to know their joys and desires, as well as their fears, insecurities, and struggles. This develops within them a sense of confidence and assurance that God has created them divinely and uniquely as individuals with gifts to be used in His service fulfilling roles that only they can accomplish.
To be fully loved: Only God is capable of truly loving fully and unconditionally. But we are called to abide in that love (John 15:9), and as parents, we are charged with loving our children no matter what they do or what has happened to them. This type of unconditional love requires one to let go of selfishness and a desire to command complete control over our kids. Our kids have free will just as Adam and Eve had free will and chose to disobey God. God never withdrew His love for them; in fact, His love would have to be demonstrated even more profoundly as a result of their disobedience. He offered His Son, Jesus Christ, as an atonement for their sin and ours. Our kids will make mistakes, and there will be (and must be) consequences, but we are to love them with the love of Christ, who endured pain, disappointment, and disgrace to love us (Hebrews 12:2).
Ultimately, these two needs are essential for all of us and were instilled in us by God. We were created by God for the very purpose of relationship with Him, fully known by Him and fully loved by Him. Fully knowing our kids means getting inside their world and understanding who they are in a way that no one else does. Fully loving them means doing so in a way that reflects God’s unconditional and eternal love for us (Jeremiah 31:3).
Dan Martin directs pureHOPE’s parenting ministry. He and his wife are the parents of three teenagers. You can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @danmar34.