Let us never forget what should have first priority in our children’s lives, as well as in our own lives—knowing, serving, and bringing glory to God. Let us also never forget what should have second priority in our lives—our relationships with each other. It is only when these two factors are solid and deep that our children will be able to step out from a platform of strength, confidence, and peace to reach toward others in need of help.

So stop for a moment and ask yourselves these questions along with me: Are we encouraging our teens to know God, serve God, and bring glory to God? How exactly are we encouraging them to experience this type of personal relationship with God? How are we enabling our teens to pursue their spiritual lives? Have we provided them with Bible study materials, and have we ever joined them in such studies? Do we have regular discussions with them about the difficult aspects of faith—those hard questions that we all have to face? Have we researched various outreach programs with them and then given them our blessing as they go out and serve the Lord by serving others? Have we allowed (no, freely given) our teens the time to devote to such non-academic activities?

If we truly desire a strong relationship with our young people, here are some other questions that we must ask ourselves.

Do they know we will always listen to them?

Really? Do they? Even if it’s something they’re sure we won’t like when we hear about it? We must make sure our high schoolers understand that there is nothing they can say that will change how we feel about them. They need to know that we are always ready to be their sounding board. When they talk to us, we need to give them our full and focused attention. We also need to guard against the urge to downplay their issues. What seems earth-shattering to them may seem insignificant to us, but if it means so much to our children, that makes it important and worthy of our respect. Remember, if we aren’t there to listen to them, they may find someone else who is.

Do they know we will always support them?

Or do they perhaps feel that our support is conditional? Do we only offer our help and encouragement to them when they are involved with something that is important to us? If they choose to follow a career path that is totally alien to our interests and gifts, we should not attempt to sway them to another course. Rather, we should express our confidence in them and cheer them on their way.

What about the times our teens struggle with breaking a bad habit? We shouldn’t nag and point out their failures, and we should never speak of their weaknesses in public. Instead, we need to share with others the many ways our children have blessed us so that our teens will realize how thankful we are for them. They should have no doubt that we believe they can accomplish whatever they set their hearts and minds to if they are committed to following God’s leading.

Do they know we will always pray for them?

Or do they only hear us pray at mealtimes? Are they completely unaware of the fact that we uphold them before the Father daily? Think how much it means to us when we know others are praying for us. Don’t we want our own children to experience the power of prayer? Our teens need to know that we keep a running list of their needs, their problems, their hopes, and their dreams—and that we regularly take them to the Lord in prayer. Of course, this means that we actually have to spend this focused time in prayer. And do we ever discuss our own prayer requests with our high schoolers? If they haven’t yet learned the habit of prayer (and the peace and strength it brings), it is imperative that they do so before they head off to their own independent lives.

Do they know we will always forgive them?

Or might they be afraid to come to us when they have made a mistake? What if it’s a big mistake? Can they count on us to forgive as God forgives? If our teens have a bad attitude, disobey us, or simply choose to do something they understand is wrong, they have sinned. However, if they come to us with a repentant spirit, if they confess and are ready to try again to do right, it is our responsibility to forgive them completely. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” It is not our right to hold grudges or to bring up our children’s past sins when we are upset. Our goal should be to demonstrate the beautiful kind of forgiveness the Father has shown all of us.