Suffer not the little children

I am asked quite often about how to talk to children about God, when to introduce the idea of sin, and these are really good questions. Many parents are concerned about scaring their children, or not sharing enough because of that concern.  I compiled this list in answer to the most recent very genuine and honest question on this topic and I wanted to be sure and save it in this form.

When I’m working with my children we generally follow this kind of age/stage path:

Babies, Toddlers and Alpha Waves

Babies and toddlers are told how much God loves them, how much God has done for them, that they love God, that we love God, that they are His children and born with a purpose – Truth is spoken over them in this stage. I was recently learning about alpha waves – they are the brain waves that have no filter, meaning your brain just accepts everything that is told to you and these things told to you become your Truth for the rest of your life unless you intentionally work to change those recordings. Until the age of about 5-7 you are pure alpha waves and everything you are told is received into you – and that eventually becomes your filter against which you compare everything new that comes to you after the fact. This is where those studies that talk about children succeeding or failing in agreement with what they were told about themselves and what they were labeled/called come into play.

I do not talk about sin, or hell, or anything negative theologically – unless they ask – and then I do the whole “where do babies come from?” “Mommy’s belly” answer. They do participate in Passover and every feast and festival and they experience the ideas, but they don’t get defined for them at this age.

Preschool – Kindergarten

Somewhere around 4.5 – 5 ish my children all start to pick up on the fact that when they ask questions like, “Where do we go when we die?” I answer, “The people who love God go to be with Him.” They then ask the question that shows some maturity, “What about those who don’t love Him?” And the idea of the “negatives” is introduced. I tell them, “They don’t love Him so they don’t want to be with Him and He honors that and they don’t have to be with Him.” Every time they then want assurance that they will be with Him and at this point I do lead them in a prayer of confession of faith – NOT because I believe such a prayer saves them  But because at this age they are very kinesthetic and *doing* this is a way that speaks to their body, mind and soul about their love for God. It has the same effect of doing a kitchen science experiment and it makes it real and tangible for them.

What if they feel guilty?

There are lots of times after this that I teach them, “God says those who love Him will do X,” or “God says when we love Him, His standard is Y,” and around 8 there is a developmental shift that has them reacting to a negative choice in a way that shows they are beginning to understand this. They react with sincere guilt to things. When I catch this I take them aside and talk to them. I point out that their heart feels dark and heavy and that this is guilt – it is our conscience telling us we did something wrong. I then explain that God put that into us so that we would know when we are on the wrong path. I also explain that there is a way to fix this and make our heart happy and light and that is to confess what we have done and make amends. So together we work out how they will go to the person they have wronged, apologize, ask forgiveness, and seek a way to make amends.  This is how/when the idea of “sin” is introduced.

What about the teenage years?

By the time my children are reaching Bar/Bat Mitzvah age they are excited and ready to make that more mature confession of faith where they stand before their friends and family and make a public confession of their love for God and His Word and we all celebrate with them. Two of my children sought baptism several years ago and we chose to do a family baptism. They are both comfortable with that and my younger children have asked if we can do one with them that they will remember – not that the first didn’t have meaning, but they want to remember theirs. Absolutely – I’ve suggested attaching them to this ceremony.

And now I’ve got my 14 and 16 yo who are truly reasoning together with us about things. They ask questions in service and make observations and ask about deeper things in the text, etc. They were taught to have great compassion for those who believe differently while still holding to their faith, and because I don’t believe I have all the answers, but that God does, they are very comfortable saying, “I don’t know,” when things come up. Creation? Some people believe X, some Y, some whatever, we believe ____ – and when we meet God we will know. Until then, don’t hold too tightly to our ideas that you make a fist towards others with them.”


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