I’ve talked with many parents over the years that I have been in ministry and have ran across this question a few times: “Isn’t death a bit much to talk to my child about?” The parents vary in the ages of their children, but a common thread exists: talking about death is tough. It’s scary to think about these discussions coming up, especially with younger kids. Often, when kids bring up questions about death and hurt, our reaction as parents is to distract. Much like Dug the Talking Dog in the movie Up, we hope our child will move from this deep question to “Squirrel!,” so we can move on to something much easier to discuss. However, in doing this we may miss navigating the depths of our children’s hearts and never answer the big questions they have about life.
As a parent, I would encourage you to lean into these hard conversations early and often. You are training your child on how to view the world, and if you don’t help them find the answers they are looking for, someone else will. Here’s some thoughts for navigating tough conversations with your child:
1. Affirm their openness.
Thank your child for talking with you about this. This is so important to do at a young age to create an open dialogue. It’s interesting that toddlers are begging their parents to talk; yet, parents are begging their teenagers to. Create an open dialogue early and often to keep your voice in their life.
2. Ask questions (a lot!).
As you are guiding your child, you want to know what is going on in their heart, and often this is not the question they ask. For example, they may ask about where people go when they die, but their reason for asking is because they have a friend that just lost a grandparent. Instead of saying, “heaven” and moving on, ask them questions such as: “Is there a reason you are asking that?” and “What do you think about that? Why?” Our goal is to get to what’s going on in the heart of our child.
3. Be transparent.
Be honest when you don’t know the answer. Our kids don’t need us to make something up; they need to know that we, like them, are not all-sufficient. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you’ll be glad to look it up and discuss it with them more.
4. Be age-appropriate.
This is often a discernment thing for parents. I would suggest the key is not changing the message but giving the truth of the message in a way that our kids understand. Your five year old may not understand murder, but they’ve seen a flower die. So when we talk about Jesus dying on the cross, they can get it through us connecting to what they do understand.
5. Be clear about authority.
Sometimes it’s easy as a parent to give my word instead of thy word. It’s important to be clear with our kids about who the all-sufficient One is. When our kids have questions, they need less of our opinion and more of his truth. It is his world and not ours, and our kids need to know that it’s not because dad said so but because God created us to operate this way.
So how do we talk about the murder of Jesus to our kids?
Use the suggestions above, and create the conversation. Ultimately, our kids can hear about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins because they get to hear that he rose from the dead and gave us life! We can talk about Jesus’ death because it brought life to the world. This Easter, there’s going to be so many kids praising Jesus at Mercy Hill and singing about the Resurrection Day. They can only appreciate resurrection truth in light of the death that he died for us.
Take the opportunity this Easter to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection by:
- Inviting others to Mercy Hill’s Easter services (More info here!)
- Serving on the Kids Team (Click here!)
- Celebrating Easter at home using the following resources:
-Brant Gordon (Kids Ministry Director)